As we get closer to this fall’s release of iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, Apple continues to release beta versions for developers. While Beta 1 was, in general, buggy and had a low battery life, only a few weeks later Beta 2 is already much closer to a finished product.

The first major change we noticed in iOS 5 Beta 2 is that the lock screen notifications have been tweaked again, to be more of a combination of the way they were handled in iOS 4 and the list style from iOS 5 Beta 1. Only the most recent notification shows on the lock screen by default, and you have to pull down a tab below the clock to see the other notifications. It would seem this change is to avoid clutter on the home screen; if you had more than a couple notifications on the old style, your lock screen got crowded pretty quickly.

Another big deal in Beta 2 is Wi-Fi sync. You may have recalled that Apple announced the feature at the keynote, but it was missing in iOS 5 Beta 1. That feature has arrived, and with Beta 2 you can sync your phone over Wi-Fi if you have 10.7 Lion Developer Preview or 10.6.8. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s any love for Windows users quite yet.

There is also a change in the way that notifications behave in the notification center. In Beta 1, the only way to clear out the notifications that appeared in the center was to actually bring it up and tap the X next to the app for which you wanted to clear notifications. In Beta 2, Apple added the ability for apps to clear notifications based on their “badge” numbers. If you go into Mail and read all your messages so that the app doesn’t display a number badge on its icon anymore, the notifications center will see the cleared number and automatically clear the notifications. This is also an excellent feature that I’m glad made it in before the final release.

Overall, with iOS 5 Beta 2, I am noticing a lot of speed improvements, significant battery life improvements (not hard compared to the battery destroying Beta 1), and many less crashes of core apps. I wouldn’t have suggested anyone use Beta 1 on their daily driver prone, but Beta 2 is much, much closer to being ready for prime time. Tons and tons of bugs have been fixed, so if you had an issue with the first beta, check that list to see if your specific issue has been resolved.