Apple unveiled its next major mobile operating system update today. Due this fall, iOS 5 will drastically change the way notifications are handled with the addition of a Notification Center. Instead of issuing individual prompts, the service will aggregate alerts, allowing you to view new text messages, voice mails and other updates in one location. You'll also be able to address alerts by launching their associated app from within the Notification Center or at the lock screen.

Users will find it easier to maintain iOS 5 devices as Apple aims to sever the tie between iOS products and PCs. Currently, users have to connect their iOS product to a machine running iTunes to update the device's operating system, but iOS 5 will be able to perform over-the-air updates. Likewise, new customers will be able to activate their devices without a computer, and the iPod, iPhone or iPad will be able to sync with iTunes via Wi-Fi -- a long demanded feature.

Apple also plans to introduce iMessage, a new message application that can send text, photo, and video messages. The service will be exclusive to iOS users, work over 3G and Wi-Fi, and will serve as an alternative to traditional text messaging -- not unlike RIM's BlackBerry Messenger service. Besides the typical SMS/MMS functionality, iMessage will offer delivery receipts, read receipts, user typing indications, and of course, it will use the new Notification Center.

The next iteration of iOS will further support digital publishing with the addition of an iBooks-like app that handles magazine subscriptions. New magazine issues will automatically download so you can access them later without a connection. Additionally, mobile Safari will receive the desktop's "Reader" functionality, which lets you access Web content in a clean format, sans site navigation, advertisements and other elements that might be unnecessary or otherwise distracting.

Folks with hectic schedules will appreciate the new Reminders app, which allows you to store to-do lists, set time and location-specific notifications, and sync data with iCal on the Mac and Outlook on Windows. Apple claims iOS 5 will bring over 200 new features, and frankly, there's simply too much to cover in a single post. You can expect updates for the Camera, Mail, Game Center, Weather, and FaceTime, apps, a new iPad music app, new gestures and tons more.