iOS 5 is finally here on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Now what? With the flurry of features and updates being dropped today and yesterday the whole thing can be a confusing mess. Here's the best way to get up to speed and enjoy Apple's latest iOS.
While you're getting ready to update, remember that Apple's servers are getting hammered right now with downloads, people registering for iCloud and iOS 5 updates. If you're getting server error 3200 while attempting to update, or if your downloads are taking entirely too long for you, just relax. As traffic subsides the errors and download issues will go away and you'll be able to add images to Photo Stream in no time.
Update your Mac or PC
Before you update your iPhone, you'll want to grab a few updates. First update iTunes to 10.5. You'll need that update in order to actually installed iOS 5 on your device. For iCloud features, update Lion to 10.7.2 and iPhoto to 9.2. Lion and iTunes can be updated using Software Update, while iPhoto requires you to use the Mac App Store. If you're on a Windows machine, you need to download the iCloud control panel. Or you can skip all that and download the updates manually with the links below. And, this should go without saying BUT we're saying it 'cause you might need us to: Back everything up first!
iOS 5 update
Before hitting the Check for Update button, you'll want to backup. You can manually force your iOS device to backup when you plug it in. Right-click on your device in the left-hand column in iTunes. Select Backup. Let iTunes do its magic before going forward. If something goes horribly wrong during the update, you'll thank me for this. (This would be a good time to do a backup of your whole machine too.)
Now lets download the iOS 5 update. You can manually download the update here, or you can just plug your iOS device into iTunes and Check for Update. At this point you have to make a decision. Do you want to just do the normal update, or go for the clean install with Restore.
The Check for Update install will download iOS 5 to your machine, your device will restart and the installation will begin. It might take a while to download the update, but the install should only take about 15-20 minutes. After a few restarts your device will be ready to go.
The Restore button will completely erase your device, apply the update, then sync all your backed up settings, apps, photos, and music to you device. This is helpful if you're having problems with your device or you just want the peace of mind that a clean install gives. To update this way, just hit the Restore button and iOS 5 will be downloaded like above. Because you've completely erased your device, the initial sync could take hours depending on the amount of apps and music you have on your device. What's nice is that as long as your device is plugged into iTunes, with iOS 5 you can continue the set up without interrupting the sync.
While you're updating your iOS device, head to System Preferences and click on the iCloud preference to set up your free account.
If you're new to Apple's cloud services, use your Apple ID (the ID you use to buy music and apps from iTunes and the App Store) to sign in or set up a new one. You'll need iCloud for some of Apple's new iOS features like Photo Stream, Find my Mac, cloud backup of your iOS device, and Find My Friend. After sign up, you'll use the iCloud system preference to choose which features you want to utilize.
If you're migrating from from MobileMe, it'll take a few minutes to migrate to the new service. Whether you move to iCloud or not, Apple intends on killing off iDisk, iWeb pages, and its online galleries. Fortunately, you have until June 30, 2012 to pull your items off of iDisk and updating to iCloud won't stop you from accessing the online drive. So you might as well update. It's free.
iOS device set up
Once your iPhone finishes the update, you'll be presented with the setup-assistant walkthrough. You can now set up your iPhone without it being connected to your computer.
During the setup you'll first be asked if you want to set up Location Services. This allows your apps to access your location using your device's GPS feature and any location-logged Wi-Fi locations. Next, If you're at home or work, you can add your Wi-Fi network to your device.
If you decided to just update your iPhone instead of restore, skip the next two paragraphs, If you're one of the brave souls that decided to completely erase your device before updating with the Restore button, your device will now ask if you want to set up a new iPhone/iPad/iPod touch or restore from an iCloud or iTunes backup. Unless you've updated to iOS 5 previously and this is a reinstall, you probably don't have a back up saved to iCloud. Choose Restore from iTunes and if it isn't already, connect your device to iTunes.
You'll be presented with the latest backup of your iPhone in iTunes. Click on continue restore from that backup. Your device will be set up for restore and will restart after a few minutes. Going forward, you'll be able to restore your iOS device from iCloud. So when you're on vacation and your iPhone takes a dump on you, you'll be ready to restore without a computer around.
At this point you'll be asked to add your Apple ID information. This information is used to set up iTunes, the App Store, and iCloud.
Here is the big one, iCloud. If you made an account earlier, just tap, Use iCloud. You can adjust your iCloud settings on your device by heading to Settings>iCloud. There you can enable and disable features. Which is helpful if Photo Stream starts uploading photos you'd rather not share.
The set up assistant will also ask if you want to utilize Cloud Backup. I'd say hold off on that for a few days. iCloud is going to be busy with new accounts. Instead you should continue to back up to your computer for now. You have a few more choices to make and you're done. I highly recommend using Find my iPhone. If your device is lost or stolen, this is a killer feature.
Your iOS device should now be ready to enjoy all the new features of iOS 5. If you updated iPhoto and Lion your Mac will be ready for the future of computing, iCloud. To keep up with all the latest features and apps, check out our continually updating iOS 5 page.