Loads of speculation recently about the release of the iPhone5, but this appears to be the most credible report and hints that the new iPhone could be released on 28 September or 5 October
iOS5, the next version of Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad operating system, is heading towards a release in the next two weeks, developers say – which means that a refreshed iPhone is almost certain to be announced in the same timeframe.
iOS developers were warned by Apple on Sunday that on Thursday 22 September “the iCloud backup data will be reset. Backing up to iCloud or restoring from an iCloud backup will be unavailable from 9am PDT-5pm PDT… After this reset, you will be unable to restore from any backup created prior to September 22. A full backup will happen automatically the next time your device backs up to iCloud.”
Why does this matter? Because iOS5 has been in beta since 6 June, when it was announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC). The expectation is that its final GM (“gold master”), working version will be released to the world this month – and what would x.0 Apple iOS release be if it didn’t bring a new phone with it too? According to the Wikipedia article on the timing of iOS releases, that would be unusual. So people are expecting the next iPhone at the same time.
Why though were developers told that their existing backups would be wiped? “Because the backup format has been finalised and old ones that aren’t in that format shouldn’t remain [in iCloud],” one developer told me. There’s that word – “finalised”.
Developers that I contacted say that iOS 5 seems to be ready for prime time: “[the most recent] iOS 5 beta 7 is two weeks old. I have faith that Apple has an internal build which fixes most of the outstanding issues. We’ve been told iCloud will be reset on 22 September, which seems to indicate something is happening,” said one. “My guess would be another beta on Friday (which may be the same as the GM), followed by an Apple event on [September] 28 or the following Wednesday where the GM will be released.”
So that gives you a couple of dates to mark on your calendar. Some aren’t waiting – the perhaps opportunistic businessmobiles.com is already faxing companies and people (I forbear to say “junk-faxing” – I’m sure some people are happy to receive them) with the fabulous chance to pre-order the iPhone 5: here’s the picture of the fax, via Matt Brian of The Next Web. (Unfortunately they haven’t actually got a picture of the iPhone 5. Now that would be news.)
When I phoned businessmobiles to ask where it was getting them from, and how soon, the answers were “don’t honestly know” (though obviously it will be a carrier) and “before Christmas”. OK, so that’s your backstop date. But the salesperson said that since the faxes started going out on Thursday he personally had taken 15 (individual) orders, and that interest was running higher than for the recently released range of BlackBerry phones (which you would expect would do better than iPhones, being usually thought of as a business phone).
Apple PR did not respond to a request for comment on the timing of the iOS 5 or next iPhone launch by time of publication.
So what should you expect from iOS 5 – which you’ll recall introduces Android-like notifications, BlackBerry Messenger-killer (or at least pain in right knee-er) iMessage, geofenced reminders, deep Twitter integration and various other things (such as being able to take a picture without unlocking the camera – though we can see that one going wrong).
Here’s the view from a mixture of developers who’ve been trying it.
How different does it look?
“From a user’s front end, it’s probably not going to feel like a huge jump straight away, so I think you’ll find a lot of ‘huh? Is that it?’ comments. Visually, the core thing that changes is how the system deals with notifications from apps, which is now very Android-like.”
“Some of the biggest changes come within what apps can do themselves (and so general users are unlikely to directly credit Apple with some of the changes coming).”
What’s the Twitter support like?
Twitter support is baked in, although oddly you do need to download the free Twitter app to activate it. This may be a pre-launch requirement rather than an ongoing thing, of course. Once iOS devs can release code built on the v5 code, Twitter apps will be able to use any account info defined within Settings as well as use a special Twitter-friendly keyboard with @ and # available from the off (kind of like the email and URL special keyboards).
What about iCloud (which synchronises between your computer, tablet and phone)?
One dev says:
“The integration with iCloud is looking very smart, but I haven’t got any apps which need that functionality so I’m not too hot on how it works in reality compared with how the docs /say/ it will work… Similarly, I know of several magazine publishers who are waiting to release apps that integrate with the new Newsstand folder. Until they do, it’s just an undeletable icon that does nothing of use.”
“The riskiest bit seems to be iCloud at the moment, specifically iTunes Match. In early beta’s the whole syncing/backup piece was a bit hit and miss – duplicating contacts, bookmarks and the like – but I’ve been testing across multiple Mac’s and iOS devices and those kinks seem to have been worked out. Since iTunes Match was released to developers, the Music app has became quite unstable – its slow and a bit unpredictable. Some songs won’t play, it starts playing randomly (this is a bit strange, seems to be tied to when I go from signal/no-signal areas).”
How does it compare to Android?
“iOS 5 takes an already great platform and builds in more incentives to buy into the whole iOS/Mac ecosystem. iCloud/iMessage are great examples of this – and they are also things which separate it from Android. No Android device vendor can offer that fully integrated solution.
“For developers, iOS has always been the better choice in terms of tools and SDK – Android has always been a bit sparse in this area. With iOS 5, Apple has introduced a lot of new API’s and features which will make it easier to write apps.”
“The only real advantage for developers that Android [now] has, and it depends what kind of app you are writing, is that with Android there is no app store review/approval process.”
“The new functionality for the most part seems rock solid – Reminders, Notifications, Sync/Backup, Twitter, iMessage….
What’s new under the hood?
• Developer support for creating multi-touch gestures,
• CoreImage which allows developers to manipulate 2D images and apply photoshop-like effects and filters,
• ARC which I suspect is part of a much larger plan. ARC basically makes developing for iOS much more accessible, and negates the need for developers to do complicated memory management.
• Full support for UI automation and testing
One dev says:
“My biggest bugbear at the moment (on my lowly 3GS) is the number of times app quit due to memory shortages, or because they’ve taken too long to load. I’m hoping that the debugging code within the iOS core is partly to blame here, and once it reaches release the core’s footprint will shrink and things will run as smoothly as iOS 4.
If it doesn’t, and I have to get used to frequent app crashes on my 3GS, then I’ll be disappointed. Of course, I’ve had it so long that an upgrade to a 4 or (more likely) a 5 isn’t too far away, but I’d like my iPhone to remain functional but slow. It’s hard to type on an iPhone keyboard when you’re also crossing your fingers it won’t crash.
(Note that the 3GS is the oldest model that will be supported by iOS5.).
So the drums are beginning to beat.
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