The iPhone 4's camera hardware is one of the best in a smartphone today, but the same cannot necessarily be said of the Camera app. Once again, iOS 5 to the rescue: there's now a Camera button on the Lock screen that you can invoke by double-tapping the Home button, making it easier to capture spontaneous moments, and you can now take pictures with the volume up button as well as the button on the touchscreen. For security reasons, you'll still need a passcode to share it with anyone or see old photos. If you want, you can also invoke grid lines to help with your photo composition. Camera also gets some simple editing features, including redeye reduction, cropping, rotating, and some thing called one-click enhance, which will eliminate some of the guesswork for novices.

Mail also gets some minor enhancements, including rich text formatting, indentation control, dragging addresses between fields, flagging, and the ability to search the body of messages. On the iPad, iOS 5 also brings a Swipe to Inbox gesture, and enterprise customers gain support for S/MIME message encryption.

And here, at the unassuming number eight, Apple talked about the innovation that iOS needs the most: They're calling it PC Free, and as you might guess, it removes the need to tether iOS devices to a computer, finally putting the “Post-PC” in Post-PC era. Of course, Apple didn’t mention the fact that their competition has supported this feature, you know, for awhile.

When you first remove an iOS device from the box, a setup screen will now walk you through configuring it. Updates to iOS can now be delivered wirelessly, and it's worth noting that they’re also Delta updates,  meaning that you’ll now download just the patch instead of a patched copy of the full OS. Apple is making a conscious effort to remove reasons to go back to the PC for anything, and I think that's the platform's (and, indeed, the form factor's) next frontier.

After the announcement of PC Free, Game Center seems like small potatoes, but we sometimes forget about the hurt that Apple is putting on Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft with its line of accidental gaming devices. Since its introduction in iOS 4.1, Game Center has accumulated more than 50 million users.

As with Newsstand, Game Center offers games a place to be noticed apart from the rest of the App Store apps, which should help some with their visibility problems. Apple has also added photo sharing and native support for "turn-based" games like Words with Friends.

The last of Apple's ten iOS 5 features is a bit of a blast from the past. Using the same basic layout as the iPhone Messages app, iMessage enables the sending of text, photo, and video messages between any device running iOS 5. You can also see whether the person on the other end is typing (takes you back to your AIM 6.0 days, doesn't it?), and get a read receipt that tells you whether the person on the other end has gotten your message. It will push messages to all of your iOS 5 devices, it support secure message encryption, and it works over 3G and Wi-fi.

Conclusions

There were plenty of other, smaller features that were brought up amidst the ten that were focused on, and they're all welcome additions to the OS: A built-in, OS-wide dictionary allows the checking of any definition from any app. A new split keyboard can be invoked to reduce hand strain for those who type with their thumbs. Devices can now sync wirelessly with iTunes. It's all stuff that makes iOS better than it is today, and it all goes a long way toward Apple's obvious goal for iOS 5: To replace your PC or Mac.

Apple (and every tech pundit under the sun, really) has been quick to declare this a "post-PC era" in which PCs become a less important part of our digital lives, but this message has been muddied by the fact that every iOS device up until now has needed a standard PC or Mac to get started. Even if you downloaded every song or app afterward to the device without syncing to iTunes, you'd still need to dig out the USB cable to perform software updates or backups, and iOS 5 finally removes that requirement.

I know I'm not quite there yet, personally, but there are many users who don't need anything beyond what an iPad offers - the ability to watch videos, listen to music, check email and browse the Web. That's just about everything you can feasibly get done on a $500 PC these days, and the iPad offers a way forward that requires less maintenance, space on a desk, electricity, and general fuss than does a traditional PC. I'm excited about iOS 5 mostly because it seems to signal the end of the beta test for the "post-PC era" - we know that smartphones and tablets are great supplements to PCs and Macs, now let's see how they do as replacements.

Notifications, Newsstand, Twitter, Safari, and Reminders
POST A COMMENT

23 Comments

View All Comments

  • synaesthetic - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    With wifi and Dropbox I haven't actually connected my Glacier to my laptop in months. Not since I first rooted it and loaded the sdcard with my tunes. Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Well, it's not a bad list of updates and new features, but just about every single one of them has been copied from Android / WebOS or an existing app/service (even if it was a jailbreak/Cydia app)... I kind of expected something more revolutionary from Apple and a big software-focused launch, even if it was just their own unique take on something already implemented elsewhere.

    As it is, much of the new stuff is implemented almost exactly the same way it's been done elsewhere... Only difference is that it's all bundled in w/the OS instead of maybe needing a couple separate app to get the same functionality (I'm sure the developers of Read It Later and others aren't particularly thrilled!). The cloud stuff is probably the most unique or centralized, particularly w/regards to iTunes, even tho their comparison to Amazon's pricing was somewhat disingenuous.

    Amazon's MP3 Android app allows streaming from the cloud to any device, something it doesn't seem Apple's gonna be doing (RIP Lala :-/ ), and Apple neglects to mention you get 5GB for free (and 20GB for the price of any album right now, or $20 in the future, there's more tiers than the $50 tier that Apple singles out). They do lack the track matching tho. I've got around 200 ripped CDs and even in FLAC it's not more than 40GB, in VBR MP3 it's likely less than 15GB.

    They could still surprise people w/the hardware end of their next release tho, since they've pushed it back until Fall and all... And they pretty much know what all the Android manufacturers are doing for the rest of the year (and WP7 or HP aren't moving any faster). Either way the improvements on iOS 5 are gonna be a hit w/existing iPhone users for sure, I'm not sure it'll win them any more tho... But they've got plenty of time to hype up every last bit of it before it launches, heh.
    Reply
  • Ikefu - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Every last thing here is an attempt to steal something someone else is already doing and call it "new and innovative". Stealing BlackBerry messenger, Xbox Live, Android/BB mail and notifications, etc. They are all very welcome updates but hardly innovative.

    I hereby dub iOS 5 the "ME TOO!" update.

    PS I also object to calling the iPhone a gaming device. Its cool and I have an iTouch 4 with some games on it, but until it gets a thumbstick and input buttons it will never be a gaming device in my book.
    Reply
  • xype - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    "I hereby dub iOS 5 the "ME TOO!" update."

    Did you dub Android the "ME TOO!" OS, too, when it came out? :)
    Reply
  • erple2 - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Yes, but I also dubbed the first Apple phone as "me too" based on my experience with a Treo and blackberry.

    When does the madness end? It can't.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Why, because Apple invented mobile OS'? Newsflash, there have been mobile OS' long before Apple turned into a smartphone company. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    Since when is an ipad capable of playing videos? It still cannot play xvid/divx files in an avi container, right? And even if it could, I cant load them onto it because it doesnt have a freakin usb port. And how are you supposed to download youtube videos? Is there a downloadhelper app that actually works? Will there ever ever be one? And no I am not converting a video just to watch it on an ipad. Anyone who does that ought to give all their money and their house to apple and go jump off a cliff because they are retarded. Reply
  • Ozymandias# - Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - link

    Well... Ever since there are at least 10 video players capable of doing that in the App Store. And if you want to download youtube videos, there are apps that can do that as well.

    And as far as loading your videos, you can use DropBox, or a dozen other similar apps, or iTunes, or iCloud when it will be released.

    But I don't even do that. I prefer to stream the videos from my PC with AirVideo. It's easier.

    Please check before trashing a whole platform you have obviouly never even tried.
    Reply
  • linlijunoo - Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - link

    The website whol esale for many kinds of fas hion sho es,
    like the nik e,jord an,pr ada, the jea ns,shirts,bags,hat and decorations.
    All the products are free ship ping, and the the price is com petitive,
    and also can accept the pay pal pay ment.
    ,after the paym ent, can ship within short time.
    Reply
  • jdonker - Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - link

    Until Apple give in and incorporate flash compatability into their devices the iphone, ipod touch and ipad will all be inferior browsing devices.

    Fix this first!
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now