iOS 5 was previewed on June 6, 2011 during WWDC 2011. At the same event, Apple previewed Mac OS X Lion and announced its cloud-based media service, iCloud. For the second time, support for some devices was dropped, specifically the iPhone 3G and the iPod Touch (2nd generation). Supported devices on this release include the iPhone 3GS onwards, the iPod Touch (3rd generation) onwards, and the original iPad onwards.
On October 4, 2011, Apple held an event at the 4 Infinite Loop building at its headquarters in Cupertino, California. While other items were discussed, the main focus was the unveiling of the iPhone 4S and its new, exclusive Siri software. The release date for iOS 5, October 12, was announced at this event.
The iPhone 4S came with iOS 5 pre-installed, but older units required the update to be installed through iTunes. However, when the update was first released, many users received error messages upon attempting to download it, and some had warnings that their devices could not be restored. It was thought that Apple's servers were simply not able to keep up with the demand, causing as many as half of the initial requests for the update to fail.
Apple's cloud-based service, iCloud, first became available with iOS 5. This new feature allows users to synchronize their music, pictures, videos, and more across all of their iCloud-enabled devices. Each user is given 5 gigabytes of storage space for free, but is allowed to sync unlimited amounts of music, apps, books and photos.
iMessage, built into the Messages app, allows anyone with an iOS-enabled device to send instant messages to anyone else who has a device with iOS 5. The messages are received on all of the person's wirelessly connected devices. This feature also allows iPhone users to send text messages to non-iOS devices as well. Before iOS 5, Messages was only available with SMS and MMS on iPhone, but iOS 5 brought it to iPod touch and iPad.
Reminders allows users to create lists of tasks with alerts that can be either date-based or location-based.
Newsstand does not act as a true app, but is actually a special folder. When selected, it shows icons for all of the periodicals that the user has subscribed to, such as newspapers and magazines. New issues are downloaded automatically.
iOS 5 gives devices the ability to sync with iTunes wirelessly, without needing to be connected to a computer. Both activation of a new iOS device and iOS updates can also be done over a wireless network for the first time.
iOS 5 features deep Twitter integration. Users are able to sign into Twitter directly from the settings menu. Photos can be tweeted directly from the Photos or Camera apps, and users are also able to tweet from the Safari, YouTube, and Google Maps apps.
iOS 5 allows the camera app to be easily accessed from the lock screen for the first time. By swiping up on a camera icon on the lock screen, users can go directly to the camera, without having to unlock the device or enter their passcode. For security purposes (passcode), this method of accessing the camera only allows access to the camera app, and no other features of the device. iOS 5.0 originally included a camera button to tap that could only be revealed by double-clicking the home button. However, iOS 5.1 changed it so that the camera button could be swiped up.
Notifications are revamped in iOS 5 as well. Rather than popping up on the screen and stopping whatever was going on at the time, they show up in a banner at the top of the screen. Recent notifications can also be accessed by pulling a "Notification Center" down from the top of the screen, where it is hidden. Users who prefer the old notification system can keep it by choosing the appropriate option in the settings menu.
Apple confirmed that several battery life bugs were negatively affecting battery life in iOS 5. They attempted to fix them with iOS 5.0.1, but the problem still remained.
The launch of the iOS 5 update on October 12, 2011 (including iOS 5.0.1 released on November 10, 2011), led many users to report a major bug causing the device to lose Wi-Fi access. This problem was supposedly fixed with the release of iOS 5.1.1.
Some users of the iPhone 4S and iPad reported issues with the SIM card in the initial release of iOS 5, and even though Apple attempted to fix these issues in version 5.0.1 build 9A406 (for iPhone 4S only), they still remained.
Some users of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S reported the random appearance of echoes during phone calls made with earphones in the initial release of iOS 5. The other party in the call was generally unable to hear the conversation due to this problem. The owners reported a "fix", which involved switching to speaker mode when the echo occurred, then turning the speaker off again. This got rid of the echo temporarily, but it could still happen again, even within the same phone call. It is unclear whether Apple attempted to fix this issue in version 5.0.1, but for many users this problem still remained after updating to 5.0.1. The new noise-cancelling microphone/technology may have been the reason behind this bug. Apple has since released version 5.1.1 in an attempt to fix the problem.
All notifications concentrated to Notification Center: swipe downwards from the status bar to open it. Notification center shows a list of all notifications and widgets (widgets available only on iPhone & iPod Touch).
Notification order can be arranged.
Choose Notification Type: Banner notifications, the classic pop-up notifications, or no notification at all (selectable on an app-by-app basis).
Notification list on lock screen. Swipe an icon to unlock and go to the specific notification.
Notifications announcing earthquakes with 2 minutes (only in Japan).
Messaging between all iOS devices running iOS 5 through Wi-Fi or 3G. Allows to send text, photos, videos, contacts, and locations.
All iMessages and conversations will be synced between all iOS devices linked under a single Apple ID. You can start a conversation on one device and continue it on another.
Can message between multiple people simultaneously (group messaging).
Shows when other person(s) is typing.
Optional read receipts (enable in Settings).
Animated GIF image support for iMessage.
Ability to set how many times an alert will be shown when a new message is received (ranges from once to ten times).
The name of the person that responds appears in small light blue text directly above the response when SMS is sent to a group.
Slight redesign for text messages. Font & time-stamp layout.
Hide keyboard; hidden by downwards scrolling in message screen (after being used to type a message). Unhidden again by tapping in text entry field.
Can now create, rename, and delete calendars right on the device.
Tap and hold or double-tap to create a new event.
Tap and hold in "all-day events" to create a new all-day event.
Drag appointments to a new time slot.
Drag handles to change start and end times.
Creating new Event, now an "Invitees" field; takes to screen for multiple email address entry, emails sent to all invitees once event is saved.
Invitee can “Accept”/“Decline”/“Maybe”; reply sent to iCloud servers then reflected for all invitees to see.
Calendar event on device lists those invitees accepting event.
All users on iOS 5.x devices get notification when event is nearing.
Ability to specify a time zone to events.
Ability to add URLs to events.
Current time on Calendar if in landscape mode.
Navigate in day view by swiping.
Event attachments can now be viewed directly in the app.
Share calendars through iCloud with friends and family. Edits made by subscribers to that calendar are updated and pushed to other subscribers of that calendar (can be disabled by the creator of the calendar and locked so others cannot make edits).
Japanese or Buddhist calendars support.
Rich text formatting (bold, italics, and underline).
Ability to mark multiple mail items as read.
Ability to flag emails.
Draggable mail address in the recipients field.
Alert if the subject line is blank.
Search now includes body of messages.
Delete mails while in Airplane mode.
Exchange Activesync Email can now be deleted offline.
Can create new email folders.
Ability to show 1000 recent messages; 25 message option removed.
Ability to create additional @me.com email address within the Mail settings.
Ability to increase quote level in Mail settings.
New and updated tiny icons on Mail for Windows Live Mail, Gmail, Exchange, etc.
Hotmail accounts now have new icons and folders.
While reading an email you can swipe right to open a list of messages and swipe left to bring back the open email message again.
If you have multiple email accounts configured in Mail.app, swipe left or right from one’s mailboxes folder list, it will take you to another account’s mailboxes.
Support for three popular Chinese email services: Tencent’s QQ Mail, and Netease’s 163.com & 126.com mail inboxes.
Built-in basic photo editing: crop, red-eye, auto-enhance and rotate photos.
Ability to create and edit local photo albums folders (only those that aren't synced with iTunes).
Ability to sync pictures taken on one iOS device automatically with other iOS 5 devices using Photo Stream.
Ability to select all when adding pictures to an album.
Slight re-design for video time-line under Photos app.
Safari Reader: new "Reader" icon appears in address bar if Safari detects a webpage article, removing need to click-through to each page. Scrollable window sheet appears over current webpage showing all article pages together separated by page breaks, removing ads and page clutter.
Ability to change font size in reader mode.
Reading List: a new area of the bookmarks window has been added, purposed for pages you might want to read later. New pages can be added from a new option in the action menu or when long-pressing on a link.
Items from the Reading List can be synced to iCloud to be pushed to all of your other iOS devices.
Safari bookmarks can be synced to iCloud.
Ability to open pages in background or in new page (change in Settings).
Ability to replace a word with a word from a list of similarly spelled words spellings when typing in a text box on a web page.
Private Browsing; interface colours change from blue to black (change in Settings).
Ability to remove custom website data.
CSS fixed position support.
Slight fade out at end of long URLs (instead of ellipses) in the address bar.
On October 23, 2011, Apple TV (2nd generation) software was updated to version 4.4 bringing Photo Stream, Airplay mirroring (from iPhone 4S & iPad 2, later iPad (3rd generation), NHL, Wall Street Journal, slideshow themes and Netflix subtitles. Contrary to rumors and code found in iOS 5, the release did not bring support for Bluetooth or apps to the Apple TV 2.
Table of versions: iOS 5.x – Apple TV (2nd generation) onwards