The most popular portable operating system gets a huge upgrade!

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iOS 5

On October 5, one of the world’s leading visionaries was unfortunately taken from us. Exactly one week later, the latest iteration of his creative vision was released to the public, proving what I said before that Steve Jobs’ legacy will go on for a long, long time.

Formerly known only as iPhone OS, the operating system which drives all of Apple’s modern portable devices was rechristened iOS in June 2010 to leverage recognition among all its compatible brands. iOS 4, released at the same time, brought multitasking, the ability to video-chat in real time with FaceTime, the ability to store many more apps on the device due to the advent of folders, and many more innovations.

iOS 5 is the grandest new release yet, bringing over 200 new features to the table and several huge new innovations of its own, including notifications that don’t interrupt whatever you’re doing, but fold down and up subtly into the new Notification Center. Borrowing a page from Android, this allows you to swipe down from the top to access recent notifications, instead of having a “modal” dialog box pop up that stops whatever you’re doing.

Another big new innovation is Twitter integration into the operating system itself! One sign-in and you can tweet from many popular apps like Photos, Camera, Maps, YouTube, Safari, and any number of other third-party apps that support Twitter.

Yet another big one is iMessage, which allows any user of an iOS 5-updated device to communicate with another, similar to text messaging only using the standard HTTP channel instead of SMS. For no charge, you can chat with a friend across the country, see when he or she is typing and if they’ve read your message, and even send pictures seamlessly!

But the biggest new integration of technologies goes hand in hand with Apple’s newest venture: iCloud. Though still in its infancy, iCloud “just works” according to its slogan, and works seamlessly to sync contacts, bookmarks, documents (created with the iWork suite) if you wish, and even calendar events across all your iOS 5 devices. Elements that were previously available in a beta form, but now are fully released, include iTunes, Apps and iBooks in the Cloud, which allow you, once music, apps or books are bought, to transfer them automatically to any iOS 5 device that you choose, and they’re also backed up to your ‘home base’ computer if you so desire.

Actually, now you don’t even need a computer to use an iOS device! New ones that come shipped with iOS 5 have the PC Free feature, which only needs a Wi-Fi network and Internet access to activate the device. Of course, to have the ultimate freedom to get your media where you want it most efficiently, you’ll pretty much need a computer.

Are you noticing a trend of big Apple-related news? First my new iPad 2, then Mr. Jobs’ unfortunate passing, now iOS 5 falls in my purview. Well, I may not have a Mac myself, but I have to say I’m a big fan of Apple in my own way. And with this new version of the operating system leading the way, I’m pretty sure I’ll be a fan for a long time to come!