I used to be a die-hard iPhone user back in the day. From the moment I got my first eBay-bought iPhone 2G fresh from the US, I was hooked, and I faithfully upgraded to every new model like a good little Apple soldier. As soon as I got my first Android phone last year, however, the iPhone lost its magic, and it's been my second-string smartphone ever since.
But iOS 5 has me seriously considering my Android allegiance. I've been running Beta 1 on my iPhone 4 for the last two weeks, and it fixes most of the major quibbles I had with iOS while adding some impressive extra features.
I remember waking up extra early for the Steve Job's keynote at WWDC and beaming like a mad-woman when he announced the revamped notifications system in iOS 5. Finally! I feel like I've been whining about the archaic notifications in iOS forever, and it was one of the main things that convinced me to cut my ties with the iPhone to start with.
With all of the information coming in and out of a smartphone at breakneck speed (on my smartphone, anyway), having a sophisticated notification system is a necessity, not a luxury, and it's about time Apple got with the program! (Pardon the pun.) The discreet pop-ups that appear at the top of the screen whenever there's a new notification are beautifully done, as is the display of notifications on the lock screen and the pull-down notification centre.
The iOS notification center
Widgets: better or worse than Android?
Apple has also taken a stab at widgets by integrating basic stock and weather widgets into the new notification centre, and I can't decide whether this is better or worse than Android's implementation.
While I like Android's system of displaying widgets on the homescreen, I also like being able to see widgets without having to exit the app I'm currently using with iOS 5 - I simply swipe down from the top of the screen to see them, then flick it back up when I'm done. This doesn't leave a lot of room to add many widgets, especially compared to the seven homescreens supported by the latest version of Android.
Also, if Apple doesn't allow developers to create third-party widgets, this new feature is effectively dead in the water.
The iCloud: brilliant
And then there's iCloud. From what I can gather, this merges cloud storage with push synchronisation and automatic backup, and while the ideas themselves aren't new, the way Apple has implemented them in iOS 5 is brilliant.
Photo Stream using Apple iCloud
I particularly appreciate the Photo Stream feature, which automatically pushes any new photos that you've taken to all of your other devices (including PCs) so you don't need to transfer them manually, and the automatic downloads feature, which transfers any music, apps or books that you've purchased to other devices - ideal if you have multiple i-devices like myself.
Unfortunately, the music download feature (which also includes the ability to download all past purchases) isn't available for Australian iTunes accounts, most likely due to a licensing issue.
The other good bits
There are lots of other great features in iOS 5. i-devices are finally completely independent from desktop computers thanks to the wireless activation, over-the-air updates, and the ability to backup and restore from the cloud.
iMessage takes the BlackBerry's popular BBM messaging service and makes it better by integrating it with the Messages app and tying it to a user's phone number or email address.
And Twitter integration into various apps like Safari, Photos and YouTube is a step in the right direction, although I would like to see this extended to other apps besides Twitter - similar to what Android offers with the 'Share' option found in almost every app.
Could this be the end of my Android infatuation? I haven't made up my mind as yet, but I do know that if the iPhone 5 is released in September as the rumours say, I'll definitely be snapping one up.
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