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Tech Report – iOS 5 and iCloud

By TheTechDad

With all the excitement over the new iPhone 4S, it has been easy to overlook the release of iOS 5, Apple’s new operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, which is available from today (October 12) as a free download. The release of iOS 5 also marks the introduction of iCloud, a new cloud storage and sharing service, which automatically syncs content across all your Apple devices.

Unlike the iPhone 4S, which was seen as a disappointment by many because of the limited number of new features, iOS 5 clearly merits its shiny new number. There are over 200 new features in all – some big, some small – but enough of them to make this one of Apple’s most important operating system releases in years.

Here are just a few of the most talked-about features:

“PC Free” becomes a reality

Going back to the original iPod, Apple’s mobile devices have always been viewed as accessories, tethered to the computer by iTunes and that ubiquitous white cable. With iOS 5, that’s about to change. Think of it as if your Apple devices have finally learned to stand on their own two feet, or at least their own Wi-Fi connections.

Now you can activate and set up your device wirelessly, right out of the box. You can download free iOS software updates, and perform many sync and edit functions using built-in apps, without the need for a Mac or PC. And more importantly, you can back-up and restore your device automatically using Apple’s iCloud storage service. (More on iCloud later.)

Notification center

The battle between the iPhone and Android phones is so fierce that the two camps spend a lot of their time imitating the competition’s best ideas. So it is with the Notification Center, perhaps the second most important feature of iOS 5.

Up until now, one of the few frustrating things about using an Apple mobile device was the in-screen interruption every time you received a text, e-mail, friend request, or other notification. Most of the time you would have to stop what you were doing to deal with the request, which often involved opening a completely new app.

Now, taking a big leaf out of Android’s playbook, iOS 5 incorporates an independent Notification Center. All you do is swipe down from the top of the screen to see all your pending notifications and tap on the items you want to deal with. The appropriate apps open automatically. You can choose which notifications you want to see and clear them at any time.

iMessage

Just so BlackBerry doesn’t feel left out in the feature-imitation game, iOS 5 also includes a proprietary messaging system. You can send unlimited text messages via Wi-Fi or 3G from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to anyone else who also owns one of those devices. iMessage is built into the Messages app, so you can include photos, videos and other attachments. It can also save you money, as each iMessage goes over the Internet and not the carrier’s network.

Improved Camera app

Much has been made of the new camera in the iPhone 4S, but just as important are the new camera features in iOS 5. You can now open the Camera app right from the Lock screen; use grid lines and pinch-and-zoom to better frame a picture; get perfect focus with a single tap; and use the volume-up button to take a quick photo on the fly.

All these changes help turn the iPhone into a high-quality point-and-shoot camera, ready to capture video and stills at a moment’s notice.

Store your content with iCloud

Apple's new iCloud storage service allows you to store and effortlessly sync all your music, photos, files, contacts, and other content, so it’s available on any Apple device you choose, any time you want.

All new Apple devices are already synced for iCloud. Owners of existing devices will be asked to opt-in to iCloud as they download iOS 5. iCloud is free for the first 5GB of space, and additional storage can be purchased at the rate of $20 per year for each incremental 10GB. Media purchased through iTunes doesn’t count against the basic 5GB allocation.

iOS 5 is compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, as well as 3rd and 4th generation iPod Touches, and the iPad and iPad 2. It can be downloaded for free from http://www.apple.com/ios/ (Exact release time has not been announced. Based on previous releases, expect it to be available around 1:00pm ET.)

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