Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
6/6/2011
04:22 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Apple iOS 5 Features: Notifications, iMessage Lead the Way

Apple added hundreds of new features to iOS in a significant update to its iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch platform.

Last but not least on the list of must-have improvements is wireless syncing. With iOS 5 devices, users will no longer have to physically connect their iPhone or iPad to a computer to set it up and perform an initial sync to get going. Moving forward, iOS devices will be able to activate their handsets right out of the box, without the need for a PC. Further, iOS 5 devices will be able to perform system-wide platform updates over-the-air. According to Apple, system updates will no longer download the entire operating system, but only the necessary changes and components to add new features and/or fix bugs. This is fantastic news.

There are gobs of other features in iOS 5 that Apple detailed during the keynote, but perhaps they aren't as important to the enterprise user as those listed above.

For example, it has added a camera shortcut to the lockscreen, which will allow people to jump directly from the lock screen to the camera. The camera also gains editing features for the first time, and the "Up" volume button will now double as a shutter release button.

The new Reminders application is like a to-do list on steroids. Not only does it allow people to make up little notes to themselves, it also provides alerts for some tasks. Reminders integrate with the Calendar application, and supports group-related tasks and even location-aware alerts.

The Newsstand application is an iBooks-style content repository for magazines and newspapers. Moving forward, all periodical content will be available through Newsstand. The application can perform updates in the background, downloading new content so that it is always fresh and up-to-date.

Apple said that more than 200 new features are in iOS 5, and it is providing 1,500 new APIs to developers. The new system software will work with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, iPad, iPod touch (fourth generation) and iPod touch (third generation). It won't be available until the fall.

Are any of these new features groundbreaking? No, not really. Other platforms--most notably Android--have had access to things such as good notifications, wireless syncing, dedicated camera buttons, instant messaging, and so on for ages. While Apple hasn't truly eclipsed any of its rivals, it has caught up feature-for-feature, and done so with the usual swagger. Its versions of these services would appear to integrate well across the platform. The ability for iMessage conversations, for example, to transition from iPhone to iPad to iPod and back again takes things a step further than RIM's BBM. The additions to the email program were long overdue, as were the changes made to Safari.

While Apple didn't leap beyond its competition, it let them know that it is going to significantly upgrade iOS each year to remain a lead player in the space.

What's missing? No widgets. Apple didn't add or announce any sort of dynamic content or applications for the home screen. That's a bit of a shame, but not the end of the world. Also, Apple didn't add any new local file support capabilities. Also not the end of the world, but one that might have made a few users happy. In fact, Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed out that it has spent the last 10 years looking to eliminate the need for file directories. With iOS, it has pretty much effectively done so.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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