I is for Independence: cutting the cord

It won’t be available until the Autumn, but yesterday Apple previewed some exciting new features in the forthcoming iOS update that I for one can’t wait to get loaded onto my iPhone 4. There are apparently over 200 new features in iOS5 which will no doubt enhance productivity and efficiency, but for me there are a couple of changes that really will drastically improve the user experience on all iOS devices.

Also newly announced, Apple’s iCloud will be deeply integrated into iOS5 and allows for what I would argue is the most important update coming to iDevices in the Autumn – independence. The fact that you will no longer need a computer to activate, setup, fill and update your new iPhone, iPod or iPad is a huge deal, and is something that I had hoped Apple would do with this update.

Wi-fi syncing is also going to finally be enabled in this update, automatically syncing and backing up your content to iTunes whenever you plug your iOS device into a power source. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also backup – and restore – your iOS device using iCloud, so you need never physically connect your iPhone to your Mac ever again. Yes, Apple are touting the expression “PC Free” which I do rather like, if it is a little subliminally tongue-in-cheek…. an awful lot of people plug their iDevices into Macs you know.

There will be some interesting new apps to get your teeth into, and some enhancements to existing ones that will make life a little more efficient and aid independence. Simple tasks that used to need the intervention of a desktop computer – like managing calendars and mailbox folders – will be able to be effected directly on the iOS device. Of course if you do have a desktop (or other iOS device), any changes will be synced back to it via iCloud, but the point is you no longer need the desktop and all your devices are in sync.

In recognition of the fact that the iPhone is the second most popular camera found in the Flickr database, it’s nice to see the Photos app receiving a few independence-boosting updates in iOS5, allowing you to make simple edits right on the device. It’s no substitute for full-blown photo manipulation software and falls short of providing processing ‘looks’ (as available in other apps like the excellent Camera+), but not only can you crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye to get your images looking just right, iCloud integration pushes your masterpieces to all your other devices without you even having to think about it.

Finally, it’s maybe not everybody’s favourite new upcoming feature, but for me Notification Centre fixes everything that’s wrong with the current system, and will give me something I’ve wanted for a very long time – a useful, more productive Lock Screen. I’m all for the less obtrusive in-app notifications that no longer interrupt what you were actually doing, but I’m positively drooling about being able to swipe that Lock Screen to act on any given notification and jump straight to the appropriate app. OK, so drooling is a bit much, but I am excited about it. Probably more so than I should be.

Unfortunately, as is usual with ‘sneak peeks’, unless you’re a paid-up member of the Apple Developers Club, you won’t be seeing these exciting new features for a few months – in fact, probably right around about the time Apple decide to reveal the new iPhone (!). They do say all good things come to those who wait, and in this instance, I think that iOS5 and iCloud integration will be well worth waiting for.

Oh, and there’s one more feature that I’m really looking forward to – finally being able to use the shutter button to turn the volume up 🙂

Read more about iOS5 on the Apple Website

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