iOS 5 Review: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Should You Upgrade

The latest update to iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches brings over 200 new features to these devices. You’d think that iOS  5 is action packed and your iOS device is about to become a super ninja. I hate to burst your bubble, but that’s not the case. Most of the new features are great, but a lot of them are behind the scene fixes and updates rather than features. Here’s a look at what’s visible on the surface of the new iOS 5 update and how to take advantage of what’s new.

Notification Center

iOS 5

App updates have finally become modernized (a la Android) on iOS devices with the new Notification Center. To access the Notification Center, simply swipe down from the top of the screen. You’ll get an overview of new emails, tweets, Facebook messages and more. Notifications also appear on the lockscreen. From the lockscreen, you can swipe left to right over a notification to be taken directly to the corresponding app.

In the Notification section of the Settings app, you can customize the Notification Center and set the type of notifications you want to receive for each app on your iPhone. That means if you’d rather not use the notification center for your favorite apps, you can skip it. There’s also a weather and stock widget, and if you’ve jailbroken your iPhone, you can access SBSettings from the Notification Center too.

Deep Twitter Integration

If you’re one of millions that have found it difficult to share great articles from your mobile phone, outside of the Twitter app, your wishes have been granted. You can now tweet links directly from within Safari! It doesn’t stop there. You can also tweet Youtube links, your photos directly from the Photo app, and locations on a map (not directions though).  You can access this feature via your Settings app under Twitter. The Twitter iPhone app is not required to use this feature.


This is just like your infamous green iPhone text messages, only iMessages are blue, free, and limited to other iOS devices that have upgraded to iOS 5. Think Blackberry Messenger (BBM) or AIM, but only for iOS devices. You can send text, videos, images, contacts and even locations. The platform is not compatible with Mac devices, but rumor has it that Apple will build it into iChat in the future. Hold your breath.

Wireless Syncing

No more wires! Wireless syncing finally comes to iOS devices with iOS 5. To enable this, you’ll need to plug your device into your computer, open iTunes, and check the option to “Sync with this iPhone/iPad over Wi-Fi”. iTunes will automatically connect with your iPhone when they’re both on the same wifi network. In addition to wireless syncing, you’ll no longer be locked out of your iPhone when it’s syncing!


A to-do app has made its way to iOS devices permanently and it goes by the name Reminders. You can create lists of reminders, sort by date, and even set a location based reminder that will send you an alert when you’re near one of your to-do’s, such as picking up the laundry.

Unfortunately, location based reminders are limited to your location or a contact’s address. You cannot type in an address which renders this app useless 90% of the time. I think Apple’s in this game a bit too late too. Wunderlist, 2Do, Remember the Milk and many more are dominating the mobile productivity space with no signs of slowing down.


As a user of several Google services, I find iCloud to be redundant when it comes to syncing my mail, calendar and contacts. Google does this automatically for me no matter what device I’m using. I could also describe iCloud as a walled garden because you’re led to believe it syncs your documents across devices AND computers.

Actually, iCloud is limited to Apple documents, not all your documents. It also requires you to have the iWorks Collection (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) on your mobile device in order to access document syncing. So, if you were expecting to use service to keep all of your documents in sync across computers in addition to your mobile device, head over to or Dropbox instead.

If you’re a photographer or would love to have access to all your pictures from your desktop from your iPhone or iPad, then Photostream is the feature within iCloud that is just for you. It enables you to take a picture and have it sync across all of your devices. Photostream holds up to 1000 of your latest photos, which is an awful lot.

The only thing I’ve found iCloud useful for is for syncing with my Safari Reading List. However, even that is limited to Safari, which is not the only place I save things for later.

Camera Enhancements

The camera app gets some added enhancements with iOS 5, most notably quick access from the lock screen, and editing options for photos. When viewing a photo, you will now see an edit button in the top right corner. Tapping it will give you a few basic editing options: rotate, auto-enhance, red-eye removal, and a crop tool.

You can also tap and hold to lock focus and exposure or zoom in by pinching the screen. Additionally, you can also us the up volume key as a shutter button when taking pictures. These options won’t get rid of any alternative camera apps, but they’re convenient.

Safari Enhancements

With iOS 5, Safari gets some love in the iOS 5 update also. You can finally see tabs in Safari mobile, just like in your desktop browser. A Reader functionality has been added that strips out the graphics and ads on websites and gives you a simple formatted article to read. Apple also added a new Reading List feature, which was introduced in the Lion OS X update in July. Your reading list and bookmarks can be synced with your desktop Safari browser and your idevice via iCloud.

Conclusion: Worth the update if you’re not jailbroken

iOS 5 is a solid update, but nothing to go crazy over. Other features include the Find my Friends app for locating nearby friends, Newstand which is iBooks for magazines and your digital subscriptions, new gestures for the iPad 2, a split keyboard for all iPads, and a built-in dictionary within all iOS devices. I found the built-in dictionary to be such a timesaver and my favorite new feature by far.

iOS 5 addresses many user requests and eliminated a lot of jailbreak tweaks that previously filled in the holes that iOS 5 is now filling. I still look forward to an untethered jailbreak for a variety of apps such as BiteSMS, which allows you to reply to a text message without being in the app. If you haven’t upgraded to iOS 5, it’s worth taking the time to do unless you’re on a jailbroken iPhone. If you’re jailbroken, wait for the untethered jailbreak.

Corvida Raven

A natural pioneer at grasping the rapidly changing landscape of technology, Corvida Raven talks tech in plain English on