Apple seeds iOS 5 Gold Master in advance of Oct. 12 launch

Hours after a media event confirming the Oct. 14 retail release of the iPhone 4S, the newest iteration of the iconic smartphone, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) seeded the Gold Master pre-release version of its new iOS 5 operating system update to registered developers. has the complete change log here. Officially known as 9A334, the Gold Master edition is essentially identical to the version slated for public distribution--Apple plans to issue iOS 5 to consumers on Oct. 12.

Apple promises more than 200 new features in iOS 5 as well as backwards-compatibility with devices dating back to the iPhone 3GS. Speaking last week at a media event at the company's Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, Apple senior vice president of iOS software Scott Forstall spotlighted many of his favorite new features in the update, including iMessage (a free SMS alternative enabling users to send free text messages, photos and videos between all iOS devices), location-based Reminders, deep Twitter integration, Newsstand (an in-house distribution system for iPad magazine content), an improved Safari browser and PC-free activation.

First announced in June during Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, iOS 5 also touts seamless integration with the new iCloud, which replaces Apple's premium MobileMe offering. The iCloud service 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.

The iOS 5 launch additionally heralds the introduction of voice recognition technologies acquired by Apple when it purchased startup Siri roughly 18 months ago. The Siri software enables iOS device users to employ natural spoken language to access and perform device tasks like mobile search, messaging and contacts--Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller described the solution as an "intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking." Schiller said Siri works with all built-in iOS apps and operates across both Wi-Fi and 3G networks. The technology will support English, French and German during its initial beta launch.

Forstall said Apple has seeded beta versions of iOS 5 to more than 100,000 registered developers. He also stated that the company has paid developers more than $3 billion in revenues derived from App Store sales. According to Forstall, the App Store now boasts more than 500,000 iOS applications in all, including 140,000 optimized expressly for the iPad tablet--consumers have downloaded 18 billion iOS apps in all, with downloads exceeding 1 billion each month.

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