Apple announced the latest version of iOS just yesterday, appropriately named iOS 5. It brings over 200 features to iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. For once, I think it delivers a nice balance between brand new features and improvements or additions to current features. iOS easily claims the title as the most polished mobile operating system on the market, and this new update makes that title even more significant.
It is not just the polish that makes iOS 5 stand out. The new features Apple is adding challenges other platforms like Android and BlackBerry. Even apps on Apple’s own App Store are in serious danger. Developers and companies affected by iOS 5 are just going to have to step up their game.
BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, is a social service available exclusively on the BlackBerry that allows for free text messaging to other BlackBerry users. It has actually garnered a bit of attention to RIM recently, since it is fairly clear the company is out of fresh ideas. BBM is the only thing keeping the “BlackBerry” name relevant. Well, it looks like its day is already over. iMessage serves the same purpose and works between all iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Plus, it has much more potential than BBM ever had because of the substantially larger user base. It seems that RIM is in a tough situation. Current BlackBerry devices have poor specifications and less than adequate software that companies like Apple and Google are quickly taking advantage of.
Android is the most popular mobile OS in terms of market share, but it is important to remember any individual Android phone’s market share is minuscule compared to iPhone. With iOS 5, Android is going to have to introduce competing features fast. There is no built-in reminders application, no free messaging service, no social gaming service, and the list goes on. And I will not begin to discuss the open versus closed debate. Apple may have taken a few clues from Android on their notification system, but the purpose is not to compete. Apple implements features the way they see fit and designs them to function at their full potential.
Unfortunately, Apple may have hurt the people who help them sell iOS devices the most: developers. Quite a few new apps that come bundled in iOS 5 kill popular third-party apps in the App Store that serve the same purpose. The most recognized out of the bunch is Instapaper. Instapaper is a popular service that allows users to save articles they find on the web in a read-it-later list. With Apple’s new Reading List feature in Safari, it appears Instapaper needs to fight an uphill battle. Its creator, Marco Arment, has an optimistic perspective on the situation:
If Apple gets a bunch of Safari users — the browser that works best with Instapaper — to get into a “read later” workflow and see the value in such features, those users are prime potential Instapaper customers. And it gives me an easier way to explain it to them: “It’s like Safari’s Reading List, but better, in these ways.”
Another app named Wunderlist is a quick and easy tool for organizing things to do. It syncs across multiple devices and is completely free. What a coincidence, the new Reminders app in iOS 5 syncs across multiple devices and is completely free. Apple even challenges Facebook with the integration of Twitter in a number of apps. This makes it more likely that users will share content on Twitter instead of Facebook, since the operating system has tweeting capabilities baked right in. Hopefully developers of these apps will have the same positive view as Arment.
BBM is not the only thing iMessage affects. A lot of people, including myself, will be downgrading their SMS plan once iOS 5 arrives. Since so many people I know own at least one iOS device, a good sum of the messages I send out to my contacts will be free. Why should I give my money to the carriers — which happen to already rip us off with the large profit margins on text messaging plans — when I will barely use standard SMS anymore? You might think only AT&T and Verizon will take issue with this since the iPhone is not available on T-Mobile or Sprint. Keep in mind that people who own an iPod touch and a Nexus S 4G on Sprint, for example, still know plenty of iPhone, iPad, and other iPod touch users.
Ultimately, it is the consumers who win with iOS 5. We get free messaging, gorgeous new apps created by the brilliant people at Apple, and a slew of new features not yet available on other operating systems. Now, Apple has to get the rest of the mobile industry to play along. Or do they?
Links: iOS 5 Features