Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) seeded iOS 5 beta 5 to registered developers over the weekend, and multiple sources report the release includes the much-rumored Apple Assistant speech-to-text controls. Powered by speech recognition software firm Nuance Communications, Assistant leverages on-device and cloud processing to recognize natural speech instructions related to search, messaging and similar functionalities. MacRumors reports the Assistant interface is not yet functional, speculating Apple is still in negotiations with Nuance--sources also believe the new feature will be limited to the iPhone and iPod touch, although iPad support remains a possibility.
For the most part, iOS 5 beta 5 emphasizes bug fixes and related tweaks--BGR has the complete changelog here. Notable developer updates include a new inherited CSS property, -webkit-overflow-scrolling, a value touch enabling web developers to opt in to native-style scrolling in an overflow:scroll element. The default value for this property is auto, allowing single-finger scrolling without momentum. Beta 5 also fixes Xcode-based device restores disabled in beta 4, although Xcode now fails to build Page-based templates. Developers can work around the issue by adding the Core Graphics framework to their project.
The release of beta 5 follows on the heels of reports Apple has quietly started approving App Store submissions compatible with iOS 5, suggesting the upgraded OS could formally launch as soon as next month. Cult of Mac reports that Apple has approved at least two iOS 5 updates: Version 1.5.4 of the Mashable! application explicitly cites "iOS 5 compatibility," while tap tap tap's Camera+ is more sly, indicating "compatibility with that upcoming OS That Must Not Be Named."
First unveiled in June during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS 5 heralds more than 200 new user features and brings 1,500 new APIs. It is first and foremost about seamless integration with Apple's free iCloud service, which replaces Apple's premium MobileMe offering. The iCloud automatically syncs content on Apple servers for access across iOS devices as well as Macs and PCs--each day, iCloud Backup saves information from the user's iOS devices over Wi-Fi, storing content including purchased music, apps and books, as well as photos, videos, device settings and app data. In addition, Apple's App Store and iBookstore now download purchased iOS apps and books to all authorized devices, not just the unit on which they were purchased.
Last week, Apple released the beta version of iCloud to developer partners, in the process revealing its storage upgrade pricing plans. Apple previously stated that all iOS 5 and Mac OS X Lion users will be given 5 GB of free iCloud storage--users looking to expand their digital lockers will be charged $20 per year for 15 GB total, $40 per year for 25 GB or $100 per year for 55 GB total.
- read this MacRumors article
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