Ina Fried

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Apple: IOS 5 to Offer Improved Browsing, Notifications, Twitter Integration, 197 Other Features

After showing off Lion, the next version of Mac OS X, Apple detailed iOS 5, the next version of the software that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, among other devices. It is due out this fall.

Apple’s Scott Forstall promised that “iOS 5 is a major release” with 1,500 new interfaces for developers and 200 new features for consumers. Forstall said he would highlight 10 of those features, starting with improved notifications. A new “Notification Center” can be reached by swiping down from the top of an iOS screen, Forstall said. The notifications will no longer interrupt an active app, he said.

Developers will get a build of the new operating system this week; it will be made available to the public this fall for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, all iPads and the two most recent iPod Touch versions.

Twitter will also be integrated deeper into iOS, including into the camera and other programs. Users can also tweet from within Safari, YouTube and other built-in apps. Safari itself has also been enhanced to make for easier reading, with a single scrolling story option for long articles and a “reading list” option that syncs with other iOS devices and Safari on a Mac.

A new iMessage service will also allow users to send messages from iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch. (While the iPhone supports text messages, the other two devices don’t.) The iMessage app will also support features popular on BlackBerry message and other chatting programs such as delivery receipt and even the ability to find out if a message has been read or when a user is typing a reply. The encrypted iMessages can be sent over Wi-Fi or 3G, Apple said.

With iOS 5, Apple also won’t require a user to have a PC or Mac, allowing users to set up a new iPhone or iPad directly from the device and get over-the-air updates.

The new version of iOS will also include a digital newsstand, offering a new hub for newspapers and periodicals. News apps can download and update in the background and show up in a special place for offline reading. Newsstand draws on the subscription features Apple recently added for publications.

Publishers had been looking for the additional shelf space so they wouldn’t have to fight for attention with Angry Birds and other apps, while background downloading will make it easier for users to get the latest content.

One firm unlikely to be happy with the new reading list features is Instapaper, which has a popular app that offers such capabilities.

Another feature is location-based reminders that let you send a note or get a reminder when you reach a certain pre-specified location.

The company is also upgrading the camera app with a feature that lets you get to the camera straight from the lock screen and use the volume button to take a picture. (Windows Phone 7 did a nice job integrating this feature into all of their devices.)

“We’re making it way faster to just get in and take photos,” Forstall said. There are also new controls for editing and controlling photo-taking features, including one-tap enhance, cropping and rotating, as well as the ability to lock auto-exposure for a part of a picture.

On the mail front, Apple is adding new search capabilities as well as some new enterprise features, including encrypted mail for certain contacts.

Apple is also adding a split keyboard to make for easier thumb typing on a tablet. Microsoft showed a similar feature in its Windows 8 demo last week.

The company is also improving its Game Center to allow for turn-based apps integration as well as other features.

Forstall announced that Apple has sold 200 million iOS devices including 25 million iPads. The company has also sold 15 billion songs and 130 million books for those devices. Also, 14 billion apps have been downloaded, with Apple paying out more than $2.5 billlion to developers.

As it did with the Lion preview, Apple also threw up a slide listing dozens of other features. For iOS 5, the additional features include new gestures, Wi-Fi syncing, and a personal dictionary.

Later in the keynote, Apple is slated to introduce the company’s iCloud service.

Apple’s iOS 5 demo is still ongoing. I’ll update this post as more details are announced. For all the latest from WWDC, check out our ongoing live blog of Monday’s keynote.

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