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New iOS 5 beta reveals control panel that replaces physical buttons

Apple has released a new beta version of iOS 5 to developers that adds a new panel for controlling the device without having to use physical buttons.

Apple has released a new beta version of iOS 5 to developers ahead of the operating system's official launch, revealing a few tasty features in the process, including a new panel that'll let you control your iOS device without having to resort to icky physical buttons.

The feature was spotted by Apple blog 9to5Mac, and is an accessibility tool to make Apple devices easier to use for anyone who struggles with fiddly hardware buttons.

The control panel can be accessed by swiping from a corner of the screen, and brings up a set of options including 'Home', which fills the role of the circular home button that sits under the screen. Press the 'Device' icon and you'll be served with on-screen buttons you can tap to replicate the functions of your iDevice's physical keys.

For example, tap 'volume up' to crank up the volume, tap 'lock screen' to (you guessed it) lock the device, and there's even a 'shake' button which will make your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch think it's being shaken around like a hand unwillingly covered in bees.

You can also manually rotate the screen, and lock or unlock rotation.

While it's built for users with accessibility constraints, the tool could theoretically do away with physical buttons altogether, though we'd be surprised if Apple goes for this -- you'd hardly call the iPhone 4 or iPad 2's sparse interface cluttered, and we reckon there's a thrilling physicality to mechanical clicky buttons that on-screen tech is yet to replicate.

iOS 5 packs other tasty treats too, including total independence from the soul-sucking iTunes desktop software, BBM-style instant messaging with iMessage and an Android-aping notification bar that slides down from the top of the screen.

Are you excited by iOS 5? Or is Apple's operating system starting to look a little tired? Let us know in the comments, or howl your opinions on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: 9to5Mac