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iOS 5 announced: iMessage, Notification Center, and more; comes today for devs, this fall for everyone else

iOS 5 announced: iMessage, Notification Center, and more; comes today for devs, this fall for everyone else

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Right on schedule, Apple has announced iOS 5 at WWDC today, bringing with it a slew of new features -- many of which iPhone users have been pining for for years. Here's the full press release -- and read on for the breakdown.

Notifications, lock screen improvements, quick photo editing

First up, notifications are a biggie -- gone are the annoying modal dialogs, replaced with something called Notification Center that presents notifications, live stock quotes, and weather by dragging down from the top of the screen (a big nod to Android). Those notifications carry through to the lock screen, where you can swipe across any line item to go directly to the pertinent app. Speaking of the lock screen, you'll now be able to access the camera directly from it to nab those quick shots without fumbling around the UI first -- you can even do it if you've got a passcode set. The phone just blocks you from every other feature until you've properly unlocked. iOS 5 also adds inline quick photo editing with common tasks like red-eye reduction -- nothing fancy, it seems, just a fast way to improve shots a bit before sending them out to friends.

Newsstand, Twitter integration

Next up is Newsstand, an iBooks-like one-stop shop for newspapers and magazines that offers automatic background downloading of new content -- pick up your device and the latest issue is already available offline. Twitter integration figures prominently into the new release, too, with your login baked right into system settings; inline picture uploads are available from apps like Camera and Photos, and additional integration points can be found in Safari, YouTube, and Maps. Contact integration allows you to pull Twitter avatars for your local contact list.

Reader, Reading List, and tabbed browsing

Moving onto web-centric features, Reader and Reading List are new features for automatically reformatting web pages for better mobile viewing and for collecting them for later use -- just like Read It Later. Safari now features tabbed browsing, which means you don't need to head over to a separate screen to see the pages you've got open.

Reminders, Game Center tweaks

Apple's now jumped into the to-do list game with the introduction of Reminders, which lets you create notes and lists and schedule them to bother you either at a given date a time or -- get this -- when you reach a particular location.

That'll be perfect for reminding yourself to kick back and play a few games. Game Center is getting refreshed with a handful of new features including game recommendations, inline game downloads, and user avatars.

Mail and split keyboard

Mail gains rich text editing, automatic indentations, flags, and full-text search. On the iPad, you'll also get a gesture for going straight to your inbox. Need to know what that nine-syllable word your friend just sent you means? A dictionary is now baked into the platform and it's available everywhere. On the iPad, you get a new split keyboard if you prefer typing with your thumbs -- definitely more convenient if you're holding the tablet with your hands.

PC-free activation and software updates

As rumored, iOS 5 goes PC-free from start to finish: take your device out of the box and you can activate it without needing to plug into iTunes. Software updates now flow over the air, too, which basically takes your desktop connection out of the equation altogether if you want it to -- and they're far smaller because Apple's only pushing what has changed since the last release. No need to worry about 500MB downloads, it would seem.


And here's the doozy: iMessage, a realtime messaging system for iOS devices a la BlackBerry Messenger. As you might imagine, it's not text-only -- you can send photos, video, and contacts, and it works over both 3G and Wi-Fi connections. You can also establish messaging groups and request both delivery receipts and read receipts. A nod to the corporate world, Apple's promising secure encryption for this system.

All in all, Apple's promising over 200 new features in the platform -- just ten have been detailed in depth here today -- but a few mentioned in brief include mirroring of the iPad 2's display to televisions over AirPlay, multitasking gestures for quickly moving between apps, and Wi-Fi sync for iTunes. It's available as a beta to developers today... but end users have a bit of a wait ahead of them: Apple's saying fall, which may give Cupertino time to launch a new device or two to headline the release.

iOS 5 announced: iMessage, Notification Center, and more; comes today for devs, this fall for everyone else