iOS 5 Review: Tweak or Total Overhaul?

iOS 5 ReviewApple recently released the latest version of its iPhone, iPod and iPad operating system, iOS5. This upgrade, one of the most significant that iPhone and other i-device users have benefitted from, includes some 200 new features some of which might just transform the way you use your device.

In this article, I’ll highlight some of the key features of the new operating system from the perspective of an iPhone 4 user.

How to upgrade to iOS 5

The first thing to note about iOS 5 is that this is a completely free upgrade; with iOS 5 Apple users have the chance to improve their devices without paying a cent.

The easiest way to update your iPhone’s operating system is to connect your phone to your computer and launch iTunes. The upgrade should be offered to you automatically, if not you can just click on your phone’s icon and hit the “Check for Updates” button. The upgrade is compatible with the iphone 3GS and up, the iPod touch 3G and up and both iPad 1 and 2.

This is a major upgrade and will take some time to download and then update on your phone so make sure that you have your laptop plugged in to avoid losing power mid update which means a complete restart.

The other key thing to do before you update is to back up your iPhone within iTunes. That way all of your music, apps and photos will still be there after your operating system is upgraded.

I made the mistake of forgetting to back up my apps which meant that, to my horror, all of my downloaded apps were deleted from my iPhone. Whilst I knew that I could re-download the apps, I thought that I had lost all of my saved game data and would have to start my games from scratch. You can imagine my horror at needing to start Nova 2 again and having to trade in my McLaren for a VW Golf in Real Racing 2. Apple came to my rescue though – once I re-downloaded the apps, my saved data magically reappeared. I’m not sure whether the saved games were still on my phone awaiting the return of the apps or whether the data was automatically uploaded to the iCloud but either way, I was a happy and relieved man..


iMessage is a new feature in iOS5 which is sure to win Apple many friends amongst consumers and many enemies amongst mobile network operators. Once you’ve set up iMessaging on your phone and you go to send someone an SMS, the Apple system automatically checks to see whether that person’s mobile is also an iPhone and registered for iMessaging. If it is then the message is send as an instant message rather than an SMS. This means that you save on the SMS cost and the conversation becomes more akin to a Skype IM exchange. You can see when the other person is typing a response to your message and the messages also seem to come through more quickly. Not only that but as imesssage uses data networks you can send them if you have wifi but no mobile signal.

iMessage fills a gap in Apple’s arsenal where previously it was outgunned by Blackberry’s BBM system. Apple’s system trumps BBM as iMessaging seamlessly integrates with the existing SMS messaging system and there’s no need to know the other person’s PIN number.


One of the great annoyances with the old iPhone operating system was that a reminder or text message alert box would always pop up just as you were about to record a new fastest lap in Real Racing 2. You would then have to click on the button before you could get back to the racing. iOS 5 solves that problem by now discretely displaying a small bar at the top of the screen to inform you that you’ve received a message. If you then drag down from the top of the screen the new Notification Center appears. This screen consolidates all of your time sensitive information such as text messages, appointments, reminders and also includes the local weather and stock prices.

The Notification Center and the handling of alerts is one area where Apple was lagging behind Android and Windows Phone but with iOS 5 Apple is back in the game.

Camera software

Apple has really improved the usability of the already excellent camera built into the iPhone 4. Previously if something exciting happened and you wanted to capture it, you would have to click on your iPhone, unlock it, find the camera app and launch it. By that point, the moment would often have passed and you’d end up taking a photo of thin air. Babies won’t wait to take their first steps whilst you fire up your iPhone camera, and now they won’t have to.

With iOS5, you simply double click on the home button and there is a new camera button next to the usual swipe to unlock section. If you click on that button then the camera instantly opens and is ready for photo taking.

As well as reducing the speed to open the camera app, Apple has also decreased the time between taking photos. This allows the iPhone to take photos about as quickly as a normal digital camera so allowing multiple action shots to be taken.

A third improvement to the camera software under iOS 5 is that you can now take photos by clicking on the physical volume up button rather than relying solely on the onscreen button. This allows the phone to be held more naturally like a camera – though you do need to make sure that your fingers don’t block the camera lens at the bottom of the phone.


Apple has launched the iCloud service alongside iOS5 and integrated its features into many of the iPhone’s Apps. iCloud gives users 5gb of free online storage which they can use to back up their contacts, calendars, notes, music, videos, photos, apps – the list is endless. If you need more than 5gb then you can purchase an additional 10gb for $20 a year. Whilst $20 isn’t a lot to pay 5gb isn’t exactly generous and lots of users, myself included, will find they need more storage but aren’t necessarily willing to pay for it. On Apple’s party it might have been a better solution to match the icloud storage to that of the device. Those who purchased a 32gb device getting 32gb of storage. As it stands, the limited storage capacity means that many people simply won’t use what could have been a very useful feature.

iCloud with iTunes allows you to purchase a track on your computer and iCloud then automatically downloads that song to your iPhone and your iPad. Photostream with iCloud allows you take a photo on your iPhone and Photostream then automatically uploads that photo to the iCloud and then downloads it to your computer.

iOS 5 also allows you to set up and manage your iPhone without having to ever connect it to a computer. Set up and back up is all processed directly to the iCloud rather than going through iTunes on a computer.

There’s no doubt that iOS 5 is a great leap forward and an essential upgrade for all owners of a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod. Ok, so you weren’t able to line up for a new iPhone 5 yet, but iOS 5 might just make you feel like you got a new phone anyway.

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