The Monday keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference failed to bring a shiny new iPhone, but those of us who’ve been following the developments in Cupertino were already prepared for that letdown. More interesting (in addition to iCloud) are the revamped features for iOS 5, which hold ramifications for your music experience on the iPhone.
Apple Senior Vice President Scott Forstall gave us a preview of just ten of the over-200 new features in Apple iOS, the operating system run by iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads. The new version also includes 1,500 new APIs with which app developers can make more powerful apps.
Here are our picks of the litter so far. While some may be cases of “too little too late,” or even borderline no-brainers, we’re hoping these innovations, and those to come as app developers get their hands on iOS 5, will lessen the sting of a summer with no new iPhone.
1. Android-Style Notifications
Of the ten features highlighted in Forstall’s presentation, notifications likely received the greatest applause — with good reason, because this was a long-overdue update. Out with the trash are the annoying pop-up notifications, in favor of an updated drop-down display with which Android users should already be familiar.
This is a major improvement from a music perspective, because viewing notifications with a thumb-swipe means no more intrusions while viewing videos or listening to your favorite music apps. In addition, DJs and musicians who use their iDevices for recording or performing will be happy not to have a poorly-timed alert interrupt their flow.
2. Full Twitter Integration
With Twitter currently among the top ten most used web services in the world, Apple decided to fully integrate it with native apps in the new iOS, making it easier to share music tastes and micro-observations with your closest friends or the whole world (a distinction that a formerly-distinguished congressman recently failed to make). Possibly encouraging for concert-goers, Job’s own example of using the improved Twitter function was the sharing of concert photos with friends, suggesting that Apple’s implementation of its patented camera kill-switch technology (or as I like to call it, the buzz-kill switch) does not loom on the near horizon.
3. Camera Shortcuts for Quicker Concert Photos
Also improving the iPhone concert photo prognosis are two camera shortcut features for iOS 5 — one of which a relic of an earlier version of the OS. Users can now use the volume up button to take a quick photo, a feature that Apple initially blocked in third party apps. And returning in iOS 5 is a camera shortcut for lock mode, which lets users activate the camera by double tapping the home button, which comes in handy for times when an unexpected photo-op leaves little room for fumbling.
4. No More Cords
A huge step in what Apple’s Forstall called the “post-PC era,” iOS devices can now be setup, synced, and updated independently of a desktop mothership. New devices will no longer need to be connected to iTunes first, or to a computer at all for that matter. Delta updates (which send only the minimum amount of changed code) will also minimize file size to allow updates to take place over the air with minimal impact on one’s data plan.
This change means that iPhones and iPads, which already perform many of the functions originally relegated to desktops, can now be considered truly independent devices. This cord cutting means that music-centric people who like iOS devices for their music capabilities but also generally hate computers, such as Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, can finally use iOS without becoming computer users.
5. Better Blog Reading
For those of us who spend lots of time in the music blog-space, iOS’s new Reader feature for its Safari app could save a trip to the optometrist by reformatting and simplifying text. Reader also gives the option to send article text in an email, making it easier to share your music-blog-begotten discoveries. Tabbed browsing also comes along for the ride, so that the mobile version of Safari now closer resembling it’s desktop counterpart, with the ability to keep multiple webpages open within the same browser window.
Today’s digital music world sees artists and fans more connected than ever, often through artist’s websites and, even more, through MP3 blogs. A better mobile browsing experience (that’s also easier on the eyes) means being able to spend more time keeping track of the music and the artists you love, and less time squinting at your iPhone.
(Image courtesy of Flickr/Ben Miller)