So, the new iPhone 4S has finally been unveiled. But no hardware is perfect if it lacks a complementary software to walk the road to smartphone domination. While Apple’s iOS 5 was unveiled and given a brief overview earlier on, we weren’t able to truly get a feel of the new features. That is, until now. Here's a list of new features that got our stamps of approval, and to whet your appetite till next week.
iOS 5 brings a few enhancements to its camera app, some of which are starting to make sense when we look at the bumped up imaging resolution with the new iPhone 4S. Firstly, accessing your camera via the lock screen is now possible, allowing you to get a quick snapshot without losing the moment that passes by so quickly. (According to Apple, the new iPhone 4S takes just 1.1 seconds to get the first photo, and another half a second for the next shot.) The shutter button is also no longer limited to the touch screen interface, with the volume up button doubling up with the same function. Also, in the Camera app, in addition to enabling HDR (high dynamic range) photography, you can now turn on a 3x3 grid to help you in framing your award-winning shot.
Photo editing is now a native feature within iOS 5. Each photo that is taken gives you a one-touch auto enhance function and red-eye reduction, on top of rotating and cropping it. You can also constrain your crop to an aspect ratio (such as 4 x 3, 5 x 7, 16 x 9).
In our opinion, these features are nifty, but we didn’t find many opportunities to fully utilize these functions. Still, they could prove to be useful for users who rely on their iPhones as their main camera, as these functions enable them to tweak their images (hopefully for the better) before sharing them.
Gone are the days when you get interrupted by intrusive pop-ups on your iPhone. In its place, you have a new drop-down listing of the latest alerts from the top of the screen. Apple has created a couple of widgets too: Stock and Weather. Do note that there is a limit to the number of notifications listed. For iPhone users, that’ll be 10 recent or unread items per app, while the limit for the iPad is set at 20 due to its larger screen real estate.
Of course, if you are a fan of the pop-up notification, you can still get alerts in that particular format by choosing Alerts as the alert style in the Notification Center settings. Otherwise, the Banner format will be strategically placed at the top of the screen, giving you a subtle notification.
Though the new Notifications Center does borrow certain elements from Google, a deeper level of customization is introduced within iOS 5. The choice is yours, to choose apps that are able to push the latest notifications via the banner or alert format. Of course, you can also choose to remove apps from appearing in the Notification Center.
And finally, a native app that lets you add tasks and to-do lists. Reminders is what we’ve been hoping to see, though some of us have been relying on Google Calendars to set our own reminders.
What we love about Reminders, is the way it works as a location-based service. Depending on how you set your reminder, you could be prompted when you leave or arrive at a specific location, on a specific date, with the task that is required of you. And yes, that includes a daily reminder about the iPhone announcement when we stepped into the office.
And the great thing about Reminders, is how it’s synced to various Apple devices through iCloud. In the event that you’ve left your iPad at home, you can still get the same reminder notification on your iPhone when you’ve arrived at the designated spot.
Admittedly, since we spend an unhealthy amount of time on Twitter, we are a little biased when we look at how iOS 5 integrates the social network into its framework.
When it comes to images, videos, links and even location, you can now tweet straight from apps such as Camera, Maps and even Safari. And you can add more than one account. This is just one part of the Twitter integration that comes with iOS 5. Diving deeper, you can link Twitter accounts that matches the email addresses with your contact cards. And that means you can search for your fellow Twitter users and send them tweets via your contact cards. You are also given the option to view tweets, though this will bring you to the official Twitter app. And yes, that means you won’t be able to link the contact to other third party Twitter apps such as Tweetbot.
Do note that you don't really need the Twitter app for the integration; all you need is to add your account within the Twitter setting. As far as we’ve tested, you can send outgoing tweets, but at the end of the day, you’ll still need the Twitter app to view incoming ones.
iCloud is probably the heaviest investment for Apple as it attempts to join its varied cloud-based service portfolio together in one fell swoop. On the surface, iCloud might seem to be just a cloud storage solution, allowing you to upload and synchronize your data across various Apple devices. But on a deeper level, this also means that you won’t have to worry about the loss of data (or sync them all over again from the computer) when you swap your iPhone 4 to the new iPhone 4S for example.
If you turn on iCloud backup, your data such as email, documents, account information, photos and various other settings will be backed up to iCloud when the phone is plugged in, locked and connected to Wi-Fi. More importantly, this 5GB of storage isn’t counted in for items such as apps, music and books that are some of the heavier consumers of your storage capacity. Then there's Photo Stream which automatically uploads your photos to iCloud and pushes them down to the rest of your iOS devices when they're on Wi-Fi. It's different from Camera Roll in the sense that Photo Stream gives you a rolling collection of your last 1000 photos (new photos are stored for 30 days); you can then save a photo to the Camera Roll or an album.
When you sign up for iCloud, 5GB of storage is given free. Choosing to upgrade to a higher storage capacity will set you back by S$20 per year for additional 10GB, S$40 per year for additional 20GB, and S$100 per year for additional 50GB (prices include tax). Honestly, we haven’t seen our storage capacity dwindling that much, so we feel that the average user can still do without the upgrade for now. And 5GB is definitely more than sufficient if all you need are contacts and calendars syncing.