So the big Apple WWDC2011 event has happened, and we’re pretty impressed with what was announced. Much of it was predicted in our Sunday post, although it remains to be seen if the iCloud iTunes service will handle podcasts in addition to music. You can watch the keynote address in full on the Apple site.
The three main sections were Lion OS X, iCloud and iOS5. We’re not going to dwell on the Lion OSX update as frankly it’s a desktop OS and we like our technology mobile here. Here are the key take-away’s from the other two though.
Notifications – much improved notification system, with alerts along the top and a pull-down “Notification Center” accessed by a downward swipe of your finger from any screen.
iMessage – an updated messaging client, but now available across all devices including the iPod Touch and iPad. This has probably pulled the market out from the current popular Apps like Whats App and Ping. Supports text, image, videos, location and contacts. The conversation is also sync’d across devices, so you can start on one device and pickup and finish on another.
Newsstand – iOS 5 organizes your magazine and newspaper app subscriptions in Newsstand: a folder that lets you access your favorite publications quickly and easily. There’s also a new place on the App Store just for newspaper and magazine subscriptions. And you can get to it straight from Newsstand.
Reminders – a new intelligent To Do list, with due dates and Location support so an alert will go off when you get near the location of a To Do item. Reminders also works with iCal, Outlook, and iCloud, so changes you make update automatically on all your devices and calendars.
Twitter – as predicted, Twitter is now heavily integrated into the new iOS5. Eneter your Twitter credentials in the OS settings and then you’re good to go, with Tweeting available from Photos, Contacts, Camera, YouTube or Maps.
Camera – Apple have finally addressed the tow biggest gripes with the camera, the time taken to start it and pressing the screen to take a picture. You can open the Camera app right from the Lock screen with a dedicated icon, and you can now use the volume-up button to snap your photo. This puts about 3 accessories I’ve seen out of business too.
Photos – there is now direct editing (although somewhat basic) of photos on the device, including cropping, red eye removal, auto-enhance and album sorting.
Safari – Reader displays web articles without adverts or clutter so you can read without distractions. Reading List lets you save interesting articles to peruse later and the iPad will now have tabbed browsing.
And the biggie, PC Free – you no longer need a PC to activate and update your iOS5 device. Once iOS5 is loaded (via said PC) updates will be pushed down to the device over the air – Apple have finally introduced Delta updates whereby you only need to download the parts of the OS that have changed, not the entire ~250MB of it. New iOS5 devices can be activated on board, without going via iTunes. And you can now back up and restore your iOS5 device automatically using iCloud.
Other smaller features include WiFi sync to iTunes over the local network, Email updates with rich text editing and the multi-tasking gestures that were previewed in the iOS4.3 Developer build.
The iCloud concept is essentially an account with Apple that stores all your key content – changes on one device are automatically pushed up to the server and then back down to all connected devices. This will be familiar to anyone who has an Exchange account with more than one connected device. Except that instead of just email, contacts and calendars, iCloud will handle all of this for most things on your phone including music, videos and photos.
Apple were keen to stress the Music element of iCloud, and to be fair they have delivered a better service than Amazon or Google currently offer. Obviously any music item you purchase on iTunes will be held and available via iCloud – but not just going forward – previous purchases will also be available (although how far back this goes is unclear).
iTunes Match is the big ticket item here tho – iTunes will scan your music library and any song it can identify that exists on the Apple servers (of over 18 million songs) will be added to your library. Not your copy, but Apple’s high quality 256Kbps encoded, iTunes Plus AAC copy – non DRM’d too! So you don’t need to upload your musich, Apple will find the track and simply mark it as available in your library. Anything you have that Apple doesn’t iTunes will upload for you. There is a 25,000 song limit and the service will cost £24.99 per year with a free Beta available in the US now.