Rumors: iOS 5 will include new widgets, voice recognition technology

A week out from its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple has made a pretty big announcement about what we can expect to see at its summertime event: new software, new software, new software.

All this talk about new programs is cropping up perhaps to deflect from the fact that WWDC is when Apple (AAPL) traditionally announces new iPhones. Most reports and reliable information suggest that’s not the case this year, with whatever iPhone Apple has in store for 2011 being pushed back to a September release. That puts additional emphasis on the new things the company is announcing at WWDC, which, according to a release from Apple, includes its oft-rumored iCloud service and a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 5.

We’ve heard quite a bit about iCloud and how it will work, but what about iOS 5? Very little has been circulating on that front, but speculation following Apple’s release is that the new software has some very big shoes to fill. It has to keep customers interested and happy in lieu of a new piece of shiny Apple hardware for which we can all go stand in line. That means that iOS 5 could very well be a significant update from iOS 4.3, the current operating system and the latest iteration of the software that brought key new features like AirPlay to the iPhone and iPad.

GigaOM has a great, comprehensive story about what to expect from all the software Apple has said will be announced at WWDC, and specifically about iOS 5. The rumors break down into four major new features.

Up first is Nuance voice recognition technology. This is the big one, and rumor has it that Apple has been in licensing talks with Nuance, with reports that the technology will make it into iOS 5. Nuance’s technology for voice recognition could be available for developers to use as they create apps, which could really make some big changes to the way the iPhone and the iPad are used – but really, we have very few details about Nuance or what Apple plans to do with it. What it doesn’t seem like it will be used for, for whatever reason, is Apple’s voice command feature on the iPhone. Instead, Apple reportedly wants Nuance technology to be used for more core iPhone functions.

Next, Apple will be bringing a “completely revamped” system of notifications to its mobile devices with iOS 5, according to TechCrunch. That doesn’t sound like too big a change, but if you consider how many push notifications routinely appear on an iPhone screen in a given day, it adds up, especially if Apple has found a way to make those notifications better and less clunky.

TechCrunch also says Apple is working on adding “widgets” to iOS 5, something that Google (GOOG) has had in its Android operating system for a long time. Apple is expected to incorporate widgets that give live notifications of status updates to its OS X Mac operating system, providing fast and easy information at a glance without having to open a whole app, for example. That also could be a big improvement to the workings of iOS.

Finally, GigaOM reports that current iOS code indicates more media libraries and streaming capabilities to be integrated in lots of iPhone features across the device. These could be tie-ins with iCloud to better allow access to things like video, music and photo streaming through that service. The Photo Stream service, for example, sounds like something more social that will allow users to share photos with others in a way similar to services such as Instagram.

All these features are speculative at this point, but they all would make significant improvements to iOS at a time when Apple could really stand to make the iPhone experience fresh again. Some cool things for Apple CEO Steve Jobs to talk about, especially in touting how iOS 5 is made better with iCloud, is likely to garner a lot of excitement for iPhone users even without a new device to show off.

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