I upgraded my iPhone 4 to the latest operating system version today – iOS 5.

Well I tried yesterday when it was released, but Apple’s servers were so bogged down, it just wasn’t happening. Actually I decided to download it at work where there is a good internet connection, because our Seaside Wireless internet at home has been really slow and flakey lately. Frustratingly, every time iTunes lost the connection on the download, it started ALL OVER.

This morning I got into work a little early so I could update my iPhone before work. I backed up everything on my phone to the iTunes on my work computer, but during the update I lost all my music and apps. I’m restoring my music now that I am at home. It makes sense because I don’t have that music at work. The apps were all backed up so after it updated my phone, I moved the apps back over.

All my apps were scattered over several home screens. I had to re-sort and re-organize them. Not a huge deal. Gave me a chance to delete some I don’t use. Many of my apps updated at the same time so I see my Facebook app is different. A good different I think.

So on to the new features. I finally understand how this iMessage thing is going to work. I’ve been excited for this because it will allow me to send a text message to any of my contacts who are also running iOS5 on an Apple device through the Apple network instead of paying for a $0.30 text message (pure thievery). I had assumed it would be a separate app, but no, it is just like the Messages system now, except if a contact is running iOS 5, then it will skip the text message and send for free. Rumour has it that the text messages can be longer than 160 characters when they skip SMS. How do you know when the message is going for free or on your text message? Users will have a blue chat bubble to the right of their name in your contact list, and the messaging screen will use different colours. For a better explanation, see: Up close with iOS 5: iMessage iMessage can also be used by iPads and iPod Touches, so once my family upgrades I think I can message them all for free. (poke poke, upgrade upgrade!)

Also new, is a Newstand feature, where you can subscribe to magazines. Not much available yet, and I suspect this feature will be much more useful on an iPad screen.

There is a new Reminders app. This is WAY overdue. It’s like a ‘To Do’ list. I’ve been using the Notes app for this, but this is far better.

The iPod icon in the bottom right corner is now a “Music” button. There is a “Videos” app too to separate Videos from your other media.

Also nice, when your iPhone is syncing with iTunes, it no longer locks the screen – it is just an icon in the top bar.

Speaking of top bar, it pulls down now like a blind on a window to show your recent notifications and current weather. iLike.

What else is new. The iCloud feature where you can back up your contacts and information to the “cloud” rather than to your iTunes. 5 gigs of space is free to start or you can pay to use more. This is great if you have multiple devices and iTunes install. It will share your purchased apps, and your photos, across all of your devices. Slick.

Oh! Speaking of contacts, I thought my contact list was completely wiped. It appeared empty after the update and I was not looking forward to restarting my contacts list. I used the search page – you know, one swipe to the left of the home screen – and I searched for a contact. They were all still there. I shut down the contacts app and restarted it and they were back.

I heard you can now access the camera from the lock screen, but I couldn’t figure it out until now. If you screen is black and you click the home button and it says “Slide to Unlock”. Now instead of swiping, double click the home button again and now you can see a camera button!

Every feature seems to have a small tweak or update. I noticed my mail now shows a flag on messages I’ve flagged in Gmail or Outlook.

To read about all the new features of iOS 5 right from Apple, read this: http://www.apple.com/ios/features.html

The update process was a little scary. Back up everything, EVERYTHING first, and don’t panic when your phone shows all sorts of ‘restoring to original’ messages while it is upgrading. And don’t unplug it too early. There are moments when it is just sitting there sort of paused for a bit, and then the next phase kicks in.

Now if I’m on your contact list, upgrade and iMessage me!