The original iPhone was designed to address a significant user experience problem with smartphones of the day. The iPhone itself was just the delivery vehicle, what later became known as Apple’s iOS was what made it all happen. At its launch in 2007 many lamented the significant loss of typical smartphone features with the very first iPhone. You couldn’t multitask, there was no copy/paste support, you couldn’t tether, you couldn’t send pictures or video via MMS and there were no apps. Apple of 2007 was very much a Mac company that was gaining strength, looking to dabble in the smartphone world.

Despite its shortcomings, the original iPhone/iOS combination did enough things right to build a user base. With a solid foundation Apple did what all good companies do: iterate like crazy. We got annual iPhone and iOS updates, each year offering evolutionary but important improvements. A company that executes consistently may not be competitive on day 1, but after a couple years of progressive iteration it may be a different beast entirely.
That’s where Apple finds itself today. No longer the timid newcomer in the smartphone market, Apple has turned iOS into a major player in the industry. Given its success in convincing iPod users to embrace Macs, it was inevitable that Apple would leverage a similar strategy in growing its iOS and Mac businesses. The latest release of iOS, version 5.0, announced in June of this year is as much about updating the phone/tablet platform as it is about beginning the next phase in Apple’s expansion. iOS 5 isn’t about liberating Apple from the PC, it’s a step towards unifying the experience across Apple’s product line. As it’s still just an iOS revision, Apple needed another tool to bring about this level of change, which is why iOS 5 is accompanied by the public release of Apple’s iCloud service.
A primary goal of iOS 5 and iCloud is to enable users to access their content across any Apple device without manual syncing. You should only have to worry about carrying the right device with you and not think about whether it’ll have access to your contacts, email, files or if people can still reach you if it’s all you’re carrying. That’s the theory at least.

What Will iOS 5 Run On?

iOS 5 is releasing on a wide range of devices, including the past three generations of iPhone, past two generations of iPod touch, and both generations of iPad. It brings with it a number of headline features, including a ground-up redesign of the notifications system, a new iOS-to-iOS messaging service called iMessage, and the integration of iCloud, a cloud computing and storage service for iOS, OS X, and Windows. According to Apple, there are a full 200 new features found in iOS 5, with features like Twitter integration, wireless sync, PC Free setup and updating, display mirroring over AirPlay, multitasking gestures, and updates to core applications like the camera, browser, mail and calendar being among the more notable changes highlighted by Apple. It’s a pretty healthy list of things to cover, so we’ll get down to it. 

iOS 5 was designed around four devices: the iPad 2, the 4th generation iPod Touch, the iPhone 4, and of course, the new iPhone 4S. This time around, the iPad version of iOS 5 is launching alongside the iPhone and iPod touch versions, a nice change from iOS 4. The iPad was bumped from iOS 3.2 to iOS 4.2 a few months after the initial release of iOS 4.0 for the iPhone. 
If you’ve ever used an iOS device before, whether it be an iPhone, iPod touch, or an iPad, the iOS 5 user interface will be instantly familiar to you. When the biggest visual change is that the toggle switches are rounded instead of rectangular, you know that not a whole lot has changed from that side of things. iOS is unique in the Apple world as it's still maturing yet extremely important to Apple's overall business. Seemingly as a result, Apple has been both reluctant to mess with the UI formula while eager to adopt new features. What we get with version 5 is a significant evolution of the iOS platform without any revolutionary changes to the UI. While understandable, it's also a bit frustrating for those of us looking for improvements in areas such as multitasking.

Setup and Settings

While the look isn’t all that different, the first boot on a newly updated iOS 5 install gives away the first clue that there are some distinct changes under the hood here. You’re first greeted with a gray cloth patterned screen with the name of your iDevice (iPad, iPod, or iPhone, respectively).

Move the lock slider to begin setup, enter your Apple ID, agree to terms and conditions, and you’re given a choice opt-in for location services and iCloud, whether you want to set up a new device or restore from a previous local or iCloud-based backup, whether to backup locally or to iCloud, and then you’re all set to start using your iDevice. The new out-of-box setup is now much more Mac-like than before.

Apple’s PC independence shines through in the settings menu, where you can get iOS software updates downloaded directly to your iDevice and installed without plugging in to a host computer. Factor in wireless sync and iCloud, and it’s legitimately conceivable that after you install iOS 5, you can go without plugging into your PC at all. Apple has invoked the "Post-PC" term a number of times since the introduction of the iPad, but it's now finally letting customers set up their post-PC devices without a PC, a key factor as iPhones and iPads become legitimate productivity devices. 

Other key differences in the settings menu are the additions of iCloud, Twitter, and (if you’re on an iPad or iPod touch) Messaging panes, as well as the new notification settings, which gives users a manual switch to decide how each application sends alerts. Notifications have been something of a sore spot in iOS for a while now, and as the single largest user experience change in iOS 5, the new alert system is something of a big deal. 

Notifications and the Notification Center
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  • simi13 - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    I could swear I am on (I read anand and that daily), hahaha. A very nice review, though.
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    It does fail to mention a glaring omission in the OS, though: repeating, AUDIBLE notifications of MISSED CALLS.

    This was inexcusable in version 1, but after five or six years, Apple's phone still lacks an important, common-sense feature that was found on cell phones in the '90s. Aren't people sick of missing time with their friends and families because they didn't find out they called until the next day?

    Your phone is on its charger on your dresser, and you're taking a shower when someone calls; the phone gives one little chirp immediately after the call and never again. WTF? If you missed the call, it stands to reason that you're going to miss a single noise right after it. The thing should (OPTIONALLY) notify you periodically that someone called, until you cancel the notification.

    Even more bafflingly, Apple added repeat-notification controls for TEXTS. So if there's an emergency in my family and my parents want to get in touch with me, we're assuming they'll TEXT me? Brilliant, Apple. You have to wonder what kind of retards make these decisions over there.
  • eallan - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    I hope Apple adds the option for people that want it, but man, that is one specific complaint.

    I don't think I've ever wanted the feature. Just wake your phone up after a shower? Whats the big deal?

    I think that may be the most rare complaint about iOS. Hardly makes them "retards" for not adding a specific niche feature. Relax
  • Booster - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    "I don't think I've ever wanted the feature. Just wake your phone up after a shower? Whats the big deal?

    I think that may be the most rare complaint about iOS. Hardly makes them "retards" for not adding a specific niche feature. Relax"

    Sorry man, but it IS a big deal. Who in the hell would want to wake his phone periodically? Don't you realize how stressful this is? You'll never get to 'relax' knowing someone might have called or texted you etc. You'll be constantly checking out your iPhone and over time this will drive you crazy. Not a small matter by any means and surely not 'niche', since every freaking user suffers from this.

    If iPhones were really that good, they'd have a dedicated LED indicator for missed events and sufficient options to customize alerts, but they would be off by default so idiots wouldn't complain that their iPhone is bugging them. Leave it disabled by default, that's fine, might even add a warning before activating alerts, but this feature just needs to be there, man.
  • Bob-o - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    > If iPhones were really that good, they'd have a dedicated LED indicator

    Agreed. It was only last weekend, when my neighbor was showing off her new 4S, that I realized you couldn't just look over at the phone to see if you have a txt/email/voicemail waiting for you. Something my Treo 650 used to do just fine.

    As great as new phones are, it is amazing how some of them have taken steps backwards in many little ways.
  • robco - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    That's all well and good if you're home alone, your phone rings, you aren't available, you find out when you return. However, I do recall back in the day, being in a public place, someone's phone rings in their purse or jacket, they're off in the bathroom or in a meeting or something. Not only do you have to listen to their phone ringing, but then you have to listen to the audible beep every so often and that can get quite annoying. Convenient for you, not always convenient for those around you.

    Honestly, get into the habit of checking the phone when you've been away and out of earshot. One quick tap on the sleep/wake button will let you know if you've missed something. Otherwise yours is the phone people are going to want to smash with a sledgehammer because it's beeping every few seconds.
  • Booster - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - link

    "Honestly, get into the habit of checking the phone when you've been away and out of earshot. One quick tap on the sleep/wake button will let you know if you've missed something. Otherwise yours is the phone people are going to want to smash with a sledgehammer because it's beeping every few seconds."

    I'm more concerned with my personal psychologic wellness rather than with what irritates the others. Then again, why not include the feature but disable it by default? Morons won't even care to enable the cornerstone feature of any mobile device, but those who care - they will.

    You probably don't realize how retarded the 'quick tap' concept is, how extremely inconvinient for the user. Why should he or she pimp the damn square button every now and then? There is just no excuse for not really caring about end users.
  • snuuggles - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - link

    Hmmm, I think you are too-quickly dismissing a valid point. I mean, there are actual laws about car alarms that go off repeatedly because they are so amazingly annoying. I think your repeated noise idea is along the same line. A dedicated light might be a better compramise.

    Honestly, you seem a little unhinged, I somehow doubt that adding this single notification feature will allow you to have better "personal psychological wellness."

    Maybe you should get rid of the phone if it's that important. Unless you are a doctor or the president, being reachable isn't *that* important.
  • kezeka - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I am in medical school and I can personally vouch against doctors wanting to be within earshot. If we aren't on call (you would have a pager for this) then there is no reason to constantly check the phone. There are instances where I can see it being necessary.

    That said, I leave my phone completely silenced all day, every day and just check it periodically to see if anyone has tried to contact me. If they have, I call them back. It isn't worth breaking your concentration to be completely on top of things (insert link to any number of articles suggesting the human brain is horrible at multitasking here).
  • name99 - Thursday, October 20, 2011 - link

    I actually am with MobiusStrip here. Different people use their phones in different ways, and I'd appreciate a more aggressive reminding of missed calls.

    A similar problem (which I reported as a bug a year ago, but which is still not fixed) is audible notification of text messages. Suppose you have your phone connected to a BT headset or headphones, and a call comes through. The phone is smart enough to realize that it should still ring the phone speaker because you may not actually have the headset or headphones plugged in. But it does not extend that same level of intelligence to other notifications, most obviously text messages --- but I think also Skype or Viber calls.

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