5 things journalists need to know about the new iPhone 4S and iOS 5

October 4, 2011
Category: Uncategorized

Apple today announced the iPhone 4S and the new iOS 5 operating system for all its mobile devices. Among the many upgrades and changes, a handful will have a direct, immediate impact on newsgathering and news business models.

The iPhone 4S looks like the version before it, but adds new hardware and software features.

Price drop for older models. While your publisher and managing editor may be able to afford the iPhone 4S for $199 or more, what about the rest of the news organization? It just got easier to furnish iPhones to the reporting staff, as the iPhone 4 starts at $99 and the iPhone 3GS is free (with the two-year contract commitment).

8 megapixel camera. The new iPhone will have the most powerful and advanced camera yet. Apple boasts that it takes pictures better than many point-and-shoots, and can also capture HD-quality (1080p) video. It also takes pictures more rapidly than before (1 second delay for the first image, a half-second to capture additional ones) and comes with video image stabilization, so handheld clips don’t look so shaky. This makes it an even stronger tool for multimedia journalists who want to capture photos and shoot raw video or interviews in the field.

Safari reading mode. A new tool built into the Safari mobile Web browser will reformat article pages to strip away most elements and let the reader just focus on one column of the article text. It also has a “reading list” where articles can be saved to read later. That’s great for encouraging people to read more articles, but of course it also hides ads and promotional material that publishers use to make money and drive more page views.

Publishers have complained in the past about apps like Instapaper, Readability and Zite that took similar approaches to “distraction-free” reading. It seems likely they won’t be crazy about Apple making this a built-in feature on all its iPhones and iPads. Instapaper now lets publishers opt out, Readability began paying some publishers, and Zite stopped the default reformatting for publishers who protested. We’ll have to see if Apple offers publishers any similar options.

Newsstand. The new operating system creates a separate store for buying and reading newspapers and magazines. I wrote about the details and the drawbacks earlier today.

Twitter integration. The new operating system closely integrates Twitter (not Facebook, though). This means it is now easier for millions of iPhone and iPad users to tweet directly from an app, without having to re-authenticate their Twitter accounts or open up a separate Twitter app. That could help news organizations increase the shareability of their content in mobile apps.

The iPhone 4S is available Oct. 14, with pre-orders beginning Friday. iOS 5 is available for download to existing iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches starting Oct. 12.

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