Beta release of iOS 5.1 includes reference codes to unannounced versions of the iPhone and iPad, though new features appear to be scarce.
Apple has seeded iOS 5.1 beta to those who develop applications for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Typically, point-one updates to iOS add new features, even if minor ones. With iOS 5.1, there are no new, obvious features found in the software itself, nor called out by Apple in the changelog. Instead, the changelog notes all the known bugs in the software and little else.
Some probably hope that the update resolves the ongoing battery life problem that iPhones have exhibited since iOS 5 went live in October. Apple claimed the problem was software related, and released iOS 5.0.1 in an attempt to solve the battery issue. For many, iOS 5.0.1 made the battery problem much, much worse.
While we wait for word on that, developers have already spotted some interesting bits of code in the new version of iOS.
First, there's a reference to a device codenamed iPad2,4.
(Apple usually gives its iOS devices such codenames, and they signify the different generations of products, such as differing between the original iPad and the iPad 2, or the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S. Think of this number as a chassis designation.)
Right now, some believe that this iPad 2,4 designation could refer to a Sprint-specific model, perhaps one that includes WiMax. The new code also refers to iPad3,1 and iPad3,2. These could be next-gen versions of the iPad, which is widely expected to debut by March or April 2012. Either way, these designations don't refer to the current generation.
Next up, there are references to a device called the iPhone 5,1, according to a developer. Could this be a codename for the iPhone 5, which many believe will launch next summer with a larger display? Possibly.
Last, iOS 5.1 beta mentions something called the J33, which 9to5Mac posits refers to a refreshed version of the Apple TV. Reports of a new Apple TV have been swirling around the Internet for more than a month now, but no solid details have emerged. Perhaps this code is all we'll get before Apple makes a full announcement.
Do these little reference numbers really tell us anything we didn't already know? Nah. We know Apple is working on a new iPad and a new iPhone, just like Ford is always tweaking the Mustang, and Chevy is always tweaking the Silverado.
New hardware is on the way. Eventually. Until then, the software is more interesting.
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