WWDC Announcements: iOS 5

Usually we send only one newsletter a month, but there were so many exciting Apple announcements this week at the Worldwide Developer Conference that this is our second of 3 emails that we'll be sending in a week. Read the first one, all about Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" was only one of three exhibits. A major new version of Apple's other operating system, the one which runs iPhone/iPad/iPod touch (and Apple TV) is also soon arriving: iOS 5.

Apple is often willing to let features come to market behind the competition's schedule; they'd rather be sure they get it right (or what they consider to be right, anyway). One example is Copy and Paste not arriving until iOS 3, only thirteen years after Palm had it. So iOS 5 is no exception; in particular, it lets iPhone users to enjoy some of the functionality that BlackBerry and Android users already have.

Now you can be notified about incoming messages, appointments, etc., with a small icon at the top of the screen without being interrupted; see an overview of what's on your plate at the moment; get quick access to the camera and take a picture with an actual, you know, button. (Honestly, being able to take a picture with the volume-up button might be the best new feature in iOS 5.) Safari gets tabs for multiple browser windows, and can automatically get pages for off-line viewing (fellow subway riders, rejoice). To-do lists, another mainstay of mobile devices since 1996, are called Reminders, and will sync with iCal and Exchange. Better late than never.

They've also added BlackBerry-style messaging, where you can see whether your recipient has received and/or read your message and when they're typing. It's only for iOS 5 users; we hope that they will eventually add it to iChat so Mac users can join the fun. Happily, you will actually be able to use your new iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch as soon as you take it out of the box -- no iTunes necessary. You will also be able to download iOS updates directly to your device, hooray. You can sync to iTunes over WiFi instead of a cable (but iCloud may mean you don't really need to -- more on that later).

But it's not all about playing catch-up. There's new stuff too. One of the neatest new features is AirPlay mirroring, which, if you have an iPad 2 and an Apple TV, lets you wirelessly display whatever's on the iPad 2 screen to an HDTV. With a sketch app and a stylus, meetings can have whole new creative possibilities, very inexpensively. Or you can just play a game on a big screen. Twitter is now integrated almost everywhere -- mail, photos, Safari, maps -- so no matter what you are doing on your phone, you can tweet about it. Photos can be cropped and edited. Newsstand organizes your newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and many major publications have signed on.  You can swipe with multiple fingers to get back and forth between apps. You can now style the text in your email. Most of the built-in apps have been improved in big and small ways.

But the biggest deal in iOS 5 is iCloud. We'll tell you more about that in the next newsletter.

(June 2011)

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