Well, would you look at what we just got locked and loaded on our iPhone 4? That’s right, we just downloaded the first pre-release build of iOS 5 from Apple’s Developer Center and we already like what we're seeing. Hit the break for a bunch of pictures and a hands-on video.
Note: The following images and impressions are from an early developer build, and may not represent the final version of iOS 5.
Steve highlighted the fact that you'd no longer need to sync with iTunes to get your iPhone set up, and boy, is it a nice thing. After installing iOS 5, we were immediately taken to the setup screen. Out of the box, you'll have the ability to set up your iPhone as new, restore it from iCloud, or iTunes backup. As you'll see in the screen below, we went ahead and set up a new account. It may not seem like a huge change but it will certainly make it easier to get rolling with a new phone.
Notifications and Twitter integration
We've been waiting a long time for Apple to add robust notifications to iOS, and it's just as glorious as we had hoped. Notifications now appear in two places. If your phone is locked you get more detailed notifications on the lock screen, but if you are in the OS, they appear at the top of the screen. We're more impressed with the latter one here, since it just feel less obtrusive than it used to. If you're in the middle of something important or just choose to ignore the notification, it'll disappear after a few seconds and will be pushed to the Notification Center, the pull-down pane that bears a strong resemblance to what you currently get in Android. It all works really smoothly,
but unfortunately, at the moment you can't move around the order of the widgets — you get messages on top and stocks and weather below that. We just figured out that you can rearrange the widgets and notifications in the Setting menu. Select the manual sort and you can drag and drop the widgets that appear.
The Twitter integration is extremely polished. You plug your username and password into the settings menu, and if you don't happen to have the app, you can install it right from there. You get the option to tweet an image right from the Photos app, but we noticed that third-party Twitter apps, including Echofon and Tweetbot, couldn't open the tweeted links. (Granted, that could have to do with the fact that the app is using Twitter's new picture service.) You can also add a contact's Twitter handle and directly tweet to them from the contacts menu. We also noticed, there's now a field for adding someone's Facebook contact information as well, but when you select it it simply just takes you out to Facebook.com.
Newsstand, Reminders, iMessage
We wish we had more to say here, but the new apps are pretty stripped down in this developer's release. The Newsstand app is present, but you can't get into the store to download magazines or newspapers. Bummer, we hear quite a bit happened with a certain elected representative today. Reminders couldn't be any simpler — you can add To Dos and check it off when completed. This is another one of those simple additions, but it will probably replace the loads of third-party To Do apps in the App Store and free up lots of space in most people's Notes app.
It's no secret: we are incredibly excited about about iMessage. Not that you'll be doing this too often, but when we tried to text ourselves, we got an iMessage notification (see here). The OS clearly recognizes that you are trying to text another iOS 5 user and the message bubble changes to blue rather than the usual green color.
Quick photo editing
These are pretty basic, but basic good. In the Photos app you now get four new editing tools — rotate, crop, auto-enhance, and red eye. We haven't had the time to really test some of these, but they are undoubtedly very handy.
Browser and Reader
We can't get the tabbed browsing to work in Safari at the moment — our guess is that it's only enabled on the iPad — but the Reader functionality is up and running. It's a pretty great implementation for those that like to save long articles and read them on their phone. On longer articles the Reader button appears in the address bar and tapping it brings you to a clearly formatted layout. You can add any site to your Reading List.
Overall, iOS 5 is looking like a mega update. It's too early to make a call since the early software is a bit sluggish and a number of the features aren't full baked in yet, but we are certainly impressed with the new additions, including the Twitter integration and notifications. Is it fall yet?