WWDC 2011: Apple iOS 5 integrates Twitter, sports new notification menu

One of the bigger mysteries before Apple CEO Steve Jobs' keynote at WWDC 2011on Monday was the expected unveiling of iOS 5. Here's what it really is.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

One of the bigger mysteries before Apple CEO Steve Jobs' keynote at WWDC 2011on Monday was the expected unveiling of iOS 5. Here's what it really is.

Mac OS X isn't the only Apple operating system getting a major refresh. iOS 5 will feature over 200 new features - most notably a new notification interface. Rather than just popping up (way too frequently) like text messages, notifications such as missed calls, texts, emails and other app messages will pop up either at the top of the display (much like the blue bar when tethering or the green bar when in the middle of a call), and also collected in its own menu that can also show up on the lock screen. However, it already has a lot of critics saying it looks rather "Droid-esque."

The most surprising feature revealed during the keynote was iMessage, a new real-time messaging service that lets iOS users send texts, photos and videos to other iOS users over Wi-Fi and 3G. Recipients are notified of incoming messages using the new aforementioned push notification system, which sends the message to all of the owner's iOS devices. Much like BlackBerry Messenger, iOS users can receive delivery and read receipts. It's not clear whether or not this service will be completely free of charge (like the BBM system) or if it will fall under the data plan allotment when sent via 3G.

The iBookstore is also getting a partner-of-sorts in the form of the Newsstand. It's curious that this app didn't exist before considering how popular the iPad is for reading magazines, but it's certainly better late than never. It's fairly straightforward: users can purchase magazines and newspapers directly from the app (just like the iBookstore), and the issues will be downloaded and kept in one place.

As predicted, Twitter is making a huge appearance on iOS 5 with several new integrated features, seen foremost in Camera. Users can just take a photo and tweet the picture directly from the app. (Just another way for Twitter cut out the third-party developers...) Twitter members can also send article links directly from Safari as well as locations from Maps.

Mail is possibly getting the most revisions across Apple's platforms. The iOS 5 version will offer rich-text formatting, a built-in dictionary, the ability to drag addresses between To:/CC:/BCC:, search throughout entire messages (not just the subject lines), and S/MIME security. The iPad edition will also get a nifty new virtual keyboard layout for more thumb-friendly typing.

Other rather basic new features include a reading list on Safari (that can sync among multiple devices), a reminders function that syncs with iCal and (finally) a camera button on the lock screen to take photos semi-instantly.

Scott Forstall, Apple's SVP of iOS software, also touted the supremacy of iOS among mobile operating systems (meaning both tablets and smartphones) by citing an April comScore report that saw Apple win 44 percent of the mobile operating system share. (Not to be confused with the smartphone share numbers that saw Android on top domestically by the end of April.)

By the numbers:

  • Over 25 million iPads have been sold since the original 2010 launch
  • More than 15 billion songs have been sold via iTunes Music Store - making Apple the biggest retailer of music worldwide
  • 14 billion apps have been downloaded from App Store (including 90,000 just for the iPad)
  • iBookstore has seen 130 million e-book downloads
  • Apple has paid out over $2.5 billion to developers
  • There are more than 225 million accounts with credit cards and one-touch purchase power

The developer preview is available immediately, and the full-fledged iOS 5 update will roll out this fall for the iPhone 3GS/4, iPad and iPad 2, and the third and fourth generation of iPod touch. Getting the upgrade will be easier to come by now that Apple will finally be offering over-the-air software updates. The cord-cutting process also allows iOS users to create and delete calendars and mailboxes directly on the device - not just on a PC.

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