There are still a couple days left until you can get your hands on an iPhone 4S running the latest iOS 5, but for the many Apple users who will be upgrading their existing smartphones, the first chance to try out iOS 5 has already arrived, with Apple releasing updates for compatible hardware today.
Yesterday Apple put out iTunes 10.5 in anticipation of today’s iOS release, preparing users’ systems for the update. Today, those updates are going out to iPads, late-model iPod touches, and the iPhone 4 and 3GS.
There are plenty of new features in this version, formally announced back in June and previewed in betas to developers all summer long. There’s so much new that we won’t rehash it all right now, but here are a few key changes you should look for:
Notifications are all-new with a very Android-like interface. The Notification Center keeps them all in once place, letting you view them at your leisure, rather than interrupting you in the middle of a task. The Camera app can now be launched from the lock screen, and includes new features like pinch-to-zoom. Like so many other aspects of iOS 5, it now includes integration with iCloud, giving you a safe place to store your photos off-device.
WiFi sync now lets you synchronize and back-up your phone without tethering it to your computer; just charge your iPhone within range of your home WiFi network. Keep in touch with other Apple users with the new iMessage, supporting group messaging, read receipts, and media-rich messages. Twitter users will appreciate the new system-wide integration, letting you easily tweet updates from within major apps.
That’s just scratching the surface, and you’ll want to check out iOS 5 yourself to get a full sense of all the changes.