The Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s updated OS features a revamped notification system with a drop-down menu, support for iCloud, Apple’s new cloud based data service and iMessage, a free messaging service that lets users exchange messages for free between iOS devices over Wi-Fi or cell service.
Apple’s upgrade also includes smaller features like the ability to access the camera app from the lock screen, take photos using the volume button, tabbed browsing in Safari and the ability to sync wirelessly with a computer for future updates and back-ups.
One of iOS 5′s biggest features, the new voice recognition program Siri, can only be accessed on the iPhone 4S. However, outside of Siri, all of the benefits of iOS 5 can be had on the iPhone 4 as well as the 4S.
The ability to take advantage of so many new features as part of a free upgrade, rather than having to pay $200 for an all new device, may lead some users to skip the 4S, especially when it looks identical to its predecessor on the outside. Offering iOS 5 for free to existing iPhone users may stop those who don’t feel the A5 processor and upgrades to the camera are substantial enough from purchasing the 4S, but it still has benefits for Apple.
In the past, Apple charged customers $10 for major software updates, but a free upgrade stands to build up user bases for iMessage and iCloud. The success of these two services is important to Apple since they may become major selling points of the company’s iOS devices in the future, so creating a strong user foundation may prove pivotal.
Apple also stands to generate revenue from some of iOS 5′s features. All users who upgrade to iOS 5 will automatically have access to iCloud. The basic services gives customers five gigabytes of back-up storage for free, but some users will likely purchase more data space, and others will sign up for the $25-a-year iTunes Match service to store music not purchased through iTunes.
The free iOS 5 upgrade may keep some users from making the jump to the 4S, but it demonstrates Apple’s emphasis on the success of software driving its business.