iOS 5: What’s New

Apple is set to release iOS 5 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch sometime on Wednesday, and the company says there are over 200 new features to try out. We picked out we thought were worth mentioning so you’ll have a better idea of what’s in store when you upgrade.

The new version of iOS requires an iPhone 3S, iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, a third and fourth generation iPod touch, or iPad or iPad 2. If you’re using an earlier iPhone or iPod touch model, this upgrade isn’t for you. You’ll also need iTunes 10.5, which Apple released on Tuesday.

iOS 5 app icons

Notification Center iOS 5’s Notification Center replaces the current push notification system with an interface that shows missed calls, calendar alerts, app alerts, instant message notifications and more in one place. Notifications no longer interrupt applications, and tapping a notification takes users to the apps they’re associated with.

Wi-Fi Syncing Apple dropped the need to use a USB cable to sync and backup your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with iOS 5. Instead, you can perform syncs and backups over local Wi-Fi networks whenever your device is charging its battery.

Over-the-air Software Updates iOS 5 can be updated without connecting to iTunes. Updates will be delivered as deltas, meaning they include only changes instead of the full operating system. That’ll help keep file sizes down so updates can download and install quicker.

Multitasking Gestures iPad owners can new use gestures to handle tasks like viewing the multitasking bar, switching between apps, and jumping back to the Home screen without using the Home button.

PC Free Apple is dropping the requirement to connect iOS devices to iTunes for activation. That means you don’t need a computer any more to support an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, finally making Apple’s line of ultra portable devices truly stand-alone computers.

AirPlay Mirroring iPad 2 users will be able to show their display wirelessly through an Apple TV instead of relying on Dock to video adapters. The receiver needs to support AirPlay, too, which makes the Apple TV even more enticing since that’s one of its features.

Reminders iOS 5’s Reminders app adds task management to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The app lets users track tasks, set alerts, track tasks by location, set priorities and due dates, and can be viewed in iCal or Outlook. Reminders isn’t as full features as apps like OmniFocus or Things, but it’s great at giving you reminders when you arrive at or leave locations.

iMessage iOS 5 is getting its own instant messaging service that’s available to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users. It works over 3G or Wi-Fi connections, and supports text, video and photo messages outside without requiring cell service SMS plans.

Camera The Camera app gained the ability to take photos even when the screen is locked, and use the Volume Up button as a shutter release — a feature that other camera apps got in trouble for at one time. It also adds grid lines for easier photo composition, and the ability to set focus and exposure automatically with a tap.

Newsstand Apple is mirroring its iBookstore with Newsstand. The feature lets users find, purchase and update digital newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and automatically updates subscriptions in the background.

Mobile Safari The mobile version of the Safari Web browser is getting the Mac OS X version’s Reader feature so users can view online articles as a single page and without extra layout features. It also includes an Instapaper-like Reading List feature that tags articles for later viewing, adds support for emailing article contents instead of just URLs, and adds tabbed browsing for iPad users.

Mail The new Mail app offers encrypted message support, improved message searching, and rich text formatting. It also includes an improved portrait view, the ability to move email addresses between fields, support for flagging messages, and S/MIME support.

Single Sign-on for Twitter iOS 5 includes built-in Twitter support so that users don’t need to provide account credentials to multiple client apps. Users can also post content to Twitter through Apple’s Photos, Camera, Safari, YouTube and Maps apps.

The list of new features in iOS 5 goes on, with improved accessibility, more Calendar views, per-app control over space usage, and more.

If you’re planning on installing iOS 5 right away, be sure to check out The Mac Observer’s upgrade guide for tips on how to avoid headaches on the off chance that something goes wrong. Be sure to check back with TMO for even more iOS 5, iCloud and iPhone 4S coverage, too.