iOS 5: Its Impact on the iPad

So there we have it. On June 6, 2011, Apple announced iOS 5.

Described as a “major release”, anyone who watched the coverage of the announcement would be hard-pressed to disagree. Over 200 new features, 1500 new APIs for developers to utilize. Apple’s answered many a critic with the 10 key features that they highlighted, even the ones glossed over made big splashes, namely WiFi syncing with iTunes and a new split-keyboard layout for the iPad. 

But, if you’re not a registered iOS developer, you don’t get access to all this new shiny goodness until this Fall. And, while Apple probably couldn’t have been more vague when it comes to a drop date for iOS 5, we can use the time we have to do what we pundits do best: speculate.

Now that we’ve all had time to mull over the announcements Apple made, let’s take a look at which ones still look great in the fresh light of the day after, and which ones are maybe a little more hype than substance.

Newsstand

Even though Apple introduced it second during their keynote, I really think it’s the biggest announcement from the perspective of iPad owners.

Magazines on the iPad have been the subject of much discussion here on iPad.AppStorm. Kevin wrote a piece on how to fix the problems with the current implementations of magazines on the iPad, and then I reviewed The New Yorker app, looking at specifically how that UI works or doesn’t. 

In Kevin’s article he highlighted 5 key areas that make magazines great, and elaborated on both how they’re currently broken on the iPad, and proposed some solutions for how they could be great.

Newsstand

Newsstand

In the unveiling of Newsstand, Apple addressed some of the technical issues associated with iPad magazines. There’s now a new segment to the App Store specifically for magazines, and there’s a specially formatted folder for those Newsstand apps.

Apple’s performing some “magic” on those apps too. Currently, developers can’t dynamically change their app’s icon. But, when a new issue of one of these magazines has been downloaded, the icon changes to the current front page or cover of the new issue. Also, new issues are downloaded in the background. This is huge, but I’m afraid it might be sidestepping a bigger issue.

Right now new issues of most prominent iPad magazines are massive 400+ megabyte downloads. They’re not quick, they’re not “instant on”, and they’re just plain too slow. But that has more to do with the type of content that makes up these magazines than it does their method of delivery.

The new-age magazine app Flipboard doesn’t take that long to launch. But that’s because it’s not composed of giant PDF files. Now, on one of the slides, Apple did list a Newsstand kit. Just what that’s composed of hasn’t quite been elaborated on yet. Perhaps Apple’s put together something to rival Adobe’s publishing system. Or perhaps not. We’ll just have to wait to see, when iOS 5 ships, and we get to play with some of these new Newsstand-optimized apps.

PC Free

The other major iPad-centric announcement was the ability to “cut the cord”, severing an iOS’s dependency on a mothership computer. This is a big deal, and was elaborated on more in the iCloud portion of the keynote.

Apple understands the new paradigm in computing that we’re entering. The “post-PC” era has less to do with PCs disappearing and being replaced by shiny new iDevices, and everything to do with them losing their place at the center of our digital lives. 

The new Welcome screen in iOS 5

The new Welcome screen in iOS 5

Steve said this during his unveiling of iCloud, explaining that the Mac and PC were being “demoted” to just another device. We have a new center to our digital world, and that’s the cloud, or in this case iCloud. Now, Scott Forstall highlighted a lot of the ways the iOS 5 has this “PC free” approach built into it.

No longer is the user presented with a Connect to iTunes screen when they power up their iDevice for the first time. Instead their greeted with a cheery Welcome, and encouraged to “slide to setup”. Now one of the biggest criticisms you’ll find to the argument that we’re entering a post-PC era has been squashed in the case of iOS. 

All the Little Things

Now while those are my top two things that have me excited as an iPad user for iOS 5, I’d truly be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the other, perhaps more subtle changes coming that have me psyched. After all, isn’t it Apple’s attention to detail that makes its products such a joy to use?

By itself, the new Slide to Inbox feature in the Mail for iPad app would make me want to upgrade. I find that popover view of the Inbox incredibly frustrating in when using the app in portrait mode. But that’s far from the only update to Mail, all of them combining to make it a truly top class email client, no matter what the platform. 

Notification Center and iMessages

Notification Center and iMessages

I’m also curious to see how iMessages takes off. Borrowing a lot from Blackberry Messanger, iMessages will be a big hit for anyone with friends and relatives that use iDevices too.

But there are still some unanswered questions about it, the biggest being what’s the handle we use for contacting someone using iMessages? Their email address? If so, what email address? Does this integrate at all with any desktop programs, like iChat perhaps? Is it an open protocol that other apps can support? It think if it gains momentum, iMessages could turn into a really big deal. But that’s a big “if”. 

I can’t help but mention the new notification system. While it seems especially tuned for the iPhone and iPod Touch, we iPad users get our fair share of alerts and notifications too, and the new implementation seems like a massive improvement over the current state of things. 

And Now… We Wait

All of that was just a small sampling of what’s contained in iOS 5. Apple only elaborated on 10 out of the 200 new features. I’m sure in the days and weeks to come we’ll be seeing tantalizing screenshots from all those developers who have access to the betas and are trolling through it with a fine-toothed comb.

Apple is never one to go light one the hyperbolic adjectives, “magic” and “revolutionary” being two of its favorites. And yet the one I seem to have heard the most at this keynote was “major”. I couldn’t help but agree. iOS 5, OS X 10.7 Lion, and iCloud. Three major announcements. Now we wait and see how all of this works, in the wild. 

Your Thoughts

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! What are you most looking forward to in iOS 5 – especially in regards to the iPad?


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