We all know by now that there seems to be a never ending stream of new products, and development of existing kit from Apple Corporation, now the most (or 2nd most) valuable company in existence (vying with Exxon).  In the computing world, Apple is now firmly identified as at the top of the class, and no longer just the pretty younger sister of your girlfriend.  You simply cannot ignore Apple, and this really annoys some people.

Now I’m far from being a “fan-boy”, as I’ve never used or even played with any Apple computers.  I have however owned all incarnations of the iPod, iPhone and now iPad. I love gadgets, and in particular the way gadgets can be multifunctional, interact with each other, and efficiently replace and improve established ways of doing things.  My other love is music, so this is a no-brainer.

So having had the use of the beta updates for IOS5, let me tell you about the coolest features, from my perspective.

NOTIFICATION CENTRE (not center)

Sliding your finger down from the top of the screen reveals a screen full of handy info, including; alerts from any application, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, eBay, games etc, your local weather forecast, reminders, calendar appointments and a stock ticker. Touching any of these will take you straight to the item in the relevant app.

Why this is cool (WTIC): Alerts are often missed, especially when you have lots of apps spread across many pages.  You wouldn’t want to miss the chance to snipe that item on eBay before it sells, would you?

LOCK SCREEN ACCESS

When locked, you can double click the home button to reveal music controls, and a camera button. This is great to take spur of the moment pictures as fast as possible. The camera seems to boot up quicker too, and offers better options for flash photography.

WTIC: Let’s face it, almost all pictures are taken while other stuff is going on. Quick access to these features is essential.

CAMERA

Having been on holiday, I’ve been taking lots of pictures and videos.  You can now snap the picture by clicking the volume up button (just like a real camera) and select auto-focus by clicking the volume down button. After taking a picture, and selecting the camera-roll button to see how it looks, you can now return to the camera with a new on-screen button.  Additionally, there is now native functionality to edit pictures and videos as soon as you’ve taken them.

WTIC: Far too many of my pics and videos have been ruined by jarring the screen button at the point of taking the snap or starting recording.  Immediate editing also means I can crop the image to cut out my big thumb intruding at the edge of the picture.

REMINDERS

At last my iPhone/iPad can now sync Tasks from MS Outlook, as well as Calendar, Contacts etc! I’ve been crying out for this for years, and finally it’s here.  There are some super cool features too, which interact with your GPS location. You can now set reminders dependent upon where you are. For example “Get milk on the way home!” will pop up as soon as I leave the office, regardless of what time I leave.

WTIC: I rely heavily upon Outlook, and have 76Gb of emails going back 12 years. I want to integrate everything I can with this.

TWITTER

By entering your Twitter account details in Settings, you will enable this functionality throughout many native apps, as well as from other developers.  This means that you can tweet a picture, video, web page etc

WTIC: Not especially cool, but certainly handy.

PC and MAC FREE

Until now an iPhone or iPad has been useless without a PC or Mac to set it up with in the first place.  This is no longer the case, as everything you need to do, can be done independently, as long as you have wireless access to t’internet.  There is one big caveat – music.  Other than music you buy and download from the iTunes Store, you still need a computer to load your tracks to your device.  Incidentally, you can now sync with your computer wirelessly, so long as you’re on the same Wifi network. 

WTIC: Now mobile will really be mobile, and you won’t need to have a designated base for your Apple devices.  This also means no more continually replacing your white USB cable after the dog chewed it.

iCLOUD

I’ve left this till last because, compared to every other new feature, this is the one that changes almost everything.  For years I’ve struggled to maintain consistent synchronisation of contacts between phones, pc’s, laptops and now an iPad.  Frankly it continually hurts my head to think about which data is overwriting which, whenever I connect any of these devices.  The iCloud now means that your contacts, calendars, apps, reminders and a new iCloud email account are synchronised across all devices.  What about the music Library, I hear you ask? Well, this will not sync in the UK, until mid-2012 (it is thought) because Apple have yet to reach agreement with the relevant music rights holders in the UK.  In the meantime, you’ll have 5Gb of online space to backup your devices to the Cloud, and you can easily buy more space for a small price.  This means that a lost or broken iPhone, when replaced can be almost entirely restored from your online backup (except your music).

WTIC: Come on!  This solves my biggest headache of balancing information between various devices, pc’s at work and at home.  The sooner iTunes Connect comes to the UK too, the better.

No fixed date for IOS5 has been announced, but it seems clear it’ll be in October sometime.  If, like Andy Headworth, you are a recent convert to Apple mobile devices, you are really going to be spoiled.  Yes there are many other devices, and yes Android OS is now used on greater numbers of new phones and tablets.  However, they haven’t caught up yet on features, quality, and innovation, and on this evidence won’t be doing so this year.

PS. For what it’s worth, I have high hopes for Windows Mobile, and expect that to be the biggest challenger to Apple by this time next year.