Apple iOS 5 review: You've been notified

GSMArena team, 12 October 2011.
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User interface on iOS 5 - same looks, new features

The Apple's iOS must be already approaching the final stage of its evolution. The platform has certainly been through a lot. This is the fourth major update, and it brings less change than the others. It's not to say the iOS is finally close to what Apple had in mind for it. And by the way - what Apple has in mind is not necessarily what users have come to take for granted or other platforms have had forever. But when you have the standard-setting touchscreen interface you can afford to make your own rules.

For all we know, iOS may as well be still a few updates away from a complete overhaul, the scale of Windows Phone 7. So let’s focus on the here and now.

Apple says the iOS 5 brings more than 200 new features. We didn't bother counting them, but the really interesting things are about 40 at best.

There have been virtually no visual changes to the core interface. Graphically, the only new thing you'll notice around the Settings menu is the new look of the toggle switches – they're now circles instead of squares.

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The familiar homescreen • the new toggles

To go straight to one of the most important novelties though - the iOS 5 has a new approach to Notifications.

Users receive notifications both on the lockscreen and on the homescreen - and there's an Android-like pull-down Notification center. You can set the behavior for each app's notifications: view in Notifications Center on/off, view on Lock Screen on/off, Badge icon on/off, number of shown items 1/5/10 and alert style - off/banner/pop-up alert.

The system is pretty flexible and configurable now.

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The notification settings

The notifications on the lockscreen are displayed only as long as you unlock the phone. The next time you lock it, they are all gone even if you haven’t checked them up.

To access an event from the lockscreen, just slide its icon left-to-right just as you would unlock the phone. Simple as that.

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Notifications on the lockscreen

The notifications on the homescreen or any running app can be displayed in two ways - as a banner at the top of the screen or as a pop-up.

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Notification banner and pop-up on the homescreen

The notification banner at the top stays for a few seconds and then disappears. If you tap on it you will be taken to the relevant app. The pop-up alert appears at the center of the screen and has two buttons - View and Dismiss.

Finally, the pull-down Notification Center works just like the notifications in Android. You can access the Notification Center from anywhere in the interface. If you are in an app, let's say a game, if you accidentally swipe on the notification area, you won't bring the notification center, but just a small virtual handle. If you really need to access the Notification Center, you'll need to pull it down from that handle. It does pause the app below, so there’s no chance that you crash your car in Real Racing.

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The Notification Center

The Notification Center displays all your pending alerts. You can enable/disable and rearrange the alerts from the Notification settings.

The Notification Center supports widgets too. Currently there are only two to choose from - Weather and Stocks.

Apple has added dictionary support working in all the native iOS apps such as Safari, Mail, Notes, etc. If you tap and hold on a word and then choose Define from the popup balloon, you'll be redirected to word definition in the integrated iOS dictionary.

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The Dictionary works throughout the interface

The dictionary is not a stand-alone app, it works just when you select a word.

There are three more things we need to mention related to the general interface. The first one is the dedicated Camera shortcut on the lockscreen. You can bring it up the same way you invoke the music controls - with a double click of the Home button. The camera key appears right next to the Unlock slider and will launch the Camera app when tapped.

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The camera shortcut on the lockscreen • the Newsstand

The Weather app got hourly forecast, just tap on the weather pane and it will reveal itself.

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The Weather app gets hourly forecast

And finally, the calendar has got a brand new weekly view, you just have to turn your iPhone in landscape.

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Calendar weekly view

The other thing is the Newsstand app on your homescreen, which displays as a homescreen folder. All the periodicals you buy at the App Store will go there.

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