Apple’s annual conference for developers kicked off on Monday, and as he does every year, CEO Steve Jobs used this venue to unveil a new version of the iOS. He also introduced iCloud, a new online storage and backup service.
iOS 5, the next generation of Apple’s OS for iPhones and iPads, will include 200 new features, such as Notification Center, News Stand, and a revamped mobile Safari browser. Also at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Jobs announced a new iCloud service will take the place of Apple’s ill-fated MobileMe.
Through the new iCloud service, users will be able to back up entertainment content as well as apps and app data once a day after a simple one-time registration process, according to Scott Forstall, who heads up iOS development at Apple.
Other new features shown on Monday included Reminders, iMessage, Game Center, PC Free, and major improvements to Apple’s Camera and Mail apps.
Users won’t need to wait until Apple releases new generations of hardware devices to start taking advantage of the new features. They will, however, have to wait for the release of iOS 5. Slated for availability this fall, the new OS will support several existing Apple devices, including iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1 and 2, and third and fourth-gen iPods.
In a demo at the WWDC, Forstall revealed the details on ten new features in iOS 5:
The new Notification Center in iOS 5 is designed to prevent notifications from acting as interruptions. The current system has a tendancy to stop apps in their tracks.
All notifications will be stored in this new area. When a new one comes in — like a new email or a reminder — the user will see an animation, and they can then go in view the notification at any time just by swiping down the screen from the top to the Notification Center.
News Stand will be similar to iBooks — Apple’s existing eBook competitive play against Amazon and Barnes and Noble — except that content will consist only of magazines and newspapers.
Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble has been busily inking periodicals for downloadable content for its rival Nook Color e-reader tablet.
Also in iOS 5, Twitter will be integrated with apps that include the Safari browser, contacts, and even the camera. Users will be able to tweet locations from maps and articles from Safari, for example.
Other new features — such as a simplified reading list that lets people easily save stories to read later — are designed for e-reading on the iPhone and iPad.
In another new feature, users will be able to set reminders with dates for use with multiple lists. After checking boxes for “when I arrive” and “when I leave,” they can set a reminder like, “Remind me to call my wife when I leave the convention today.”
New Camera Capabilities
Apple is making a number of improvements to its camera app, include pinch to zoom, optional grid lines, and crop and rotate. In addition, users will be able to edit photos directly from their iPhone.
Improvements to mail will include rich text formatting, draggable addresses, flagging, and the ability to search entire messages.
In portrait mode on the iPad, people will be able to swipe the inbox in and out.
The new “PC Free” feature is designed for users who want to use a phone or tablet as their only device. With the feature, people will be able to set up and activate their smartphone or tablet directly from the device, instead of plugging into iTunes on the PC.
As part of this change, software updates will be delivered to the iPhone or iPad directly over the air. This was one of the major limitations of previous versions of the iOS. All users of the Apple’s mobile devices will benefit, but this is especially true for those who want to use an iPad as a stand-alone computer.
With a new version of Game Center, Apple seems to be taking aim directly at Microsoft’s Xbox Live. Forstall maintained that although Xbox Live has been around for eight years, it only has 30 million users.
In iOS 5, turn-based games will be supported at an OS level, and games will be downloadable directly from the Game Center. Features will include game discovery, achievement points, and photos and avatars.
Apple’s answer to the popularity of the BlackBerry Messenger service has come in the form of iMessage, which will work exclusively on iOS 5 devices. Users on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch runningthe newest version of this operating systemwill be able to send each other messages and media over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. Like BBM, there will be delivery and read receipts. The service will support text messaging as well as “high quality” pictures and videos.
Some Additional Features
An article on Brighthand’s sister site, TabletPCReview.com, describes some of the additional new features set to appear in iOS 5, including AirPlay Video Mirroring for iPad 2 and new mulitouch gestures.