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Apple releases iOS 5; firmware features some 200 improvements

John Cox | Oct. 14, 2011
Apple has released iOS 5 for its smartphones and tablets, bring about 200 improvements and refinements to the latest iteration of its mobile operating system.

Apple has released iOS 5 for its smartphones and tablets, bring about 200 improvements and refinements to the latest iteration of its mobile operating system.

Overall, reviewers say the hands-on experience of "iDevices" with iOS 5 is more polished, more useable, and more functional than ever before. Reviewers generally are positive about the production release, especially for its revamped notifications, the new iMessage for texting, integration with iCloud and Wi-Fi syncing, and expanded HTML 5 support in the mobile Safari browser.

"The [new approach to] notifications alone are worth the upgrade, and the potential with iMessage eventually being truly seamless and replacing traditional texts can't be missed," says Jacqui Cheng, reviewing for ArsTechnica

With iOS 5, Apple's mobile devices decisively cut the USB cord to personal computers. "The ability to set up and sync your iOS device's content with your computer or the cloud without having to tether to a computer is a huge step forward for the operating system and the devices that work with it," Cheng says.

What's more, it works just fine on existing iPhone 4 and iPad 2 devices, according to Dante Cesa, reviewing for Engadget. "IOS 5 made these devices feel as snappy as ever," he says. "Transitions were smooth, apps loaded quickly and we never felt like new features overwhelmed our device. On the original iPad, much of the same applies."

The new OS is "certainly more polished and feature-complete than it ever has been," according to Cesa. "With [former] gripes like notifications and wireless sync behind us, Apple's been able to hone in on breaking new ground with features like Siri, iCloud and iMessage -- all in an extremely refined way."

The one key feature that hasn't yet been fully evaluated in hands-on reviews is Siri, the new voice "assistant" iPhone. Siri requires the dual-core processor in the new iPhone 4S and will only be available on that model phone.

Until now, a notification about an incoming call or email interrupted the user, in effect suspending whatever he was doing until he decided to view the notification or ignore it. Apple has created a Notifications Center, and extensive settings, that let users collect and manage their notification process.

"The main settings screen lists every app that could send you notifications, and you can control how each app uses them," Cheng says. "The Alert Style settings let you choose how you want each app's notifications to appear."

"So does it work? In a word, yes -- it's certainly far better than its antiquated predecessor," Cessa says. "Maybe we were expecting something more radical -- say, notifications that sync across devices -- but we're glad it's here, and boy does it make iOS a whole lot more livable."

 

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