Apple has reinvented its operating system, promising 200 new features, and, in the process, changing the way users relate to the online world.
Steve Jobs, in his last public appearance in June, announced the advent of iCloud, a system that allows Apple users to store the things they need -- from messages to music, documents to downloads -- on Apple's own servers in the so-called "cloud" of the Internet. Gone are the days when you stored something on the hard drive of your laptop, and were frustrated when you needed it but didn't have it with you.
A few of the features Apple promises:
Notification Center: Think of the torrent of messages you get every day -- emails, texts, Facebook friend requests, reminders to get a haircut -- and think of all the places you need to go to read them. Apple has combined them in one list.
iMessage: Cellular carriers, stand warned. Verizon Wireless, AT&T and their competitors have been charging a mint for data transmission, when it's estimated the average text message costs them a third of a cent to send. Apple -- even as it uses them for the iPhone 4S rollout -- goes around them. If you're in a place with Wi-Fi, your text goes by Wi-Fi. If it needs to go over the 3G network, also good.
A new "reader" feature for the Safari web browser: This applies particularly to the handheld iPhone and iPod, which are awfully small if you want to read a book on one of them. The reader feature gets rid of some of the extra stuff on your screen -- ads, browser tabs, etc. -- so there's more space for what you actually want to read.
Twitter: In keeping with Apple's seamless design, tweeting is something you can do while you're doing anything else on the device.
Photos: In keeping with Apple's seamless design, taking a picture is something you can do while you're doing anything else on the device.
The number of clicks and swipes you need to make to do different things will be greatly reduced. Truth be told, many of these features already existed in apps made for Apple by outside developers, and versions can be found on Google's Android devices. But Apple's now put them in one place.
How to get iOS 5? Plug your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch into your computer with a USB cable. Launch iTunes, and then find the icon for your device on the left side of the screen and click on it. A box will appear, saying "Version." Click where it says "Check for Update" and then follow directions.