Tomorrow is the biggest single event on Apple’s calendar: the first day of its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The company has already promised that CEO Steve Jobs is going to use this venue to unveil a new version of its mobile operating system, as well as a new online service, but that still leaves many wondering what’s on the docket.
iOS 5: Widgets and Voice Recognition
Although Apple says that the wraps are going to come off iOS 5 tomorrow, it hasn’t said what’s going to be new and different about this upcoming version. However, leaks, rumors, and a bit of speculation have revealed what are likely to be many of the changes.
Near the top of the list is built-in voice recognition. According to an unconfirmed report, Apple has made a deal with the maker of Dragon Naturally Speaking, Nuance, to integrate speech-to-text technology into the iPhone’s and iPad’s operating system. This will allow users to create emails and other content just by talking. What will reportedly not be included is voice control. So users won’t be able to, for example, tell their smartphone to “Open the web browser”.
In a possibly even more significant change, one published report indicated that Apple is going to introduce widgets into its user interface. Widgets are a major part of the UI of Google’s rival Android OS — they are small applications that run in windows on the homescreen, and are used to update the user in various ways. Widgets can be used to give a weather report, list incoming emails, display recent Facebook posts, or other tasks without the need to open a full application. Mac OS X users should be familiar with the concept from the Dashboard.
In addition, the notification system of the iOS is supposedly going to be revamped. At this point it’s not clear exactly what improvements are in store for the system for letting users know about alarms and new messages, but the current one is undoubtedly rudimentary, so there’s room for improvement.
iCloud: iTunes Online
Much of the hoopla in tomorrow’s WWDC announcement is going to center around iCloud. Although Apple has started openly using this name for this upcoming service, it has kept mum about what it’s going to offer.
According to inside sources, however, iCloud will be an online version of iTunes. Any song that someone has in iTunes on their desktop will be available to be streamed to whatever device they are currently using. The same will supposedly also be true of movies and videos they have purchased through Apple.
If these reports are correct, this new service will greatly reduce the need for storage on devices like the iPod touch and iPhone. On the other hand, most users will still need a certain amount storage capacity, as iCloud will need to run over a Wi-Fi connection if smartphone users don’t want to run through their monthly data allotment.
Many consider it likely that Apple will merge MobileMe into iCloud. This online service, which debuted several years ago, acts like Microsoft Exchange for consumers, but has met with very limited success.
No iPhone 5: Stay Tuned
Unlike previous years, numerous reports indicate that Steve Jobs won’t be unveiling the next-generation iPhone tomorrow. Instead, consumers will have to wait several months for that to happen.
An industry analyst talking to companies that will supply parts for Apple’s next smartphone predicts the launch of an iPhone 4S late this summer or early in the fall. A follow-up to that, which may or may not be called the iPhone 5, will supposedly be coming later, possibly next year. The iPhone 4S will allegedly have a faster processor, better camera, and support for AT&T’s HSPA+ network. The model after that will be the first to offer LTE 4G support.