Apple introduced iOS 5.0 today. An early version is already available for developers, and the company will push out a software update for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users later this fall. The latest operating system will support all apple mobile devices from the iPhone 3GS on up. That includes the iPhone 4, the third and fourth generation iPod touch, and all iPad models.
We’ll also get the full set of iCloud features this fall, including the ability to backup most of the data on your device for free, synchronize photos, music, apps, documents, and iBooks progress across devices, and sto tore music on the web.
So what’s new in iOS 5.0? Apple says there will be 250 changes, but the company outlined some of the biggest updates today. Here’s a quick rundown:
Apple has finally improved notifications. Instead of annoying pop-up notices, iOS 5.0 will feature a Notification Center which displays the latest notifications from all your apps. You can access it by swiping down from the top of your screen. This view will also show you weather and stock information. Some folks had been expecting Apple to add support for widgets on the home screen, but it sounds like the closest we’re going to get are notification widgets.
You’ll no longer need a PC or Mac to use an iOS device. When you first turn on your new mobile device instead of showing a USB cable on the start screen you’ll just see a message that says “welcome.” That’s because you can activate your device over a wireless connection. And if you do have a PC you’ll be able to synchronize without a USB cable.
There’s a new camera button on the lock screen which lets you access the camera without first unlocking your device, letting you snap photos more quickly. You’ll also be able to use the volume button on your phone to take a picture — something you could previously only do with a jailbroken device and third party software.
You can already subscribe to magazines and newspapers on an iOS device, but now Apple is offering a digital newsstand to go along with the company’s iBooks digital book store.
The social network will be built into iOS, allowing you to login with your Twitter credentials and add Twitter info (including photos) to people in your contact list. You’ll also be able to automatically login to apps using your Twitter credentials, and upload photos and other media to Twitter from the sharing menu.
Apple’s mobile web browser is receiving a number of updates, including support for browser tabs, a Reading List that allows you to save pages for later and share them across devices, and a new Reader mode which formats web pages to better fit the screen of your mobile device.
There’s a new To Do list built into the operating system which allows you to create and manage task lists and synchronize them with iCal and Microsoft Outlook.
The Mail app adds support for rich text editing, indentation controls, message flagging, and the ability to drag addresses. Apple also showed off a new split-screen software keyboard for the iPad during the Mail presentation, making it easier to type with your thumbs without reaching all the way across the screen. The company didn’t consider this to be one of the 10 new announcements today, but I’m sure it’s one of the 250 new features.
This is Apple’s social network for gamers, allowing users to create profiles and share scores and other achievements. The new version will let you add photos and view recommendations for friends and games.
Apple’s taking a shot at RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger service here, rolling out a utility that will let all iOS users send messages, photos, and videos to any iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad user. Honestly, I think Kik Messenger is on to something here by offering a third party tool that works with both iOS and Android. Any social messaging tool that only works on one platform is always going to be of limited use.
These are some of the big features that will be available when iOS 5.0 ships later this year. With the developer preview already starting to make the rounds it’s only a matter of time before we start to hear about other new features. Wireless synchronization, improved notifications, and a better camera app were at the top of many people’s wish lists, and the iCloud service makes iOS an awful lot more Google-like when it comes to cloud-based storage and synchronization.
Apple will also be adding some iPad-only features such as multitasking gesture support for switching between apps and a feature that lets you mirror your iPad display on a TV using an Apple TV set top box. And as developers start playing with the beta versions of iOS 5 we’ll discover more new features. Here are some of the surprise features that have already been uncovered:
- Private browsing mode in mobile safari
- LED flash and vibration patterns can be used for custom alerts
- You can create custom keyboard shortcuts
The last time Apple release a software update this big it was probably iOS 4.0 which brought support for multitasking.
What do you think? Are there any features you were hoping to see that don’t appear to have made the cut? If you’ve been on the fence between iOS and another mobile platform, is there anything in today’s announcement that could push you over the edge one way or the other?