Apple testing iOS 5 with third-party apps

Apple is testing internally the next major iOS release with third-party applications, according to some trace evidence uncovered by an iPhone software developer.

The evidence is in a crash report, received by Munich, Germany-based FutureTap, which developed the Where To? app, which helps users search for nearby businesses or attractions, call up information about them and get directions. The company tweeted: "Just received the first iOS 5.0 crash report. MKUserLocationBreadCrumb sounds interesting."

MORE ON APPLE: Apple clarifies iPhone tracking practice, vows software tweaks

App developers can receive crash reports when their iOS app is disrupted or breaks for some reason. The data is used to diagnose what went wrong. Among the data is an indication of the iOS version. In this case, the crash report indicated that the Where To? app was running on a handset with the as-yet-unreleased, and unannounced, iOS 5.

AppleInsider's Daniel Eran Dilger unpacked more of the details: The MKUserLocation class, present since iOS 3.0 as part of the iOS MapKit framework, is used to look up the device's current location. "MKUserLocationBreadCrumb indicates a new feature related to tracking changes in the user's reported location over time," according to Dilger. Currently, MapKit relies on Google Maps and Google Earth services.

One of the main rumors around iOS 5 is that it will have a much improved ability to tie into Internet-based cloud services. Among other things, this improvement might let users stream content and sync directly with the iTunes service, rather than first plugging their iPhone into a PC or Mac running the iTunes application.

Some sources see the imminent opening of Apple's massive North Carolina data center as the key enabler of improved cloud services for iOS devices.

Dates for the release of iOS 5 are all over the map. In early March, there was speculation it would be unveiled in April. By the end of March, the speculation was predicting a fall 2011 release for the OS, with a preview for developers at Apple's June Worldwide Developers Conference.

Another rumor is that iOS 5 will support improved voice control of the device, recognizing simple English commands.

A list of hoped-for iOS 5 features was put together by BusinessInsider, based on a survey of iOS developers. Besides improved cloud services, the list includes better notifications and alerts, an improved camera program, expanded social networking features, and a way for apps to update themselves (via push or pull capability) when they're not in use.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.



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