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Apple iOS 5 incoming: What to expect

iOS 5, announced back in June this year, is due to roll out to iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4s as well as the iPad and iPad 2 tablets today. Historically, big iOS updates have touched down here in the UK at around 5-6pm; we’re waiting patiently for the clock to roll around and for iOS 5 to arrive.

You’ll need iTunes 10.5 (available to download now) installed on your Mac or PC in order to get the upgrade. Just plug your device into the USB port like normal (as if you were syncing MP3s) and follow the on-screen instructions.

Speaking of which, in a post iOS 5 and iTunes 10.5 world, this should be the last time you’ll have to connect your iPhone or iPad to anything, except when you need to charge the battery.

Perhaps the most key feature of these upgrades is that music and movie purchases will be automatically be synced to any of your other iDevices that use iTunes.

No more cables, no more lengthy sync times, it’s all done automatically, over Wi-Fi.

It works with apps too; buying an app on one device, or on your computer via iTunes, will instantly push that app to other compatible devices. We’re interested in seeing how this works when you get different versions of the same app tweaked for the iPhone and the iPad; Facebook and Sword & Sworcery are two good examples.

So without further ado, here’s just a few of the features we’re looking forwards to messing around with when we get iOS 5.


iMessage

Widley touted as Apple’s answer to BBM, iMessage is a slick IM client that allows you to chat to other iMessage users as well as send pictures, videos and other files. Access to this will of course eat into your regular data plan, but it won’t require a special bolt-on data package like BlackBerry Internet Service does.

iCloud

iCloud is Apple’s new cloud storage service, doing what Windows Phone with SkyDrive and to an extent Android has done before it, allowing us to share documents and pictures between devices.

As we mentioned earlier, with iTunes in the Cloud, any iTunes purchase you make can be synced across your devices.

Documents in the Cloud allows you to indulge in some SkyDrive/Google Docs action. Working with the iWork for iOS range of apps, this will allow you to create documents in Pages, Numbers and Keynote and have them are automatically synchronized to your other devices.

Photo Stream works in a similar way, allowing you to share any pictures you’ve taken on your iPhone and viewing them on your iPad, for example. Taking a picture on your iPhone 4S’ 8-megapixel camera and then viewing that in detail on your iPad 2 would be pretty magical.

Speaking of which…

Camera shutter key and improved settings

The iPhone camera app has always been a little basic, with a dearth of settings (HDR of the iPhone 4 aside) especially when compared to some of more high-end Android phones.

However iOS 5 goes some way to improving this. A really neat trick that iOS 5 brings is that it allows the volume up button of iPhones and iPads to double as shutter keys when the camera is active. This is great for the shaky-haned of you out there who prefer the control you get with a dedicated phsyical key.

As with HTC Sense 3.0 on Android phones, you now also have the option to unlock straight to the camera from the lock screen.

In the camera app itself, pinching on the screen allows you to control the digital zoom and there’s also some nice editing facilities such as rotate, crop and red-eye removal.

Newsstand

Newstand is to magazines what iBooks is to ebooks. From this new app you’ll be able to open up digital shelves where all of your subscriptions are stored, with the most recent issue of each publication pushed to the top.

This makes for an easier way to manage your magazine subscriptions without having to create your own ‘magazines’ sub folder. There’s also a link to a section in the App Store from within Newsstand, making this an all-in-one place to read and buy magazines on your iPhone or iPad.

Better Twitter Integration

If you use the official Twitter app, iOS 5 will pull in your friends’ Twitter ID and match them to your Contacts, like it already does with Facebook. What’s really clever though is that you can tweet links to photos from the camera roll, URLs from within Safari, and location links from within Google Maps.


That’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding iOS 5; there’s some 200 features tucked away in this update, not to mention Siri and AirPlay Mirroring, features which will be iPhone 4S exclusive (the former) and iPhone 4S and iPad 2 exclusive (the latter). Stick around for our hands-on pics of iOS 5 in action when we update our iPhone 4 in a few hours time.

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