iOS 5: What you need to know

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That’s an iPad-only feature in iOS 5. If you choose, you can drag the virtual keyboard up from the bottom of the iPad’s screen. As soon as you remove it from the bottom, the keyboard splits into two halves, with the keys resized to match those of the iPhone’s keyboard. You choose where to drag the keyboard—or really, keyboards—on the screen, and all apps inherit that keyboard setting. You can’t use one setting for portrait and another for landscape, but it’s very quick to move the keyboard around. And as soon as you drag it back to the bottom, it melds back together and returns to its default size.

What are some other cool features I should be anticipating?

In iOS 5, you’ll be able to tap and hold on any word anywhere to access its definition, as you can already do in the iBooks app. The iPad 2 will offer AirPlay mirroring—what you see on the tablet’s screen will also appear on a TV connected to an Apple TV. On the iPhone, the Notification Center also shows your current weather and a stock ticker. And finally, you can change what sounds iOS uses for voicemail, new e-mail, calendar, and other default alerts.

Anything new on the accessibility front?

Plenty. Among the new features: an option to set custom vibration patterns for specific contacts, support for simplified touch control, more voiceover control, an option to speak text, a preference to make the iPhone 4’s LED light up when you receive notifications, and more.

What’s new on the Exchange support front?

There’s new support in iOS 5 for wirelessly syncing Exchange tasks. Also new is support for S/MIME; a lock icon appears when you’re sending encrypted messages. It appears, however, that there’s still no way to mark Exchange calendar events as Private.

How does the Twitter integration work?

The Twitter section in Settings prompts you to install the official Twitter app, though you can ignore that suggestion if you choose.

You provide your Twitter login credentials in the Settings app. You can login to multiple Twitter accounts, if you’d like. Once you’ve provided your Twitter login data, numerous apps—like Photos, Safari, and Maps—offer the ability to post tweets directly. There’s no native tweet-posting functionality unless you want to attach data from one of those apps; that is, you can’t just post a “naked” tweet from a core iOS app.

The Twitter section of the Settings app does prompt you to (optionally) install the official Twitter app, if you haven’t already.

Any changes to AirPrint?

None that we know of. Wireless printing should work in iOS 5 as it does in the current version.

Is the iOS 5 upgrade painless? Is it going to mess with my app icon layout and folders?

Because iOS 5 adds several app icons—it splits iPod into Video and Music, plus introduces Newsstand and Reminders—your app layout order will get mucked with slightly. But your basic organization and folders should otherwise remain largely untouched.

At a Glance
  • We've not yet met the iOS update that we wouldn't recommend, and iOS 5 is certainly the most far-reaching and feature-rich upgrade to date. That said, it's not without its bugs and strange behaviors. But it's clearly paving ground for a lot of key functionality in the future, and even a lack of polish shouldn't keep you from upgrading.

    Pros

    • Finally makes iOS devices viable without computer
    • Notification system is vastly improved
    • Massive update plugs many feature holes

    Cons

    • Reminders app missing logical features
    • Lack of dictation on older hardware disappointing
    • Twitter integration buggy in places
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