Everything You Need to Know About iOS 5

Everything you need to know about iOS 5

An iphone running iOS5

 Francis Dean/Getty Images

With the release of iOS 5, Apple delivered tons of new features, fixed nasty bugs, and generally improved how iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads worked.

But a new version of the iOS operating system isn't entirely positive for everyone. With each major new iOS version, owners of older models hold their breath to find out if their device is compatible.

Sometimes the news is good: their device is compatible. Sometimes it's mixed: their device can run the new OS, but can't use all of its features. Some models won't work with the new iOS. That forces those users decide if they want to upgrade their devices to newer models that support the new OS.

Find out if you're eligible for a lower-cost iPhone upgrade here.

To find out if your device is compatible with iOS 5, and to learn about the most important details of iOS 5, read on.

iOS 5 Compatible Apple Devices

iPhone iPad iPod touch

iPhone 4S

3rd Generation iPad

4th generation iPod touch


iPhone 4


iPad 2


3rd generation iPod touch


iPhone 3GS




Implications for Older iPhone and iPod touch Models

IPhone, iPod touch, and iPad models not in the chart above are not compatible with iOS 5. Owners of the iPhone 3G and 2nd generation iPod touch could use every version of the iOS up to iOS 4, but not iOS 5. Owners of the original iPhone and iPod touch could not upgrade beyond iOS 3.

Key New iOS 5 Features

With iOS 5, Apple introduced features that later users take for granted, but they were breakthrough additions at the time. Some of the key new features introduced in iOS 5 include:

  • Notification Center and support for push notifications.
  • iCloud.
  • PC-free activation. Before iOS 5, you had to connect your iPhone to a computer to set it up. Now, you can unbox an iPhone and set it up on its own.
  • Syncing over Wi-Fi. Prior to this, physically connecting to a computer was required to move content back and forth.
  • Over-the-air software updates. This is another task that used to require a connection to a computer. Like PC-free activation, OS updates were now PC-free, too.
  • iMessage for secure text messaging.
  • Access to the Camera app from the lock screen.
  • Pressing volume up button takes a picture in the Camera app.
  • Reminders app.
  • Newsstand.
  • iPod app split into separate Music and Videos apps.
  • Multitasking gestures on the iPad 2 and up.

Later iOS 5 Releases

Apple released three updates to iOS 5 that fixed bugs and added new features. All three of these updates are compatible with all of the devices listed above. To learn more about what each version of iOS 5 included, check out our history of iOS versions.

iOS 5 Release History

  • iOS 5.1.1 release: May 7, 2012
  • iOS 5.1 release: March 8, 2012
  • iOS 5.0.1 release: Nov. 10, 2011
  • iOS 5 release: Oct. 12, 2011

iOS 6 was released on September 19, 2012, and replaced iOS 5 at that time.