Notifications, clouds—those are two of the many new features for developers and consumers in Apple’s iOS 5 release, set for early fall. We’ve decided to share five of the ones developers identified as being most important. To find out about why these features are important to developers, what their concerns are and what they are looking forward to, check out the special report (“Will Apple’s iOS 5 bear fruit with developers?”), coming in the September issue of SD Times.

The notification center is one of the updates developers and consumers alike are excited about. Joe Pezzillo, cofounder of Push IO (a third-party server supplier for iOS applications), explained that the notifications center will solve many of the complaints end users have with iOS application push notifications—mainly that they are too intrusive.

Being able to wirelessly synchronize data across devices is, according to Jonathan Saggau, one of the top additions. Saggau, founder and CEO of Sounds Broken (a Mac OS X and iOS software contracting shop as well as a technical and business process consultancy), explained that the synchronization feature will allow a lot of developers to go beyond their current application structure and create some amazing, innovative things. Some developers are unclear about how exactly iCloud will function, but most are excited to use the new capability.

Over-the-Air updates (PC Free)
The PC-free firmware updates, according to Henry Balanon, iOS developer and founder of Bickbot, will allow developers to reduce the number of versions they maintain. Basically, Balanon said, with the OTA updates, end users will be more likely to have the newest version of iOS on their device and, therefore, developers will not need to maintain older versions of applications that are backward compatible with multiple iOS versions.

Automatic reference counting
Balanon cited this as the most significant update to iOS 5. “It is basically the convenience of garbage collection with the speed of using retain/release. Developers are used to explicitly doing retain/releases, and now we don’t have to do that,” he explained. Apple’s press kit on iOS 5 said this also reduces crashes and memory leaks.

Updates to Xcode
Storyboards, among other things, have been added to Apple’s Xcode development environment, which developers said is greatly improved. Pezzillo explained that Apple has “reinvigorated the joy of development for iOS and is really focused on helping make programmers more efficient, effective and ‘correct’ ” with the updates.