Aside from the new MacBook Pro line, the next generation MacBook Pro, and the MacBook Air refresh, the big news coming out of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco yesterday was iOS 6, an update to Apple’s mobile operating system that will be coming sometime this fall. Plenty of new features will be heading to iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch owners, including a new and improved Siri (who is coming to the new iPad), a new Maps app, Facebook integration, and Passbook, a mobile payment and ticketing app.
The most significant Siri news is probably that the golden-voiced one will be heading to the iPad (only the new iPad). You can also get sports scores, movie times, and restaurant reviews courtesy of Yelp from Siri. You can also use her to make restaurant reservations. Siri will be able to launch apps with voice commands, too. She’s also gotten some quality schooling, and has come out of it with proficiency in Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Cantonese Chinese. Siri can also post status updates to Twitter and Facebook, taking advantage of that new Facebook integration we’ll get to later. Early word is that Siri’s increasingly maligned speech recognition still needs some work, but at least she’ll be a little more useful when fall rolls around.
Maps will no longer be using Google Maps, but that might not necessarily be a good thing – at least not yet. Apple has some to work to do before they can match what Google offers, but I guess it’s to be expected that Apple would want to break with Google every chance they get. Vector-based graphics improves loading times and makes zooming smoother (no more tile loading), and turn-by-turn navigation, as given by Siri, will be available and powered by TomTom. Crowdsourced real-time traffic information will also be available. Local search will serve the same purpose as Google’s new Local+ service, using Yelp to give restaurant and entertainment reviews and photos. Flyover will eventually provide photo-realistic 3D bird’s eye view maps, but Apple still has a long way to go before finishing that up. Giving Google the boot will mean that iOS users will no longer have access to street view or local public transportation information via Maps.
Facebook integration has come to iOS. Once you download the update, you’ll be able to log in to your account through iOS, which will allow you to share things directly through several Apple apps. You’ll be able to share photos on Facebook directly through the Photos app, and integration with the new Maps app and Safari is also present. As mentioned before, you can post using Siri, or post directly from Notification Center. Probably the most useful part of Facebook integration is that your Contacts app will be automatically updated when your contacts on Facebook make changes to their profiles.
Next up is Passbook, which will store everything from boarding passes to concert tickets to loyalty cards for restaurants and shops. You can also store coupons, and have them scanned at participating locations. Everything on passbook is tied to time and location – for example, if your scheduled departure time for a flight is nearing, your boarding pass will automatically appear on the lock screen, or if your phone’s GPS detects that you have entered a certain shop or restaurant, your loyalty card will appear. Passbook will also be able to notify you of changes or delays for flights.
Aside from those features, iOS 6 has a whole host of little goodies to explore, especially if you don’t like talking to people. Do Not Disturb will keep your iOS dark and silent for a select amount of time. You’ll still receive calls, texts, and notifications – you just won’t see them until after the phone is disengaged from Do Not Disturb mode. You do have the option to allow calls from certain numbers, and you will be notified if you receive repeated calls from one number, in case of emergency. You can also reject calls with a programmed message, and set reminders for yourself to call the person back.
FaceTime can now be used over data networks, which might end up being one of the best announcements of the whole press conference. Another exciting addition is iCloud Tabs, which will sync Safari tabs across all Apple devices that are connected to a single account. Guided Access allows parents, teachers, and administrators to lock hardware buttons, keeping kids, students, or employees locked into one app.
None of these updates are particularly groundbreaking, though they will improve the iOS user experience greatly, with maybe the exception of the new Maps app, which looks like it has more to do with the Apple-Google blood feud and less to do with customer satisfaction at the moment. And, here, have the obligatory “You’ve been able to do these things with Android for a while now.” It’s mostly true, with Passbook taking after Google Wallet as an example.
But, if you’re an owner of Apple devices, you probably don’t care what Android can do. In that case, rest assured – even though iOS 6 doesn’t bring any core changes to the table, it’s packing a lot of added functionality for you to explore and use. The update will be available for the iPhone (3GS and up), iPad (iPad 2 and up), and fourth generation iPod Touch this fall, though, as mentioned above with Siri, not all features will be available for all of those iOS devices.