iOS 5 revealed at WWDC 2011: Notifications overhaul included

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iOS-5-top.jpegApple’s Scott Forstall SVP of iOS software took to the stage today at WWDC 2011 for the iOS 5 announcements for mobile devices. According to findings from rankings experts Comscore, Forstall noted that “iOS is the number one mobile operating system, with more than 44% of the market,” as of April 2011, with Android presumably a very close second. 14 billion apps have now been downloaded from the App Store, a simply mind-boggling figure, resulting in $2,500,000,000 being paid to app developers.

Calling iOS 5 “a major release” that would be “incredible for our developers and our customers”, Forstall then dived into the new features.

To begin with, over 1,500 new APIs will be introduced, but gathering the biggest cheers was the news of a much-needed overhaul of the Notifications area. iOS 5 will feature a Notifications Centre that aggregates all pushed notifications into one place, accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen, much like in the Android OS. If a notification happens whilst you’re in an app, a top-of-the-screen animated bar will let you know without interrupting your previous activities. It’s also available from the lock-screen, meaning you can get to the message or notification quickly without unlocking and hunting down the corresponding app first.

Next up was the Newsstand feature. It allows you to easily manage the recently added subscriptions features, quickly pushing new issues to your iOS device. All issues are then collected in one place, presented like a real-life news stand, downloading issues in the background.

Twitter integration was the next key update. A single sign-in menu will configure Twitter with all compatible apps, saving your credentials so you don’t have to re-enter them every time. Twitter will also be integrated into apps such as Camera and Photos, allowing you to quickly send snaps to all your Twitter contacts, as well as send Safari pages and Maps data.

The Safari browser itself also gets an update. A new Safari Reader button is added to the toolbar, which turns a page into simple text, removing unneccesary images and adverts, and allowing the text content to be emailed to a pal instantly. These pages can then be stored using the Reading List function, collecting all the Safari Reader pages in one location. These can also be organised by tags too. Tabbed browsing is also another welcome addition to Safari.

Next on show was the Reminders feature. It lets you create simple lists of things you need to get done, assign them to dates in the calendar, and even add a location too, geo-fencing your to-do list. It will sync across all your iOS devices, pulling the info into your Calendar app if you so chose.

A Camera button is added to the lock screen, allowing you to quickly snap an eventful moment without fussing with the lock slider. If you use a passcode you can still bypass that to access the Camera app, though your previously taken photos will remain protected should your phone have fallen into the wrong hands. The volume button can now optionally be set to take photos too.

Editing gets easier thanks to pinch to zoom within the Camera app, while holding a section lets you adjust exposure settings. You’ll now also be able to crop, rotate and reduce red-eye from within the app, reducing red-eye if you and your pals are demon born.

Mail was the next feature to get updates. Rich-text formatting, indentation control, draggable addresses (from To: to Cc: or Bcc:) and flagging are all added, with S/MIME security added for good measure. Dictionary functions can now also be accessed within the Mail app.

New iOS owners without PCs or Macs will be glad to see the PC Free feature added. You no longer need to tether iPads, iPhones or iPods with a machine the very first time you use them, with a “welcome” screen running you through all the necessary set-up functions. Software updates are now available over-the-air, and as these are delta updates, only adjusting the specific changes made, you shouldn’t be left with massive downloads. It also mean iTunes can synced over Wi-Fi too.

Game Center also gets updated. Its mostly a social update, displaying scores of your friends’ friends, and also offering friend recommendations and game recommendations. Game downloads can now be made directly from Game Center, with turn-based games playing directly from the OS.

The iMessage messaging client was also revealed, letting you send souped-up messages between fellow iOS users, regardless of device. Text messages, photos, videos and contacts can be shared, and group messaging is also supported. Being cross-device compatible, all messages on an iPhone or iPod are mirrored on your iPad, and vice-versa. It works over both Wi-Fi and 3G, and isn’t related to your network tariff plan.

Developers get the SDK for iOS 5 right away from today, hitting consumers’ devices by “the fall”. iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad and iPad 2, plus the third and fourth generation of iPod touch will all be supported. The iCloud features also revealed will be supported by iOS 5 too.

Gerald Lynch

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