Apple unveils iOS 5, brings notifications but little else

This year's WWDC keynote saw no new hardware announcements and instead it was iOS that took center stage. Apple unveiled the next major release, iOS 5, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, which packs over 200 new features or say they say.

The greatest new feature of iOS 5 is the notification area, which comes to replace the annoying pop-ups. Taking a leaf of Google's Android book, the company has added a dedicated screen that you open by pulling from the top of the screen downwards. It contains all your notifications and if you click one of them it takes you to the app responsible for it.

The new notification area
Clicking on the X icon on the right removes the notification. We didn't see an Android-like button for clearing all notifications, or quick radio settings (i.e. Wi-Fi, GPS or Bluetooth toggles) though. By the way the Notification center, as Apple likes to call it, also features stock updates and weather information. Also visually, it looks like quite a ripoff of David Ashman's popular LockInfo app available as an unofficial tweak from Cydia. But is Apple running out of fresh ideas?

Next came Twitter integration, which covers Contacts, Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube and Maps. You can now Tweet from all those apps and your contacts are automatically synced with their Twitter accounts. It's a rather strange move from Apple adding Twitter integration, when fans have been asking for Facebook for what seems like ages. makes us wonder if perhaps there's some grudge going on between the two companies.

Twitter integration is fine, but what we really wanted was Facebook
The company is also launching the iMessage service, which is basically an IM client built-in right into the Message app. It supports sending texts, photos, videos, contacts to both single users and groups over encrypted connection. And yes, this time it works over both Wi-Fi and 3G from the start.

iMessage is the iOS version of BlackBerry Messenger
Reminders were also unveiled, bringing all your to-dos together and allowing you to set-up, well, reminders. The good news is that the app is location aware so it can now remind you of events based on where you are. It’s nothing that you couldn't achieve with an app anyway, but it's always better when things come built-in (for free!).

The camera department got an upgrade, too, with a dedicated camera shortcut landing on the lockscreen and some settings finally making their way to the UI. You now get the option to add grid-lines to your viewfinder, lock exposure and focus by pressing on the screen and using the digital zoom by pinching in ala Galaxy S II.

The camera got its due update
Oh, and you can now use the volume key for taking photos - it's not as good as a dedicated two-position camera key, but it's way better than nothing. And yes, it's the same tweak that Apple banned from the AppStore a while ago.

The Safari browser was arguably the app to get the most significant update, but alas, those were mostly for its iPad version. The Apple slate got tabbed browsing, bringing it on par with the competition. The Reading list plug-in for both the iPad and the little iOS devices allows you to save pages for reading later. Those get synced between devices too.

Safari was probably the app to get the most significant update
A particularly cool-sounding new feature of the Safari, called Safari Reader, Safari Reader lets you see web articles sans ads or clutter so you can read without distractions. It also supposedly merges multi-page articles in one big page for more convenient reading.
Moving on, the iOS5 brings the Newsstand app - it gathers all magazine and newspaper subscriptions in one place, making it easier for you to access them.

The Newsstand app
The photos app got image editing, allowing you to crop and edit images straight on your iOS device. Editing boils down to red-eye removal and Auto-enhance so don't get your hopes too high, though.

Finally, Apple decided to break the computer-chains imposed on their iOS devices. You will no longer need to connect your iPhone/iPad/iPod to a computer before your first use or for each firmware update. Starting with iOS 5 updates will be pushed over the air and they will come in smaller sizes thanks to the implemented Delta encoding. While it sounds good, it sure sound like it's going to make the job of jailbreakers all the harder.

iOS 5 will be pushed to end users this Fall, which seems like a pretty long wait considering that it isn't the major step forward that everyone was expecting it to be. At least that gives us a rough estimation as of when we should expect the next iPhone - be it iPhone 5 or 4S. Obviously a late September release is the best we can hope for.
The iDevices eligible for an upgrade are the iPhone 3GS and 4, the iPad and iPad 2 and latest two generation of iPod touch - 3rd and 4th.

The good news is that Apple announcements didn't end with the iOS 5. The company introduced its iCloud online synching service, which might as well be more beneficial to iOS users than the firmware update. Check out what that's all about here.
In case you feel like getting a dose of video demos, you can check out the iOS 5 new features coverage in our blog.

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iOS 5 to be unveiled later today, here's our rumor roundup

We are about ten hours away from the start of the WWDC ’11 where Apple will demonstrate the new iOS 5. Now the last few weeks have been quite busy with all sorts of rumors of what’s going to be changed or added to this next version. So we’ve compiled a little list of things that we have heard so far and are sure would make it to the final version.
iCloud Integration

This one’s a no brainer. From what we’ve heard about this service so far, we know it was designed specifically for Apple’s mobile products, which means you can expect tight integration of iCloud with iOS 5.

For now we know that it will allow you to upload your music to the cloud so you can stream it over the internet any time you want. But it could very well move beyond that, as you can figure out from the name itself. The name doesn’t just hint at music service the way, say, iTunes does. We can expect a lot more from iCloud, like the ability to upload/backup other kinds of data such as movies, contacts, bookmarks, game saves, application settings, etc. to the cloud and then transfer it to another device or restore it to the same device later. Perhaps, finally we wouldn’t have to connect the iOS devices to a PC or Mac anymore so that we may start using them. It could all be done over-the-air.

Improved Notifications System
There is a reason we would like to call it an “improved” notification system instead of a “new” notification system because anything would be better than what iOS currently ships with. And by the looks of it it seems Apple has a pretty decent job of it.

What you see above is something that was uncovered by Techcrunch just a few hours ago. Here you can see what we hope is the new iOS 5 screen. Notable changes include a new top bar, which has doubled up in size, as it usually does when it wants to get your attention, and displaying notifications, new tweets in this case. We assume when you tap the top bar it will take you to the app responsible for the notifications and if the notifications are from multiple apps it will show some kind of list.

Of course, the above image might just be a fake and someone could be playing with our emotions here, knowing how badly we want a new notification system in iOS. In which case that person can go to hell.

Also note the dark gray camera icon. Much cooler than the current light gray version.

Ah, widgets. Android has them. WebOS has them. Symbian has them. Windows Phone 7 sort of has them. iOS was the only major OS that did not have them so far. But if the rumor mills are to be believed, Apple might just be looking at implementing them in iOS 5.

We have absolutely no idea how they will work though. In fact after looking at the above screenshot we are even doubting if at all it will be there in the OS. The current iOS homescreen is designed in a way that places application icons at the forefront, instead of in a separate list, unlike the aforementioned platforms. Implementing widgets would probably involve reworking of this entire system. And if the above screenshot is true, Apple hasn’t done that in iOS 5.
Of course, it could be done differently. The app icons themselves may show information.

Currently only the Calendar icon changes according to current date; every other icon is static. Perhaps Apple will implement a feature that will let developers animate their icons to show information. Like the weather app showing the actual temperature, for a change. The iPod icon can show the album art of the currently playing track. Photos app could show the last taken shot. Clock app could show the time you set for the alarm. Maps could show your current location. And with the high resolution Retina display on the new iPhone and iPod touch, developers also have plenty of pixels to play around with.
New Multitasking System

The current multitasking method on iOS was welcomed by its users because any kind of multitasking is better than no multitasking. However, when seen on its own, it isn’t particularly great and nowhere near as good as it is on Symbian^3, WebOS or even Android. We are not talking about the way it works, i.e., by pausing apps instead of actually running them in the background, but more about the way it looks. Having a row of icons below and then scrolling through them four at a time wasn’t very convenient.

You may remember the video that was leaked that showed a white iPhone 4 with a very different kind of multitasking. It looked and worked similar to the way windows do in Safari on the iPad, with the last nine apps showing their windows in a grid. You could also see the Spotlight window now part of this screen instead of a different homescreen altogether. We do hope this is the new multitasking system as in our opinion it beats the current system hands down. We just wonder what happened to the audio playback controls along with the UI rotation lock that are present in current iOS as they are not shown in in that video.

Twitter Integration
Another thing that the rumor milled produced was new of Twitter integration in iOS. And we are not just talking about a Twitter app built-in but system-level integration, which would allow you to, say, go to Pictures app and share a picture there on Twitter without the need for any application. As you can see from the notifications screen above, the phone also notifies you about new tweets but we are guessing any app with access to the notification API would be able to do that.

Now some may be wondering why they chose the relatively new Twitter over the clearly more popular Facebook but it’s not really that difficult to guess. Twitter has always been looked at as the cooler alternative to Facebook; anyone who’s been long enough on Twitter will tell you that. Apple would certainly think so too and we all know how much Apple likes to maintain their image as the cool brand. Also, everyone else is merging Facebook in their phones, from Android OEMs to Microsoft in Windows Phone 7. Apple would definitely like to be different from the crowd while not wanting to miss out on the social networking action. Hence, Twitter.
Automatic Download for Apps

A feature discovered in iTunes by a Mac Rumors reader, iTunes application update was hinting at an option that currently does not exist in the current iOS, but will allow apps on the device to automatically update themselves over-the-air as and when a new version is available. Currently, the App Store lets you know if there are updates available but you would have to download them manually.

These are some of the things that we are sure about. We'll find out soon enough though how many of these are actually present in the real iOS 5. And you can be sure we'll bring you the complete lowdown when iOS 5 is officially released.

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Could this be the GSM version of HTC EVO 3D?

HTC showcased the EVO 3D back in March, which was their first phone capable of recording images and videos in 3D. That phone, however, was intended for Sprint’s CDMA network. But HTC may just have a GSM version of the EVO 3D up its sleeve. came across these images on HTC’s website. The one on the extreme left is the one that they initially announced, the one in the middle that was put up on HTC’s website but later pulled and the last one that appeared on HTC’s developer website and the one that we are going to talk about.

Notable differences between this and the others include a lack of circles around the keys below the display, which were exclusive to the HTC phones on Sprint's network. Along the side, the volume control button, camera shutter button and the 2D/3D mode switch have been redesigned. On the back the camera lenses don’t have the red surround and the window for the LED flash has a different design.

It’s also running an older version of Sense but if you look carefully at the icons you can see that it’s because the screen does not belong to the phone but it’s just pasted there from some other HTC phone. The EVO 3D has a qHD display which makes the icons look smaller with more gaps between them as is evident from the other two phones but this one looks more like the one on phones running WVGA screens.

All this point toward the fact that this slightly redesigned handset might just be the GSM version of the EVO 3D. If this is true it won’t be the first time HTC has done this. They created GSM versions of existing CDMA phones before, for example, the Desire HD is virtually a clone of the EVO 4G. Perhaps this could be the Desire 3D?

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Motorola CEO blames Android Market for performance issues

Ever wondered why your Andriod smartphone isn't working as well as it should be? Well, Motorola's CEO, Dr. Sanjay Jha, thinks it's because of the open Android Market.

He says that because the Android Market is open, anyone can upload almost any type of applications. Users then download these applications that may have the potential of bringing down the performance or battery life of their devices. He also said that 70% of the phones that are returned are because of issues caused by applications.

Jha claims that the solution lies in MOTOBLUR, Motorola's proprietary software layer that runs on top of their Android phones. Motorola is using BLUR to collect data on the applications that people use on their phones and the way they affect the performance of their devices. Thanks to this information, they will soon be able to issue warnings if an applications, say, is going to have a dramatic effect on the phone's battery life.

Now all that is fine but we must say we aren't particularly big fans of MOTOBLUR. And for all we know BLUR itself could be one of the reason for many of the performance issues. Perhaps Motorola should fine tune their own application before passing the blame around.

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Android is top smartphone OS in the US, iOS is a close second

According to the latest report by the analysts from Nielsen, Android enjoys the highest usage among smartphone platforms in the United States, followed by iOS and BlackBerry OS.

Some 36 percent of US smartphone users have an Android smartphone. In comparison, 26% are using the Apple iOS while 23% are using RIM's BlackBerry OS.
The remaining 15% of the smartphone pie is taken by Windows Mobile, which still has a decent 9% user base, and by WebOS, Symbian, Windows Phone 7 and PalmOS with. It's a little disappointing to see Symbian despite being the oldest platforms here and still very much alive unlike the now defunct Windows Mobile having no more than 2% market share. Same goes for HP's WebOS, which deserved a lot more success than it received.

Android's overall domination comes as no surprise really, considering the huge number of Android devices out there and new ones coming out almost every other week now. Apple's iOS, on the other hand, has so far been restricted to a handful of devices, ten to be precise, with four versions of the iPhone and iPod touch each and two versions of the iPad, launched over a period of four years. RIM too has a fair number of handsets under its belt and has been around much longer than the other two. We are sure if this chart showed smartphone users across the world, however, the difference between Android and iOS would be even higher as Android phones are available in lot more areas compared to iOS.

Nielsen also has some more statistics for us, including the data usage of all these platforms and once again Android is leading the race with 582MB of monthly data usage compared to 492MB of iOS and 448 MB of WebOS, which has raced past others for the number 3 spot.

Another chart shows us that app downloads consist of a major portion of the data that is downloaded on these phones, with audio streaming coming second and video streaming at third position.

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Galaxy S II display reportedly has yellow spots, we test

The Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II is having a magnificent debut on the smartphone scene, winning plenty of users for the Android and Samsung causes. Well it appears that not all is rosy with the Korean flagship as a watchful user has noticed an issue with that gorgeous 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus display.

The problem reported by numerous forum users concerns the leftmost quarter of the lower half of the screen and is most visible at the lowest brightness settings.

Some even say, it's not that those units are faulty, it's like that on all Galaxy SII phones. Well, we rolled out our sleeves and went to check ours and report back.

And indeed, upon a really, really close inspection, we noticed that the part of the display in question is slightly darker than the rest of the screen and has a slight yellow tint to it.
To make the effect more prominent in the photo on the left we have flipped the lower half of the screen so the darker and lighter parts are closer by. It's really the best we can do to demonstrate an effect that is pretty hard to see otherwise.

Now uneven backlighting is something that we are used to seeing on LCD screens, but we can’t quite explain how it appeared on the Galaxy S II. Granted the effect is pretty subtle and we didn’t notice it until told what to look for, but it’s there and it seems probable that all early units of the smartphone have it.

Last time we saw a similar problem it was with the iPhone 4 and it turned out to be a temporary effect caused by the glue used in assembly that disappeared by itself with time. We guess, it won't be the case here as quite a lot of time passed since those phones came out of the factory.
We’d be glad if Samsung stepped up and cleared this out for everyone and we are sure their customers agree with us.

Anyway we wouldn’t call the display issue a deal-breaker and we don’t even think most people will notice it, but still – knowing that there’s a problem with that gorgeous screen of your smartphone can leave somewhat of a bad taste in your mouth.

You can check out if your handset has the display issue by looking at a neutral gray background (you can open this page, helpfully prepared by Erethnor of XDA-developers, in the browser). You might want to choose darker environment and reduce the brightness of the display to make it easier to see.

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