iPhone or iPad User? Why you Should Upgrade to iOS5 Right Now

The iPhone has always had a weird development cycle – it has until now always lagged a little behind in terms of features, especially compared to the very quick development cycle of Android. Even though the hardware was first rate, users have stuck by the iPhone primarily because of ease of use and the rich app ecosystem.
But today Apple has finally given the iOS operating system the shot in the arm it has always needed. If you are an iPhone or iPad user, we strongly recommend you download and install iOS5 as soon as possible. It is perhaps the most significant update that the iPhone and iPad (and iPod Touch) has gotten yet. So why would you want it? Here is the rundown of the new features – this is not all (there are a LOT), but only the most important ones:
For a messaging crazy country like SA, this is the number one reason to get iOS5. It basically mimics the free BBM service that Blackberry has had for ages, or the Whatsapp app that many people are familiar with. Only it is a lot smarter – and it works very well.
It works in a pretty simple fashion-the first time you send an SMS to another iOS5 user, it notes that on the Apple server (automatically, no interaction needed), and then all subsequent messages take the iMessage route which only requires a data connection. If it finds that the message cannot be delivered, it switches back to the old sms route.
And no, there is no handing out PIN numbers like BBM – you can register your email addresses (in addition to the iPhone you are using) you prefer to be contacted at with iMessage. In my testing it has worked flawlessly for the past week. For example – my wife has an iPhone as well, and all our SMS’s between each other has been free. Great.
New Notification Center:
This might be a bigger deal to some than the iMessage integration. Up until iOS4, the notification system was severely limited. You know the drill – you might be playing a game, reading an important mail etc., and then a notification takes over your entire screen. This then freezes whats underneath it, until you confirm that you read the message. The new notification system is a lot more subtle – the top of the screen simply rolls up to tell you what is up. Easy enough.
But what if you have missed the notification? With iOS5 you can now go see previous ones. Apple has gone and taken a page from Android and WebOS and built a drawer that slides down with a list of past notifications. By clicking on a line in the drawer you are taken directly to the relevant app – for example click on a tweet you have gotten, and you will be taken to the Twitter app. Same for missed calls, calendar entries, weather, etc. Want to remove the notification? Just click the close button next to it.
New Lock Screen:
The iPhone’s lock screen has always been a bit of a wasteland, with perhaps one single notification on the screen. That has luckily been fixed now, and many apps can now take a place on your lock screen to inform you about things. If you miss something it will take up a line on the lock screen, and the user can very quickly be taken to the relevant app by just sliding the icon accross the screen. Missed a call? Just drag the notification icon to the right, and the phone instantly fires up a return call. Huge improvement.
Yeah, yeah. How interesting can a Reminders app be? Hold on – iOS5 does make some very cool enhancements to such a mundane app. Reminders will be integrated with iCloud (and servers like Exchange for Tasks), but they have added location aware reminders as well. You can set the iPhone (or iPad) to remind you based on certain location based triggers.
For example – set a reminder like “Pick up Gift” and set it to remind you when you arrive at home. Or before you leave work. I expected this to strain my battery, but my battery held up fine. Combined with the upcoming Siri feature on the iPhone 4S, this will be amazing.
The Safari browser on iPhone is already the most popular smartphone browser out there, and the new upgrades will make it even better. The biggest change is with the new “Reader” option. You know that irritating thing where you might be reading an article, and then you have to click to read the next page? Now you can just click on Reader, and then it goes and pulls all those pages into one page, and you can then also quickly change the font sizes. No ads as well… Just good clean text.
If you are running iOS5 on iPad you also now have real tabbed browsing, not the pseudo version like on the previous iOS. The other tabs will also load in the background, just like your desktop browser.
For some people their phone’s camera is never that important, but for others the best camera is the one they have on them. One of the problems have always been how slow it is to start up the camera – but now it is a lot faster. Simply double tap the home button when the phone is locked, and then click the camera icon. Apple has also finally listened to users and enabled the volume up button on the side of the phone, instead of trying to click the on screen shutter button. You can also see grid lines to better compose your images.
But after you have taken the photos, you also gain some simple on device editing. Colour balance a little off? Just click edit, then auto-enhance. You can also crop an image or remove red-eye by clicking on the subject’s eyes. Yeah, these editing tools have for a long time been available on other platforms, and Apple just caught up. Good thing nonetheless.
Once your photos have been taken they can also be stored in iCloud in what Apple calls “Photo Stream”. In default mode the iPhone will automatically upload all new photos up to photo stream, and then download that to all your other iCloud connected devices, like your iPad, or PC or Mac.
iCloud Backups and PC Free setup:
Typical readers of Bandwidth Blog are quite familiar with backups we reckon (right?). But a shocking number of iPhone users have never, ever backed up their phones. Then when they lose their phone and replace it with a new iPhone, they have to start afresh. The backup system has always worked well, but required users to plug in their devices into a iTunes-installed computer. Bit tedious, especially if you do not use a computer much. Luckily now Apple bundles iOS5 with iCloud, which amongst other things enables the user to backup his phone contents to the “cloud”. All you need is a decent Wifi connection, and then you can set your device to save changes on Apple’s servers. Lose you phone? Then just unbox a new iPhone, and then enter your iCloud details to restore everything like it was before. Great.
This also means that we finally get rid of that connect to iTunes screen when you unbox a new iPhone.
iTunes Wifi Sync:
People do not like connecting their iDevice every time they want to sync with iTunes. So with iTunes 10.5 and iOS5 you can now let your device sync through Wifi. In fact it will automatically sync if the phone is connected to power, and connected to the same wifi network as your computer.
Find My Friends:
While not strictly an iOS5 feature, it did roll out with iOS5. You need to go download this app, and it really does work well. The concept is simple – you need to find a friend, and you can now request his location quickly and easily. The recipient can then share his location for 24 hours, which ought to be enough. You then get a ping on your map to show where to find your friend, with a button to quickly find directions as well. How cool is that?
So this is not a social network class tool like Google Latitude. It is simple to use – because the concept is simple.
Other Nice to Have New Features:

  • Built in Twitter functionality – Set up your Twitter account in Settings, then you can quickly share from various built in apps to Twitter.
  • Mail has been improved – You will now have some more control over the text formatting in composed mail. You can also quickly drag contacts between different fields like BCC, CC etc. Not rocket science. Should have been there long ago.
  • Newsstand – You can now subscribe to many magazines which will now be seperately kept on a bookshelf called Newsstand. You subscribe, and new issues simply land in the Newsstand.
  • Split keyboard on the iPad – You can now split the iPad keyboard into two smaller halves, which makes for better thumb typing when you cannot put the iPad down to type.
A lot of iOS5’s functionality purely comes down to catching up and fixing small issues users have always had with their iDevices. But many of the features are such massive improvements that they really do revitalise the platform, and it really does feel fresher and faster than ever before. I have been running all the various Beta versions, and the latest Golden Master build which is now the final version. My experience has always been great, and the latest version has been running without problems. If you want to see what iOS5 will look like before you install it, you might want to look at this runthrough video:

If you have any iOS5 compatible device (iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, any iPad, iPod Touch 3rd Generation and up) we really recommend you download and install the update as soon as possible. Just update iTunes to the latest version, and update your device from there. Then enjoy.