Apple unveils iOS 5 – iMessage could kill BBM

6 Jun 2011

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Apple today told developers at its WWDC that its operating system for iPads, iPhones and iPod touch devices – iOS 5 – will be released directly to developers today but it will be autumn before it is released publicly, scotching any notions there will be new iOS devices released before autumn.

At the event, Apple revealed there are now 225m Apps Store and iTunes customers – representing 225m paying credit card accounts availing of one-click purchasing.

Scott Forstall, SVP, iOS software, said there will be 200 new features in the new iOS operating system and that so far iTunes has sold more than 15bn songs.

He introduced a new feature called Newsstand – a single place in the Apps Store where you can buy newspapers and magazines. The latest issues of publications will be there for you to read if you’ve subscribed.

He also demoed a new Notification Center feature. Messages will appear while in your app, eg, in games.

Forstall revealed that the iPhone 4 is now the most popular phone camera on Flickr.

One of the neat new features of iOS 5 is that there’s now a camera button on the lock screen, so users can take photos without unlocking their device or struggle with PIN numbers.

On the iPad, a new tool for splitting the keyboard in two will allow users to type more comfortably.

Apple has introduced a new built-in dictionary across all iOS devices, including a ‘define’ feature that explains a word in a document or message.

A major game-changer is the new PC-free feature that suspends the use of USB cables when setting up a new device. When you take your phone out of the box you see ‘welcome’ and you can set up and activate your device without connecting to a PC.

“iOS is now the most popular gaming platform on the planet, there are more than 100,000 game and entertainment titles in Apple’s App Store,” Forstall said.

He said there were now 50m Game Center users, compared with Xbox Live, which has been around for eight years and has around 30m users.

New social features in iOS 5 – iMessage to kill BBM?

In a clear signal that Apple intends to conquer social in the post-PC world, Forstall introduced a new messaging service between all iOS users called iMessage that represents a serious challenge to BlackBerry’s BBM free messaging platform.

It also looks set to have mobile operators pondering their futures as the free messaging platform could damage the lucrative SMS market.

The new iMessage platform lets iOS device owners send text messages, photos, videos, contacts, and even do group messaging.

Apple said the new iOS will go directly to developers today but it will be autumn before it is made publicly available.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com