The 5 best features in Apple's iOS 5

From Notifications to wireless OS updates to iCloud integration, good things are coming

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Messages

One surprise at WWDC was the introduction of the Messages app, which effectively replaces text/SMS/MMS messaging from one iOS device to another. Not only does Messages work across all of Apple's iOS 5 products, but it could save you money by bypassing a major revenue source for carriers (text and multimedia messages) using Apple-based, encrypted tech.

IPhones have always been able to send and receive text messages, and, since the iOS 3 update, picture and movie messages, too. The problem with this is that carriers charge ridiculous rates for texting. Currently, AT&T sells separate messaging plans, and unlimited messaging is $30 a month. Well, if your family has iPhones and your friends have iPhones, you can use Messages on all of them and you don't pay a dime. There's no cost for sending text, images or movies -- as long as the messages are between two iOS devices.

If the recipient isn't using an Apple device, then the message (or file) is sent by standard SMS, which is color-coded to green. iOS-to-iOS messages are blue and actually state "iMessages" at the top of the message and in an empty text entry field. But wait, there's more: The iMessages service syncs conversations between devices automatically, so you can start a conversation on the iPhone and pick it up later on an iPad if you want.

There are other nice touches as well, including group messaging, encrypted chat, read receipts, and the ability to link messages to more than one email address.

If you and those you know send text/SMS/MMS messages to each other iOS devices, this is a sure-fire winner.

AirPlay

AirPlay is already a brilliant feature. As a matter of fact, it's what I used to watch the WWDC keynote after it was posted on the Apple site. From my couch, I browsed to Apple.com on the iPad, called up the Keynote movie, and beamed it to my entertainment system and big screen. But it's limited to streaming movies and audio, and even then, only in apps that support AirPlay streaming. But what about when you'd like to present an entire app and its contents? AirPlay in iOS 4 doesn't help, though Apple sells a $40 adapter that allows video mirroring on the iPad 2.

As of iOS 5, AirPlay now mirrors the iPad directly with AirPlay Mirroring. To enable it, just double-tap the Home button, swipe right to call up the brightness/volume/rotation lock area, tap the AirPlay button -- the icon resembles a TV -- tap your destination device for the video, and turn on mirroring when the option slides into view.

This is not only useful for classrooms, business presentations and group training sessions, but this leaves open the possibility for Apple to become a player in the living room gaming console wars.

Oh, and one more thing

The big news from WWDC was, of course, iCloud, which will play a major role in the success of iOS 5, and which analysts already say will help Apple fend off Google and Android.

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