Apple has seeded the first beta version to developers. With over 200 new features for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, this is the biggest upgrade Apple has provided to iOS users thus far. There are many articles showcasing all of the new features, but I will just touch on a few that I think are the game changers.
No longer will we have those single alert pop-ups plaguing us as we go about our day. Now with a quick downward swipe you can pull down the notification center and see everything in one convenient location. For example, when you have a new email, a pending calendar appointment, text message, voice mail, etc, it will all be available in the notification center. Swipe the one you want to address and it opens the proper application for you to respond to the notification. Android phones have long had this, but functionally it's fairly useful and visually it is ugly at best (at least on my Samsung Galaxy S). Of course Apple can and will do it better.
In App notifications are unobtrusive and simply do a quick little notification in the top of the screen. Unobtrusive and elegant.
The lock screen is more useful as well. It will show notifications and will allow you to quickly get to your voicemails, emails, and other notifications as well. It's about time Apple made use of this wasted real estate. I shouldn't have to unlock, click the phone button, click the voicemail button to check a VM. With iOS 5, I simply swipe on the voicemail notification and it launches it. Thats the way it SHOULD be.
For more in-depth, check this Macworld article.
Apple has made their move into social. With Twitter integration, they now offer a single sign-on and that will work across all of your Twitter apps. Since it's a system wide integration, you can now tweet directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, and Google Maps. Twitter handles will also work in your Contact list, so it makes it really easy to send out a tweet. For those concerned with Privacy, you have to manually add your location to the tweet to have it show your coordinates. I wonder if you tweet from the Camera app if it removes the coordinates if you don't have 'Add Location' selected. That's something that potentially could be cause for concern.
One small 500 Million user problem though. NO FACEBOOK integration. Geez.
If you've been reading this site long, you know I've LOOONG be hoping for some Wi-Fi Sync. The Zune has had it forever. That's right -- even the ZUNE had it. Well, now all of our iOS devices have it too, at least when you are plugged into a power source. Each time you connect your phone to a power source it automatically backs up your device and syncs it with any new content. Apple has been unclear on whether or not this will sync podcasts. If not, wireless syncing will be only partially done in my opinion. Podcasts are the main reason I sync on a daily basis.
If you are familiar with Blackberry's service, Blackberry Messenger, it's essentially the same. iOS devices can send text, pictures, and videos directly to each other, all without the need for SMS. It works over Wi-Fi or 3G and I bet the cell carriers are quite upset about it. Many people will now drop or at least lower their text messaging plan. If you primarily text people with iOS devices, this is a no brainer. Sure, I'll keep a 250 message plan on my iPhone just for the times I need to text or receive a text from someone with a non iOS device.
Some of the cool features of iMessage are 'read' receipts. If you are parent, this is FANTASTIC. You can setup delivery receipts, read receipts, see when someone is typing a response, and all of it is encrypted over the network. This is going to be the preferred way to send messages in our household from now on.
iOS 5 is awesome. The bad news is that it isn't coming until the Fall. While developers get to work with it now, they are also the guinea pigs that are making it better for us. Not only are they creating compatible apps for iOS 5, but as they use it day to day they are finding bugs and submitting that data to Apple. If you are the adventurous type, sign up for the Apple iOS Developer program and then you can download iOS 5 before it's released.
For more coverage check out Macworld.