What's new in iOS 5: InfoWorld's quick guide

Start here to learn the most useful new features and enhancements for your iPad or iPhone

iOS 5 has been out for a day now, and if you have a compatible iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, you're probably still trying to get familiar with it. You can see its 20 top features in our slideshow "iOS 5 and iCloud: The InfoWorld visual tour" and see how iOS 5 stacks up against Android in our in-depth comparison. But if you want the quick summary of what's new in iOS 5, read on.

First, let me recap which Apple devices iOS 5 runs on: the iPhone 3G S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S; the iPad and iPad 2; the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touches (those released since fall 2009, including this year's new white model); and the second-generation Apple TV (the black model). For the Apple TV, iOS 5 lets it mirror the iPad's screen and access photos over the Internet from the iCloud Photo Stream service.

[ See how iOS 5 fares against Android "Honeycomb" and Android "Gingerbread" in InfoWorld's mobile deathmatch comparison, and take our iOS 5 and iCloud visual tour. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights via Twitter and with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

Systemwide changes

  • Notifications such as alerts on new messages or pending appointments now include users' choices -- on a per-app basis -- of appearing in the lock screen, the new notifications pull-down tray, and/or as bring messages at the top of the screen. This feature, one of several borrowed from Android, is notably better than the Android version.
  • The OS now has over-the-air updating of iOS, as well as over-the-air setup of an iOS 5 device.
  • iOS 5 provides automatic wireless syncing and backup to your choice of your computer's iTunes or your iCloud account. You can manually sync to both, and your iTunes purchases can sync to all devices tied to your Apple ID over the Internet, rather than through iTunes. iTunes Wi-Fi syncing requires iTunes 10.5 on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard, or Mac OS X 10.7.2 Lion. iCloud requires Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Mac OS X 10.7.2 Lion.
  • With a second-generation Apple TV, you can mirror your iPad's screen to a connected HDTV or projector, such as for use in demos and presentations.
  • The onscreen keyboard can be changed on the fly to a floating version or a split version (good for thumb-typing when holding the device with two hands).
  • The Settings app adds the ability in its Keyboard section to create your own shortcuts, such as "IW" for "InfoWorld," that are automatically expanded as you type in various iOS apps.
  • You can navigate to the home screen, to the multitasking dock, and among apps using new four-finger gestures.
  • For those with arthritis or other motor impairments, you can access a menu of gestures rather than perform the gestures directly, as well as create your own gestures.
  • The Quick Look facility (on the iPad only) shows thumbnails of each page in multipage PDF documents for quick navigation.
  • The iCloud service lets compatible apps keep documents automatically in sync across your iOS devices and Lion-based Macs (if they use the same Apple ID), as well as automatically sync photos between your devices, Mac, and Windows PC.
  • iOS 5's Settings app now displays the storage used by each app, and lets you remove individual files from compatible apps from that central location.
  • iOS 5 lets you set the alert tones for a variety of alerts, such as new mail, so you can better know when it's your iPad or iPhone bleeping when in a room full of iOS devices.
  • You have more control over applications' and services' ability to track your location, and iOS 5 provides more granular information as to when you were tracked.
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