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Top iOS 5 features explained

Top iOS 5 features explained

iOS 5 brings more than 200 new features to the platform. From a brand new notification interface to an intelligent voice-guided personal assistant - we take an in-depth look at the additions we think will be most significant in shaping the way we interact with our favourite iDevices.

Notification Center

iOS 5 notifications center

The new Notification Center in iOS 5 is the hub of all your alerts and missives. From new emails and messages to friend requests, reminders, calendar entries and more – every important event on your iPhone, iPod or iPad is now amalgamated in a single swipe-down interface at the top of the screen.

Fret not about clutter. You can customise exactly which notifications you want it to display and the order in which to display them. And there’ll be widgets to populate it with too, such as live weather and a stock ticker.

Notifications are unobtrusive, appearing only briefly at the top of the screen with a subtle animation. Whenever you’re ready too look at them, just swipe down from the top and they’ll be waiting there for you.

This seamless process has been integrated to the lock screen, too, where notifications can be acted upon with a simple tap to delete or swipe to open. Of course, you can still choose to display the classic pop-up style notifications for old time’s sake, or none at all.

Newsstand

iOS 5 newsstand official

Newsstand organises and displays your all iTunes magazine and newspaper subscriptions in a neat iBooks-inspired interface.

New issues are automatically delivered to the Newsstand folder in the background; adorned by their latest covers, with alerts to boot to notify you when they’ve arrived. You can also add more publications to your collection by simply tapping the conveniently placed App Store shortcut.

iMessage

iOS 5 iMessage official

iMessage is Apple’s answer to the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), offering users the ability to exchange unlimited messages free of charge over Wi-Fi and 3G.

You can send text messages, photos, videos, contacts and even your location, to multiple contacts at a time. What’s more, all your messages are automatically synced between multiple iOS devices under a single Apple ID. So you can start a conversation on your iPhone, for example, and continue it on your iPad when you get home. You can also enable options to receive a delivery and a read receipt for outgoing messages, so you can rest assured that your missives have reached their intended destination.

PC-Free

iOS 5 pc-free

PC-Free unshackles your iDevices to allow you to stay up-to-date with the latest software and content without the aid of a computer.

For starters, you no longer need to physically hook up a device to a computer to activate it. iTunes libraries can now be synced completely wirelessly and at long last, software updates will be delivered over the air via Wi-Fi or 3G, allowing devices to self-update anywhere on the go.

iCloud

iOS 5 iCloud

iCloud is a cloud storage solution that allows iFans to store and access all their important data and files over Apple’s remote servers on multiple devices such as iPhones, iPods and iPads, as well as Macs and PCs.

From emails to documents, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, notes, to-do lists and more, iCloud syncs them all without needing you to lift a finger. Not only that, it even syncs your photos and music, allowing you to access them easily using a single Apple ID on all your devices.

Photo Stream allows you to store your most recent 1,000 snaps for up to 30 days free of charge. Whereas iTunes Match (requires an annual subscription) enables you to scan and match tracks in your iTunes library, including songs ripped from CDs, with tracks in the iTunes Store for a seamless listening experience.

Every account is automatically allocated 5GB of free iCloud storage, so you have plenty of space to get started. Better yet, music, apps, books you’ve purchased on iTunes do not count towards that storage and are automatically downloaded to any registered devices.

Twitter integration

iOS 5 Twitter integration

Twitter functionality is now baked right into iOS 5, enabling you to tweet directly from native applications such as Photos, Camera, YouTube, Maps and Safari as well as third-party applications that have permission.

Multiple Twitter accounts are supported and you only need to sign in once in Settings. You can also add location to your tweets and view profile pictures and usernames in Contacts.

Camera enhancements

ios 5 camera

One of the annoying aspects of previous iOS iterations has been that there is no quick or easy way to access the camera, meaning that by the time you tapped in the unlock code and launched the camera app, that magic moment you wanted to capture might be already gone.

This is no longer the case with iOS 5, which provides a shortcut to launch the camera app on the lock screen by simply double tapping the home button. Better yet, you can use the volume rocker as a shutter release as well as the remote volume button on headphones.

The camera interface has also been improved. You can pinch to zoom in and out, swipe left to reveal the camera roll and long-tap to lock/unlock Auto Exposure and Auto Focus. There’s also a 3x3 grid to help you compose better shots using rule of thirds and an HDR toggle for taking stunning high dynamic range snaps.

Photo Editing

iOS 5 photo-editing screenshot

In addition to the camera interface enhancements, iOS 5 also integrates some basic but essential photo editing tools for tinkering with your snaps without ever leaving the Photos app.

You can rotate an image, crop it and remove red eye. An Auto-Enhance option is also on board to instantly colour correct, white balance and smoothen photos with a single tap.

Split keyboard

ios5 split keyboard

This one’s only for iPads due to their extra screen real estate. Simply place two fingers on the virtual keyboard and move them apart to split it in half and place the halves on the opposing sides of the screen. This makes it easier to hold the iPad up with both hands and type using just your thumbs.

Safari Reader

iOS 5 safari reader

Tired of ads and animations distracting you while you’re trying to read something on the web browser? Enter Safari Reader, a built-in component of the new Safari browser in iOS 5 that distills all the clutter from a web page to allow you to enjoy interesting articles in peace.

Pages can be saved to a Reading List to read later, which is automatically updated across all your devices via iCloud. Neat, eh?

Reminders

ios 5 reminders

Keep forgetting to pick up essential items on the way to home or work? Reminders will take care of that, thanks to location-based alerts that pop up not only at a certain pre-determined point but also when you’re near a certain location.

Heading over to your girlfriend’s? Reminders will make sure you buy some chocolates and flowers on the way and reap the rewards. Just create a list of everything you need to do on a particular day and your iDevice will automatically notify you. It’s really that easy.

Reminders sync automatically over iCloud, iCal and Outlook, so you can stay alert of your To Do’s across multiple devices.

Siri personal voice-guided assistant

iOS 5 Siri

Siri is Apple’s revolutionary new voice-guided assistant that performs a wide range of functions when users speak commands aloud.

Unlike traditional voice search applications, Siri has artificial intelligence that recognises not only your speech but its meaning too and acts accordingly.

Want to know what the weather will be in a particular city on a particular day? Ask Siri as you would anyone and it will tell you near instantly. No need to pick up the handset anymore to read your text messages while you’re driving. Siri will read them out for you and even let you reply instantly.

For almost any practical query, Siri will have an answer. It’s still in beta so there's still much room for improvement. However, the potential is definitely there for it to truly reach greatness.

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