Apple iOS 5 for iPhone hands-on preview

Posted by Matt P. on Jun 08, 2011

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Disclaimer: This is a pre-release developer build; therefore the following images, features, etc. may not represent the final version of iOS 5.

On Monday, June 6th, Steve Jobs took the stage at WWDC to introduce the world to a slew of new things coming to the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. The biggest thing was iOS 5, which is what many, many people have been waiting for. Apple has put in over 200 new features into this revamped OS and I must say they did a damn good job on it. And no, I’m not covering all 200 new features, just some of my favorites. So sit back, relax and read on.

Activation

Now this wasn’t really a big thing for me, I never really cared about if I needed to plug my phone into the computer to set it up or not, but those days are over. After loading iOS 5 you are shown a welcome screen and prompting you to “slide to set up” your new iPhone. After that you’ll be asked on whether you want to set up your phone as new, restore from an iCloud backup (more on what iCloud is here), or from an iTunes backup. Pick which one you want and you’re good to, no PC required.

Notifications & Widgets

Finally! I, for one, have been waiting for this day for a long time. Oh my, did Apple knock it out of the park with this notifications revamp. If you ever used an Android device, this is pretty much what the new notifications are in iOS, very Android-like, but done a lot better. Notifications show up in two places now, the lock screen and the top of your screen. If you’re using your device and a notification comes in, you’ll get a little bar that will appear at the top of the screen; you have two options: select it and it will open whichever app is associated with the notification, or ignore it and it’ll disappear in a few seconds. If ignored, it will then be pushed to the Notification Center, which is a pull-down menu you can access while in any app by simply sliding down from the status bar. Now if you’re device is locked, you’ll get a notification box with a detailed preview. And if you want to quickly open the notification, you can easily touch the representing icon and slide it over and it will automatically open whichever app the notification is associated with.

Twitter Integration

Again, Apple did this very well. In the Settings.app you simply put your login information and if you don’t have the Twitter for iPhone app installed, it gives you the option to install it right there. After that you can quickly tweet photos directly from the Photos.app or from Safari. When in the Photos app, you have the usual email photo, MMS, etc., but it now gives you a ‘Tweet’ option. With the Tweet option, you get a popup with the photo attached and the option to add to it. It also gives you the option to add your location. Forewarning: The photo uploads use Twitters new photo service, so some apps aren’t able to recognize the links. But hopefully they will fix that before iOS 5 becomes public. In Safari it’s the same thing; you’ll get the popup with a picture of the site and can quickly tweet from there. I haven’t tested if they automatically shorten long URLs, but I’m going to say they don’t.

iMessage

Let’s start off with BBM for iPhone, err, I mean iMessage. This is something that has made many people extremely happy or extremely pissed off. Apple has integrated this very well into the native messaging app and it’s actually really interesting. When you pick a contact, it will automatically see if that person is on an iPhone and running iOS 5. If they are, it will then switch from a standard SMS text, to an iMessage. There are two ways to tell whether you’re doing a SMS or an iMessage. One: In the text filed box it will say either “text message” or “iMessage”. Two: The color of the outgoing message will change from a green (SMS) to a blue (iMessage).

Reminders

Really isn’t much to say about this, just that it’s pretty much an updated Calendar and Notes app in one. Nothing really fancy about it, but it most likely will replace the use of the Notes app and a lot of third-party apps.

Wireless Syncing

Ah, yes! Apple is really going for a post-PC type world with the new syncing feature. No need for those USB cables anymore, folks. You will soon be able to simply get on your Wi-Fi, set your phone down and let iTunes work its magic. Better yet, you can even use your phone while it’s syncing. You will notice rotating arrows by your 3G or Wi-Fi symbol, which means that your device is being synced. But unfortunately, wireless syncing is not enabled in Beta 1, but I was still able to use the device while syncing with iTunes with no problems.

Camera

The camera app also got a few minor updates (major to some people). First and personally my favorite, there is now a shortcut to quickly access the camera from the lock screen. And it’s also relatively simple to get to, just do a double tap on the home button, the same way you would to open the multitasking area. It will then appear right next to the slide to unlock bar. And one thing I noticed with this is, if you have a pass code on your device, the camera will still open without the need to input the pass code. Another update it received was the ability to take pictures with the volume button. Yes, you read that right. You are now able to capture pictures with the volume keys. I noticed that you can only take a photo with the “+” volume key, and I don’t know if this is a bug, or if Apple is only utilizing one button. You can also edit photos now from within the Photos.app. You only get a few editing options, but it’s better than nothing, right? You get three editing tools: auto-enhancing, remove red-eye, and cropping.

Photo albums

You now have the option to add your own photo albums in iOS 5! The one thing that I don’t like about this is, once you add them to another album, they are still kept in the old one. So you’ll have doubles of whichever photos you have in personal albums you made.

OTA Updates

Again, Apple is really pushing for the post-PC here. Those USB cables are no longer needed when an iOS update gets pushed out, you’ll simply just need to be on a Wi-Fi network (judging by the message) and it will simply update the OS for you. There’s no confirmation on whether these updates will be automatic and will instantly start downloading once it’s available, or will there be a prompt to start it, postpone it, etc.

Keyboard Shortcuts

This isn’t a really big feature for me, but if you’re someone who is constantly typing a number, email, or anything else this will help you out greatly. Personally, I would have liked to see AutoText, but this will do for now. Hopefully in iOS 5.1 we will get it. Don’t know what I was thinking, this is autotext.

Mail

The native Mail.app got a few minor added features. Personally I would have liked the option to add multiple attachments (photos, documents, etc.), but it seems as if Apple thought the ability to flag messages was more important. You now also have the option for a couple text editing choices. After you select a word, you have the option to bold, underline or italicize whichever you choose. But like I mentioned earlier, the ability to attach multiple files would have been one of my favorite added features, but we’ll have to wait a little bit longer for that. Hopefully they address this in the next iOS 5 update.

Conclusion

This beta is very solid; I have found very few bugs that will render this a bad OS to not run on my main iPhone. Don’t get it wrong, there are a few little bugs like, there are no stock wallpapers, Settings.app will crash when I turn the iMessage on/off, and probably a couple other things, but nothing I can’t deal with. But for being the first beta for developers, I’m really excited to see how well the final GM build will be like. One more thing I can’t cover greatly, but I will lightly, battery life. I have only been running it since last night, but so far for the day, it’s giving me about the same amount of usage as 4.2.8 did. So there you have it, if you have an iPhone you really should be excited for this update to hit your phones in the Fall sometime.

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Matt P. (36 Posts) - Website | Twitter | Facebook


Matt is a self-proclaimed tech junkie, starting at a young age where messing on the PC was just something to kill time, to now going to school in Michigan working toward a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Networking and Associates in Journalism. Matt started blogging on a self-made Tumblr, where he soon realized that technology and blogging was his niche. You can also find him messing around with multiple mobile OS’s, but somehow he always finds a way back to his iPhone. So here he is now, from a Tumblr, to a mobile OS loving Editor at Mobilitysite. Matt can be contacted via email: matt(at)mobilitysite(dot)com

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