iOS 5: My Five Favorite Features

Last Updated Jun 6, 2011 3:02 PM EDT


Busy day at today's WWDC, what with Apple unveiling Mac OS X Lion, iCloud, and a brand-spankin'-new operating system for iDevices. Yep, iOS 5 has arrived (or will, in the fall), bringing with it a whopping 200 new and/or improved features.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of them are pretty evolutionary -- but there's a lot to get excited about. Below I've listed the five iOS features that have me happy-dancing across the office:

1. Lock-Screen Notifications
Since the dawn of the iPhone, the lock screen (i.e. the "swipe to unlock" screen) has offered zero value to the user. That changes with iOS 5, which can now display notifications of new e-mail, voicemail, text messages, and the like. And they're interactive, too, meaning you can swipe to access them much like you'd swipe to unlock the phone. 'Bout time!

2. Reminders
Finally, a to-do list! The new app not only supports date-specific reminders and assigned locations, but also "geofences": you can set a reminder to trigger when you leave from (or arrive at) a location. Awesome! Alas, it doesn't look like Reminders will sync with Outlook, though it does support Exchange (and iCal).

3. Camera Improvements
Taking pictures with an iPhone is a huge pain in the butt, if only because there's no dedicated shutter button. Well, there is now: the volume-up button! Almost as good: Apple added a Camera icon to the lock screen, which will save considerable time when you want to snap a photo. Just tap it and the Camera app loads immediately -- no unlocking and hunting for the app first. iOS 5 also lets you perform minor photo edits, like cropping, rotating, and removing red-eye.

4. Mail Improvements
At long last, you can search the contents of your e-mail messages! I can't tell you how many times I've been burned by not being able to do this. Plus, for those of you who like to get your italics on, Mail now supports Rich Text Formatting (bold, italics, underline, even indenting).

5. PC Free
See you in hell, sync cables! iOS 5 lets you set up an iDevice, download OS updates, and -- wait for it -- sync your iTunes library, all without tethering. This is long, long overdue, and I'm thrilled it's finally here. (Lingering concern: how long will a Wi-Fi sync take? We'll have to wait and see.)

I'm also pretty pleased with the new iMessage app, which is like a cross between instant messaging and texting -- but only between iOS devices. (Even so, bad news for RIM.)

Okay, those are my picks. What iOS 5 features do you like best? Do you think Apple left out anything important? Head to the comments for a WWDC after-party.

Image courtesy CNET/This is My Next
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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.