iOS5 Review

After months and months of waiting, iOS5 is finally here and I am very happy with the new features and functionality. The update did come with its share of woes for some users who reported that the update process failed multiple times, bricked their device, etc but fortunately the two devices we updated the night of the release went very smoothly. In this article I highlight some of the new features and discuss some things that I found particularly interesting. I am going to kick things off with some information about the new notification system built into iOS5. In my opinion Apple took the strongest concepts from Android's notification system and applied them to the system in iOS5. Notifications no longer occupy the foreground when they come in (i.e. they wont interrupt your game of Angry Birds) but rather just pop up at the top of the screen for a couple of seconds then disappear. Below you will see a screenshot of what a lock screen notification looks like as well as a notification coming in when I was actively using the device.

iOS5 Twitter Notification   iOS5 Notification

Apple also added something called Notification Center to iOS5 which is a lot like the notification center on Android devices. It shows recent notifications, upcoming events, weather, stocks and more. It can be accessed in very much the same fashion as you would an Android device by swiping downward from the top of the screen.

iOS5 Notification Center

The camera has also undergone some big improvements and you can now edit photos directly on the device with no additional software. The native camera app also features a nice on-screen grid which helps to make sure things are level and you can also access the camera directly from the lock screen by hitting the Home Button twice. Another neat feature they added to the camera is the ability to snap photos by using the volume up button. This may sound strange but generally when you are holding the phone and trying to take a picture it is a lot easier to hit the volume up button than the on-screen one.

A very big part of this update was the addition of support for iCloud. iCloud enables you to back-up all of your data to the cloud and it will automatically sync that data (calendars, documents, photos, video, etc) across all of your devices running iOS5 or OS X Lion. I have quite a bit of data (particularly photos/video) on my phone so I went ahead and purchased some additional iCloud store so that I could fully sync my devices.

iOS5 iCloud Storage   iOS5 iCloud Backup

iCloud also supports a very neat feature called "Find My iPhone" which allows you to send a message to your device (via the web), remotely wipe the device or just simply track the device to its GPS location. All of this sounds rather creepy but the fact of the matter is we all share so much w/ our phones (including our geolocation) that I see this feature as doing more help than harm. All you have to do is login to iCloud from any computer then message, track or remote wipe your device. The screenshot below shows where my phone was located at the time I tracked it and the messaging window to remotely send a message to the device. After I hit "Send" the message showed up on my device in about 3 seconds.

iCloud Find My iPhone

Some other small tweaks to iOS5 worth mentioning are the following:

  • Customizable Notifications - Notification preferences have been really beefed up in the settings.
  • Newsstand - You can now subscribe to magazines and newspapers using a very similar interface to iBooks.
  • Reminders - There is now a native app for handling reminders and to-do lists.
  • Usage - The usage screen under settings has been greatly improved and now shows memory usage ranked from high->low by size.
  • Weather - The Apple weather app has been improved and now has hour-by-hour forecast information.

All-in-all I think Apple has done a really nice job w/ iOS5 and now that the initial rush is over I definitely recommend that everybody gets the update.