Some of these features you already had in your iPhone or iPad. They just came in third-party apps.
If you used apps like the must-have WhatsApp, which allows you to message in an extremely easy way with all kinds of phones for free, you already were enjoying something like iMessage (even while iMessage adds important services, like device-wide conversation synchronisation). If you had the awesome Instapaper, you already had some of the features of the new Safari. Or if you had something like Remember the Milk, you already had a great reminders service.
However, there are features that weren’t available before; either because they are completely new or because they are system-wide. And there are real jewels too.
Things that may sound silly, like using the volume + button as a shutter in the Camera app. Or more important stuff, like well thought Notifications and the ability to run your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad without having a PC. Your iDevices are now completely autonomous.
All these features put iOS on par again with some of the features that you could already find in Android, Palm or Windows Phone 7. Some of their implementations, surpass those platforms. But even while none of these new features are extraordinary per se, all of them together are quite impressive.
The first big feature is notifications. At last, Apple will get rid of the annoying popups that break your flow. And with “annoying popups” I really meant “stupid dumb boxes that makes me want to smash my f**king iPhone against the wall when I’m playing a game or chatting with strangers in the night”.
They have replaced those with a new app called Notification centre. It’s very similar to Mobile Notifier, the iOS notification app — which makes sense, since Apple hired its developer a while back. It not only includes app notification, but mini-widgets that show live information from apps like Weather and apps.
The notifications extend to the lock screen too, so you can see more stuff right away without unlocking your phone. Sliding your finger on it will automatically lead you to the app that generated that notification.
Notifications are clearly and by far the best part of iOS 5 — particularly coming from the stone age pop-up mess of previous versions. Everyone on staff who’s used iOS 5 is in love, and the upgrade is the must have feature.
Another new useful feature, which will hurt Blackberry and the telecommunications companies wanting to sell you stupid SMS and MMS contracts: Apple has implemented a new messaging system called iMessage.
It works between all iOS 5 devices, allowing you to leave conversations on your iPhone and continue them in your iPad (again, I will not be surprised to see this integrated into Lion at a later date). It comes with delivery notification as well. However, unlike WhatsApp, it doesn’t work with other non-iOS devices. Maybe Apple thinks your Android and Blackberry friends are not worth talking to for free.
3. New Camera app and photos
The new Camera up gets two of the most-requested features in the history of iOS. The first is a shortcut in the lock screen to access the camera right away, so you don’t have to unlock and then click on the Camera icon, which often makes you lose the moment.
The other one, which is something we have whined about endlessly, is using one of the volume button as the shutter button. Just press + and that’s it: CLICK! This is a very welcome addition.
The new app also includes basic photo editing. It includes quick enhance — which basically sharpens your image, making shadows and highlights more detailed, and correct colour automagically. It also include red eye reduction and cropping, both welcome additions to those who don’t have the Camera Plus already.
Apple has built a virtual newsstand right onto iOS 5, very similar to the iBooks app but exclusively for magazines and periodicals. It looks like a cross between iBooks and a folder view, actually.
5. Twitter integration everywhere
iOS 5 will have Twitter integration everywhere. Apps like camera will be able to directly post the image to Twitter. The YouTube App, Safari or even Maps will support direct sharing in Twitter. It also adds a new Twitter address field to your Contacts application.
6. A new Safari
Safari has been revamped with new features. Reader will allow you to reformat a site on the fly, taking out ads and reformatting text so it looks better on your iPad or iPhone screen.
This feature flows into Reading List, which is a way to save those pages for later offline viewing, keeping them synchronised between all your iOS devices and Lion. Presumably via iCloud.
Apple’s web browser also adds tabs in this version. Your open pages will line up right below your address bar. According to Apple, switching between pages is “lightning fast”, so perhaps they have made some magic with the memory management to reduce the reload of pages in older devices.
7. New Reminders app
The new Reminders app makes it easy to make to-do lists. The interface is very simple and it’s synchronised between iOS 5 devices and your Mac OS X desktop or notebook.
The really cool thing about Reminders is that it’s location aware. Imagine you add that you need to buy milk, but then you forget about it. When you pass by the grocery store, the app will tell you that you need to buy milk.
8. New Mail app
Mail includes a barrage of enhancements
• Rich Text Formatting, which will allow you to annoy the hell out of everyone bolding every sentence in your mails.
• Indentation control, which allows you to control the level of indentation of your quotes from other messages.
• Draggable email addresses, which allows to drag and drop email addresses into to, cc and bcc fields.
• Message flagging to call your attention over a particular mail later.
• Swipe to Inbox, which makes it very easy to access the list of message in portrait mode on the iPad, instead of clicking on a button for a weird pop-up dialog.
9. No PC required
At long last, the most important feature of them all: You will not need iTunes and PC anymore to use your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Apple has caught up with Android and Windows Phone 7. The new iOS 5 will allow you to set up your new device easily: Turn your new gadget on and a Welcome screen will appear. All software updates will happen over the air.
All the applications will now be completely autonomous. You will not have to go to iCal or some other desktop app to create a calendar, for example. There is no need for a desktop or laptop anymore, for anything.
10. New Game Center
The have enhanced Game Center too. Unfortunately, they have not renewed its awful casino interface, which looks as dated as always. But they have added much needed concepts from Xbox Live and other gaming systems:
• Achievement points.
• Access friends of friends, so you can compare and play with a wider range of people.
• Photos in your profile, so you can flirt with other nerds pretending to be women online.
• Game discovery, to play with whoever wants to play with you at any given time.
• Game downloads within Game Center.
• Support for turn-based games like Words for Friends and Scrabble.
All the others
• Cards: Lets you create digital cards directly from your iPod Touch or iPhone and send them to your contacts
• Dictionary everywhere: This is something that many people have asked for because they like it in the iBooks app. Now, every application will have Dictionary built-in.
• iTunes synchronisation over Wi-Fi
• Advanced gestures: It will allow you to pass from app to app on the iPad by using a simple swipe gesture, without having to use the home button. This was a feature has been in testing for a long time and, trust me, once you try it you will not be able to live without it.
This post was originally published at Gizmodo on October 4.