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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.

The new iMessage is being hailed by people who hate paying for carrier-based SMS or MMS messages. Think of it as a kind of free SMS limited to other iOS 5 devices, because the transport is handled by Apple's servers, not the carrier's. As Cheng notes, there have been alternatives, such as Beluga, Google+ Huddles, and GroupMe. "[B]ut none has the kind of seamless integration with "normal" SMS and MMS messages as iMessage does on an iOS device," she writes. IMessage is smart enough to know if the recipient also has iMessage; if not, it sends your message as a standard SMS text.

There is one possible area of confusion, noted by GigaOm's Mark Crump. "While the service is called iMessage, the actual app where you use it on iOS is called Messages," he notes. "To setup iMessage, go to Settings and then Messages."

"To ensure your Message is received on all your connected [iOS] devices, you must have them sent to your Apple ID e-mail address," Crump writes. "In limited testing, if someone sent me a text message to just my phone number, I only got the text on my iPhone. However, if they sent the message to my address (which is my Apple ID address), I got it on all devices. This is because Apple can't associate your phone number (assigned by your carrier) with devices other than your iPhone."

ICloud is Apple's most ambitious foray into hosted services designed for mobile users. It lets iOS 5 users synch music, photos, videos, apps, data, calendars, notes, documents and browser bookmarks via the Internet, using cellular or Wi-Fi connections, something that Android users have been accustomed to for awhile.

You can configure iCloud from the Settings section of your device. " Once you have iCloud set up with your Apple ID, you can choose to have any combination of your personal data synced up to the cloud on a regular basis, which will then sync across all devices associated with your Apple ID," says Cheng.

"My experience syncing my data over iCloud was mostly hit and some miss. The elements that burped for me were Calendar syncing — for some reason, all of my appointments now show up in threes on both my iPhone and iPad, but not in my Mac's iCal or anywhere else — and Photo Stream."

Cesa says the syncing is "pretty much invisible. Documents and photos were flung across our iPhone 4 and iPad almost instantaneously, without any effort on our part."

Wi-Fi now can be used to sync your iDevice with your computer, eliminating the need for a USB cable. But Cheng warns users to pay attention to details. "In order to sync your iDevice over WiFi, you must check the proper setting in iTunes after you plug the device into the computer (possibly for the last time!)," she says. "After that, your device will automatically sync music, photos, movies, etc. every time it's on the same WiFi network as the computer (but only when plugged into power)."


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