The Top 5 (Borrowed) Features of iPhone 5 and iOS 5

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While Apple is not letting any secrets out, one only has to look as far as its software -- iOS5 -- to understand how it will function. Better yet, look to some of Apple rivals.

The iOS -- or the operating system that powers the iPhone -- is the maestro to manage all the fancy hardware, turning what would otherwise be a pile of silicon into a rich user experience.

Apple gave the world a glimpse of what to expect at its Worldwide Developer Conference this summer, boasting the new package will come with over 200 improvements.

There are several innovations, but some of the most important improvements may be familiar to people who have used other platforms.

Let's look at the 5:

Notifications

Perhaps the most important and most requested feature will be the overhauled notification system.

The way Apple notifies users now is a throw-back to its first iPhone in 2007. Pop-ups appear above running applications, forcing users to respond before they disappear, running the risk of interruption and annoyance.

But in iOS 5, Apple has taken a page from rival Google's Android operating system. Incoming notifications now give a subtle indication across the top of the screen. The notifications are now aggregated and assessable by sliding your finger across the top.

After checking, instead of disappearing completely, notifications are now archived: iOS 5 also introduces something Apple calls Notification Center, a single place that combines all of your notifications

When users visit the notification center, they can also see updates on weather and stocks.

Within Notification Center, you can tap a notification to switch directly to the app that sent that notification, or you can easily delete notifications you no longer need. Dismiss Notification Center and you get right back to your app.

Wireless Sync

Apple is catching up to rivals by cutting the dependency on computers and allowing iOS devices to function fully independently.

New iPhones will lose the traditional Connect to iTunes screen upon first startup and instead display a Welcome screen-a quick swipe and you can activate your device on the device itself.

New software can be downloaded over the air, bringing the iPhone in line with rivals like Research In Motion's BlackBerry. Android devices have also enjoyed this capability.

Other tasks that typically depended on a computer are also being consolidated to the device itself. Various tasks-like adding and deleting calendars, and mailboxes and even basic photo editing-will in iOS 5 be possible right on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with no computer.

iMessage

iMessage is one feature that users will love, but wireless carriers may disparage.

The new messaging feature lets users skirt wireless messaging fees to send texts, photos, videos to other contacts using iOS through the data feed for free.

Different from traditional text messaging, iMessage messages can be sent only between iOS devices, but adds features like group-chat and delivery receipts, read receipts, and iChat-like indications of when your contacts are typing back.

The new tool is similar to BlackBerry Messenger on RIM devices. Android devices have something similar called G-Talk. It's not 100 percent analogous as it can be used on computers and other devices as well, but like iMessage, it will be pre-installed and facilitates non-SMS chat between Android users.

Better Mail

Mail is one of the most-used apps across iOS devices, Apple says.

But Apple's own mail client has been sorely lacking, behind almost all competitors in its current form.

In iOS 5, Mail finally gets rich text formatting (think bold, italics, underline); indentation options, support for prioritization and, things many business users would come to expect from a smartphone.

Full-message searching will now come to iPhone and iPod Touch users, which Apple says will include messages not downloaded onto the device but present on the server. And on the iPad, you can now swipe to bring up the inbox when in portrait mode.

These features turn the iOS mail app more into a fully fledged mail-client that will be able to handle a lot more real work, letting Apple catch up to BlackBerry and Android.

The BlackBerry client has been the industry standard for quite sometime, allowing mobile users to mimic essentially desktop behavior on the go. Android's client works similarly to Gmail. Both integrate with the device, allowing custom notifications and the likes.

iOS will finally do the same.

Twitter

One function that Apple highlighted in the WWDC presentation is the new integration of Twitter through out the device.

New in iOS 5 is single-sign-on support for Twitter-once you configure your login credentials in the Settings app, third-party Twitter clients will be able to access your login details without requiring separate sign-in within each app.

This is a good addition for people who tweet, but it highlights some of the deficiencies in Apple's closed system.

On Blackberry, for instance, users can get this functionality simply by downloading the app itself, since RIM allows the app to make changes to native menus with your permission.

If you want to send a photo to Facebook, you would be out of luck.

 

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