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Apple's iOS 5 isn't the biggest update we've seen, but it offers enough to get us interested. A few of the changes, like the improved notifications system and the photo-editing features, are minor but long overdue, while others, like PC Free and iMessage, will change how you use your iPhone. Here's what we've managed to try out so far.


One of iOS 5's most welcome features is the new notifications system. Instead of multiple, and sometimes irritating, pop-up notifications, you now have one menu that shows a complete list of your missed calls and messages, app updates, a stock ticker, and the current weather. Swiping down from the top of the screen (much as in Android) will get you there.

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Lock screen notifications

Notifications also will show up on the lock screen so you can see what you missed when you come back to your phone.

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You're notified

You'll even get notifications while you're using other apps or a game. You can access the notification by clicking on it, and it will disappear if you ignore it.

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Reminders

With this new app, you can ask the phone to remind you to do something (like "call Mom"), either at a certain time or when you leave a location.

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Completed reminders

When you're finished with a task, you can check it off on your to-do list. Reminders can be shared between devices and sync with iCal on the Mac with CalDAV, and on Windows with Microsoft Exchange.

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Reminders calendar

When setting a reminder for a future date, you'll pick your chosen day in this calendar. Though the basic layout is similar to the calendar app, the design (with the dark background) is different.

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More on the lock screen

Here's how your lock screen appears, with both reminders and notifications.

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Camera grid lines

In the camera viewfinder, the option to add grid lines now appears above the HDR control, which shows a tweaked design.

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Photo editing

After taking a photo, you can crop and rotate your image and access color correction and red-eye reduction controls. Considering that photo-editing features have long existed on basic phones, these options were sorely needed.

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Cropping a photo

You also can crop a photo to get the best out of your shots.

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New in Maps

When planning a route in Maps, you can select from multiple route options.

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iMessage

The new iMessage feature is integrated into the standard messaging app. The iPhone will know when you're talking to another iOS device and activate the options to send locations and contacts, try group messaging, see when someone is typing to you, and get delivery and read-message receipts. Remember that iMessage will not count against your carrier's text message allotment.

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Move address fields

In the e-mail app, iOS 5 adds the ability to drag recipients between the different fields.

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Rich text format

When messaging you can now type in rich text format for bold text, italics, and underlines.

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Personal dictionary

Thanks to the personal dictionary, you can avoid future autocorrect mishaps by adding slang, acronyms, and other unrecognized words to your device's dictionary.

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Twitter integration

The tighter Twitter integration means that you now can tweet directly from YouTube, Safari (as seen here), the Photo Gallery App, and Maps. It saves a few steps since you no longer have to end your task, switch to a Twitter app, and then send your tweet. You'll be able to add a location and sync Twitter with your contacts list.

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More fun with links

In addition to tweeting a Web site's URL, you also can mail an entire article (presently you can send just a link) and add it to a Reading List that can be synced across multiple Safari devices. The Print, Add Bookmark, and Add to Home Screen options are unchanged.

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Reader mode in Safari

The Reader option in the Safari browser will strip down articles to a simple, easy-to-read format. You can change the text size if you'd like.

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PC Free

The PC Free feature enables wireless device activations and app and software updates. The updates will serve only the changes, so they'll be shorter. And with the new iCloud service, you'll also be able to wirelessly sync, back up, and restore your device with iTunes. As you might have guessed, the idea is for you to never have to plug your device into a computer again. Or, if you prefer, you won't have to own a computer at all.

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Newsstand

The Newsstand app's design is similar to iBooks'. You can add subscriptions from the App Store, and new issues will be delivered automatically. We haven't had a chance to examine it yet, but we'll check it out over the next few days.

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Hourly weather forecasts

The weather forecast may not be more accurate, but hourly reports should help you plan your wardrobe better.

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Game Center

The Game Center gets new features like profile photos, achievement point comparison, friends-of-friends and game recommendations, and support for turn-based games. What's more, you can buy games directly from the app.

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Locate your friends on the map

Download Find My Friends (free) from the iTunes App Store so you can locate your friends (with their permission) and find them on the map.

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From your iPhone to their mailbox

With Apple's Cards app, you can choose from several different card variations, then customize the inside and outside of the card to your liking.

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