Apple announced iOS 6 on Monday, a major upgrade for its mobile platform that includes a number of new features. As part of the company’s annual World Wide Developer Conference keynote, Apple showed off new Siri features, a new mapping service, Facebook integration, FaceTime enhancements, Notification Center improvements, and new app called Passbook.
iOS 6 on iPhone & iPad
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Passbook & Maps
We’ve covered Passbook and Maps separately, but the short version for both is as follows: Passbook manages customer loyalty cards and digital tickets for services such as airlines and movie theaters, and can display the appropriate card or ticket using iOS 6’s geofencing feature.
Apple’s Maps app features “Apple-designed cartography,” including vector-based map elements that Apple says will look better, turn-by-turn navigation, crowd-sourced traffic information, and a flyover mode with photo-realistic 3D views.
Apple also showed off new Siri features, including adding Siri to the new iPad. The company is adding in support for Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese to the English, French, German, and Japanese that was already supported.
The company hasn’t yet released an SDK that will allow third party developers to tap into Siri, but Apple vice president Scott Forstall showed off the ability of Siri to launch those apps, an important feature that will greatly enhance Siri’s usefulness.
Siri also has integrated access with sports scores and movie listings, including the ability to connect to Fandango or watch movie trailers directly from within Siri’s interface. Siri will also be able to post directly to Facebook and Twitter, and Apple demonstrated an “Eyes Free” mode that we think will make Siri safer for drivers.
Apple is adding the ability to make a FaceTime call over cellular networks. FaceTime is Apple’s video call platform, and until now it has relied on an Internet connection. During Apple’s WWDC keynote, the company also said that users would be able to take FaceTime calls on their iPads and Macs.
Apple has, at long last, integrated Facebook with iOS. That integration will allow users to sign in once to Facebook and be able to then access their accounts from whatever apps tap into the social networking service. This is similar to the Twitter integration that was built into iOS 5. Users will be able to post to Facebook directly from Notification Center, and interact with Facebook from Photos, Safari, and Maps.
Apple is also giving Facebook access to your Contacts, which means that if your friends change their contact information, it will be updated for you in Address Book. Birthdays and other events can also be updated from Facebook.
Perhaps signalling a death knell for Ping, Apple will also allow users to Like content directly from the App Store and iTunes, and to see what their friends are recommending.
Lock It Down with Guided Access
Apple introduced a feature called Guided Access that is tailor made for education, and to a lesser extent, retail and other commercial settings. Guided Access allows an iPad to be locked down to one app, including the ability to disable hardware buttons like the Home button. Guided Access also includes the ability to confine touch input to specific parts of the screen.
“This new feature allows a parent, teacher or administrator to disable hardware buttons to lock an iOS device into a single app, especially useful for test taking or helping someone with a disability stay focused on learning,” Apple said in a statement.
For instance, a student could take a test on an iPad without being able to go to another app (like Safari) to cheat.
Other New Features
- Enhancements to Safari, the world’s most popular mobile browser, such as iCloud tabs, offline reading lists, photo uploads and full screen view;
- Support for FaceTime calls over cellular networks;
- The ability to set up a VIP Mailbox, making it easier to quickly view messages from important people you designate as VIPs;
- The option to decline incoming calls with a quick message, set a callback reminder and enable a new Do Not Disturb option;
- A whole new set of improvements and services specifically for iOS users in China, such as improved text input and built-in support for popular Chinese services including Baidu, Sina Weibo, Youku and Tudou.
iOS 6 will be free for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod touch (fourth generation), and it is scheduled for release sometime in the fall.