Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret

Recent Columns by Walt Mossberg


New Apple Software Adds Features to Older Phones

Even for an iPhone owner who chooses not to upgrade to the new iPhone 4S, now there are hundreds of new software features, big and small, for current phones. The same goes for iPads and recent iPod Touch devices. That’s because Apple is making the new phone’s operating system available as a free upgrade to people with existing devices

Eligible models include the iPhone 4 and 3GS; the iPad and iPad 2; and the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch. A few features only work on the iPad 2 or iPhone 4.

Here are some of the main features in the upgrade:

  • You can use iCloud to synchronize your data, including music and photos, across your Apple devices.
  • The ability to edit photos right on the phone. This includes red-eye removal, cropping and auto enhancement of whole pictures.
  • iMessage, a new, free text-messaging service exclusive to users of iOS 5. It detects whether you are using the new system and routes a text message over the Internet instead of using the standard cellphone text services. It allows group messaging and notifies users when messages are read and/or delivered.
  • Built-in Twitter support. Without adding a Twitter app, you can tweet directly from within functions like photos, maps, the browser and YouTube.
  • Notifications of alerts, messages and dates can be gathered together in a drop-down panel, or can appear briefly at the top of the screen instead of displaying one at a time in a box that blocks your screen.
  • There’s quick access to the camera, by simply double-clicking the home button, even if the phone is asleep. And you can use the volume up button as a shutter button.
  • On the iPad, the browser has tabs, and you can split and move the onscreen keyboard to make thumb typing easier.
  • You can create customized typing shortcuts, such as “tks” for “thanks.”
  • In Mail, you can now format words so they appear in bold, italics or underlined.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus