Steve Jobs’s WWDC Keynote has wrapped up and I have to say that this is probably the most exciting and feature-packed non-hardware keynote I’ve ever seen him do. There are some incredible new features being packed into iOS 5 that will really wipe the smug smile from any face that might have been claiming that iOS was getting stale and falling behind the competition. After the break we’ll have a quick round-up of what’s new so read on.
Among the hundreds of new features in iOS 5, there are several key new features that were highlighted at WWDC this morning. We weren’t there ourselves (unfortunately) so we’ve had to borrow imagery from Engadget who did an outstanding job at live-blogging the event this morning as usual. Here are the new features:
As hoped, notifications in iOS have had a complete makeover and from what we’ve seen in this morning’s keynote they address almost every concern I’ve heard. Notifications now pop-up unobstrusively at the top of the screen and don’t interfere with apps you’re currently running. A downward swipe from the menu bar will reveal an Android-style list of notifications, and best of all these notifications show on the lock screen.
This appears to be an additional store of sorts, a little like the iBookstore, but for magazines and newspapers. Copies of finger-friendly publications can be bought here and the covers themselves show up in a folder on your homescreen that resembles a newsstand. It looks cool, but whether we’ll ever see any NZ content (given that we still don’t have an iBookstore) is unknown.
Those rumours about deep Twitter integration were bang on the money. The ability to share photos, web pages and map locations to Twitter is baked right into the OS and looks to have been very nicely implemented. It’s a shame that this is Twitter only and not also available for Facebook but them’s the breaks.
The ‘Reader’ functionality of Safari for Mac and PC is being added to iOS. This means that when you’re reading an article (like this one), you can tap the reader icon in the address bar and see a plain black-text-on-white-background-with-photos version with all the clutter stripped out. Speaking as the operators of a website we’re unsure about this one, as for us it could mean loss of revenue from ads you won’t see and means that you’ll get to read our articles without the visual presentation that we intended.
Apple have also added a ‘Reading List’ feature which will allow you to earmark interesting articles you’ve stumbled across which you might not have time to read now but want to pick-up later. Also added is tabbed browsing, which works a lot like it does in Safari and Firefox for your Mac or PC.
This was a nice surprise. Apple are building reminder functionality into iOS 5 that is so smart that you can even set it to remind you of a task you need to complete when you are in a particular location. So, for example, you could set a reminder that says “buy some bread” when you’re walking past the dairy on your way home from work. Genius.
Some exciting new tweaks for the camera have been introduced – first and foremost you can now access your camera right from your lock screen without having to enter your PIN. This means that when you want to take a quick snap it is literally a couple of taps away. Other improvements include the ability to take a picture by pressing ‘volume up’ rather than the on-screen icon, pinch-to-zoom, exposure / focus lock, and the ability to apply basic edits right within the camera app such as red eye removal and one-tap ‘enhance’ a la iPhoto. All very welcome updates I’m sure you’ll agree.
Mail has received a number of updates, not least of which is rich text editing. Finally you are able to use italics, bold, etc. No mention was made of font control but let’s hope it’s there. Also added is improved email search, the ability to drag addresses to and from the TO / CC / BCC line etc.
There are some awesome new tweaks that will work across all apps. The first is a new keyboard for the iPad. Grab the existing one, drag it up the screen with your thumbs and it will split into two, giving you keys that are all within easy reach of your thumbs – this will be a god-send for typing in landscape mode without resting the device on your lap.
Also added: a system-wide dictionary feature like the one in iBooks (highlight a word and tap ‘define’ and a pop-up will show you the words dictionary definition), the ability to start using your device without tethering to iTunes so that you can buy, say, an iPad and use it as a standalone device without the need to connect to a host computer. This is made all the more easier by the next feature: over-the-air updates to iOS! And not only that but they’re delta updates, too, which means that updates can be smaller (like a patch) rather than having to download the entire OS all over again. Yay for the saved bandwidth!
Game Center Updates
There are a slew of tweaks for Game Center including much deeper social integration so that you can see more of what your friends are up to, the introduction of turn-based games that you can play with your buddies, and the ability to buy new games from within the Game Center app rather than having to go back out to the App Store.
This one is going to hurt a lot of devs that have existing messaging apps on the store such as WhatsApp messenger, but it’s probably for the best in the long run: Apple are adding a messaging app which lets you communicate with your contacts who are also using iOS devices – basically it’s like free text messaging. It comes with the ability to show received and read receipts and shows you when the other party is typing a message. This is great for iPhone owners but for iPad and iPod touch owners it is ground-breaking and will be a very welcome addition.
This was very much glossed-over in the keynote but iOS 5 adds the ability to mirror what’s going on on your iOS device via AirPlay. I’m thinking this will be awesome for games in particular but in reality there will be so many uses for this that it’s unreal. I wish Steve had gone into more detail and given us a demo but we’re sure we’ll see it for ourselves before too long.
OK, well that about covers the major new features in iOS 5. There are actually several more which revolve around iCloud but we’ll go into those a bit later on this morning. iOS 5 will be available ‘in the fall’ (Spring for us), so there’s somewhat of a wait ahead but we’re used to that with major revisions by now.
So what did you think? Mind blown? What are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments.