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iOS 5 preview: Our hands-on gallery

The features revealed in Apple’s update are wide-ranging and numerous, so we decided to try it for ourselves, upgrading to the preliminary beta of iOS 5.

In our preview, we’ll give you our first impressions on the new version, which will arrive on iPhones (from 3GS), iPad, and iPod Touch (from 3rd generation) We’ve already curated the highlights, but it was all to tempting, and we decided to plunge into the world of iOS 5.

The Setup

We’re using an original iPad, so we knew we’d be unable to play with the multi-touch gestures. But there’s still plenty more features to play with.

Once we had loaded the developer version of iOS 5, installed iTunes 10.5, and rebooted our iPad, it was great to be able to use the tablet without a PC connection. (Although you will need to use the forthcoming iCloud features to sync apps, music and more without a USB cable.)

You’ll be asked to setup the tablet; and it’ll ask for language preferences, location, and you’ll also be able to setup a WiFi connection from the start.

We were then asked whether we’d like to back-up from a previous iPad profile. We went vanilla, so it was a nice blank canvas to show off all the new stuff. “You’re now ready to start using the most advanced iOS ever.” Well, yes, it should be the most advanced iOS- it’s got the biggest number.

Click for our own hands-on impressions of iOS and more in-the-wild pictures.
 

The new homescreen remains unchanged, but you’ll immediately notice the new icons; there’s one for iMessage, Reminders, and Newsstand.

Sadly Newsstand is decidedly dead, with a a note saying magazines and newspapers can be downloaded from the App Store. On to iMessage…

iMessage is like no messenger you’ve ever seen before. Well actually, it’s exactly like a lot of messenger apps you’ve seen before. This makes it very easy to get to; you add profiles through their email address registered to iTunes. Send a message and they’ll appear in iMessage.

You can then save the email address with additional details by tapping on the profile head icon. press on the contextual button (the arrow in the box) and you’ll be able to edit the messages and even forward any important ones onto other people.

Here’s the new split keyboard function. You can switch between this and the original version through the keyboard icon at the bottom of the keys. Your thumbs will thank you for the new split mode!

The notification bar will jump out on top of any app you’re running, and you can either tap on it then to access, or get to the bar by dragging the status bar down. We saw updates from our email, iMessage and our calendar, and we could tap on these to jump immediately to the new content/ missed appointment.

We’d expect more apps, and third party ones, to make full use of this once iOS 5 gets its public release.

Like older iOS models, on screenlock, a pop-out box will also display updates.

Moving onto the changes made in the Safari internet browser, we’ve fallen in love with the reader function. You can access it by tapping on the reader button in the address bar. Tap it and..

You’ll arrive at this very readable page, with pictures embedded into the text, and a choice of font size.
 

Twitter will need to be installed first (we installed from the settings menu), but then you’ll get a very powerful interface that is tied into the rest of the iPad/ iPhone functions. You can swing across different columns, whilst main functions are easily accessed on the left.

The new Calendar gets a year-long view on the iPad. iPhones get similar improvements, allowing you to gaze into your own (pre-planned) future.

We’ll be adding to here as we discover more great features, so make sure to check back in a few days.

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