iOS 5: Thoughts

In my last post, I offered my thoughts on Apple's announcements at WWDC. Of the three products demoed, none has me more excited than iOS 5. I don't think I've ever been as excited for an iOS refresh than I am for this one, to the point that I'm actually wishing summer flies by so we can get to fall already. In any case, during Monday's keynote, VP of iOS Software Scott Forstall highlighted ten marquee features of Apple's mobile operating system. The reason for this post is I wanted to talk about my feelings about each feature, as well as a few that didn't make Apple's presentation.

Notifications Center. Notifications Center is arguably the biggest reason for my drooling over iOS 5. The current system, while fine for certain things, is really shitty. I can't tell you how many times I've been doing something, then all of a sudden this big blue dialog box pops up out of nowhere. And while the Rapture-keen among us might sneer that Apple swiped -- pun intended -- the Notifications UI from Android and the jailbreak community, that doesn't make the new implementation any less awesome. I love how you can tap or swipe across a notification and immediately be taken to the corresponding app. And I love how the new system actually makes the lock screen useful. Some questions remain though:

  • Can users reorder/edit notifications?
  • Are Stocks and Weather the only widgets?
  • Can users reposition the notifications bar from top to bottom?

As I mentioned, I'm not looking forward to spending the next few months with the abominable status quo. Very tempted to sign up as a dev to get the beta.

iMessage. iMessages was a surprise -- to everyone. It's definitely a great feature, albeit limiting to me. I don't know anyone who owns an iOS device, so SMS won't be dying (at least in my world) any time soon. Still, with 200 million iOS users out there, this has the potential to be killer. I can see a lot of people cutting the cord on their text messaging plan, especially if their social circle is iOS-centric.

That sound you heard Monday was the carriers groaning after getting kicked really hard in the nuts.

Newsstand. Newsstand is nice. It's not an app; rather, it's a glorified folder where you can keep track of your magazine/newspaper subscriptions. Since I don't subscribe to either, Newsstand won't get much use by me.

Reminders. This is a great app for casual GTD people like me who just want to remember to grab some milk on the way home. As usual for Apple, it's a slick-looking app with a nice icon. The killer feature here is Reminders can set up a geo-fence around your location to remind you of stuff. Example: I'm walking to Safeway to pick up milk. Once I reach the door, Reminders will show a message reminding me to buy said milk. Fucking awesome. Best quote on this feature comes from John Gruber:

[T]he proximity-based reminders are some serious flying cars and jetpacks holy shit we’re living in the future shit.

Twitter. In the days leading up to Apple's keynote, rumors of Twitter integration into iOS 5 swirled around the Interwebs. The integration runs deep, and it's nice to see the Twitter API available to all iOS developers. Nice as it may be, this won't stop me from using Tweetbot. What Apple's done here is great, but it's pretty bare bones in terms of functionality. No, thanks.

Camera. I love my iPhone 4's camera; I use it a lot. The huge additions here are that Apple's added a shortcut to the Camera app on the lock screen and you can use the volume ↑ button to snap a photo. The physical shutter button is nice, but I'm especially thrilled with the lock screen icon. Huge timesaver.

Photos. Cool upgrades to Photos. Apple's added grid lines to help with composition, as well as AE/AF lock. You can pinch to zoom too. There's even some basic editing tools like red-eye removal and cropping. And you can create folders and move pics around right on the phone. Hallelujah.

Safari. Safari's enhancements are more prominent on the iPad because of the new tabbed browsing feature. Reader and Reading List are nice as well. Marco Arment is right not to sound the death knell for Instapaper just yet.

PC Free. Aside from Notifications Center, this is arguably the biggest improvement in iOS 5. No longer do you need to plug your iOS device into iTunes to set it up, back up, and get software updates. Delta updates, too. It's all done over the air. Apple has officially ushered in the "Post-PC" era.

Mail. Rich-text formatting -- bold, italic, and underline -- is coming to iOS 5. You can now drag addresses around the different To: fields. What's more, you can now search the content of a message, as well as add/delete folders.

Miscellany. Scott said there's 200 new user features in iOS 5, so he obviously couldn't demo them all during his presentation. A few that stand out to me are the multitasking gestures for iPad, 1080p video support, and the ability to set up an AirPort Extreme and/or Time Capsule from your iOS device. Also, the new split keyboard (iPad-only) is pretty cool. Anxious to try it out.

More on other new iOS goodies can be read about here.

As I said, iOS 5 looks to be a FANTASTIC update. Apple's hit a home run this year. I can't wait!