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Apple announces iOS 6: new Maps, Passbook, Siri features, Facebook, and more

News by Dan Seifert on Monday June 11, 2012.

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During the keynote presentation for its 2012 Worldwide Developers Conference today, Apple unveiled iOS 6, the latest version of its operating system for mobile devices. Apple claims that iOS 6 has over 200 new features compared to iOS 5.

For iOS 6, Apple has updated the Siri personal assistant that first debuted for the iPhone 4S in iOS 5 with a host of new features. Siri now features much more in the way of general knowledge, so users can ask it for sports scores, statistics, and other information. Apple has partnered with Open Table to integrate restaurant reservations right into Siri, as well as Rotten Tomatoes for movies listings and ratings. Siri now has the ability to launch third party apps, and users can post a tweet to Twitter without having to touch the keyboard on their phones. Apple has also partnered with nine automotive manufacturers, such as BMW, Honda, GM, and Toyota to offer Eyes Free, a hands-free system supported by Siri. The Eyes Free system is expected to be available from all of the auto manufacturers within the next twelve months.

Apple has also expanded Siri's language support, so users can speak to their phones in Italian, Spanish, Canadian English, Korean, Chinese, and other languages. Siri will also be available on the new iPad with iOS 6, which it was not in iOS 5.

Like Apple did with integrating Twitter into iOS 5, iOS 6 now offers Facebook integration. Users can now post Facebook updates through Siri, share content from the Photos app or the Safari browser, and instantly post updates to Facebook right from the Notification Center. Apple has integrated Facebook into the Contacts, Calendar, and App Store apps, so users can see their Facebook events and what apps their friends are using right on their iOS devices.

Additionally, the phone app in iOS 6 has been improved with options to send a message to a declined caller, or remind the user to call the person back after a set time. The Notification Center introduced in iOS 5 now includes a Do Not Disturb feature to globally disable all notifications and alerts. Users can configure the times for the Do Not Disturb feature, as well as which callers will be allowed through during that time. Users can even choose to let a call through if the caller makes repeated calls within a set amount of time.

iOS 6 also introduces new features for Apple's FaceTime video calling service, as it now works over cellular connections in addition to Wi-Fi. Apple is unifying users' phone numbers with their Apple IDs, so they can answer FaceTime calls on their iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer.

The Safari browser has gained a number of new features in iOS 6, such as tab syncing with iCloud and offline reading lists. Photos can be uploaded to websites directly from the browser, and a new feature called smart app banners alert users to available iOS apps if they visit particular websites. Apple used an example of a user visiting yelp.com in the Safari browser and being prompted to download the Yelp iOS app.

Apple introduced Photo Stream in iOS 5 as a way to easily view photos captured on an iOS device across other Apple products, and now with iOS 6 it is adding the ability to share Photo Streams with other users. Users that are shared with will get a notification of the new Photo Stream and have the ability comment on the photos in it.

The iOS Mail app has been given an overhaul for iOS 6 as well, with new features like VIP senders, flagged mailbox, and the ability to add document or image attachments right from the compose window. The Mail app also now has the much-requested pull-to-refresh feature to reload the inbox.

New for iOS 6 is the Passbook app, which collects things like boarding passes, e-tickets, payment cards, and loyalty cards in one place. Developers can integrate with Passbook to add their own cards, which display as barcodes on the screen. No NFC here, yet. Things like boarding passes for airlines can auto update with new gate and time information, and Passbook supports geo-location, so users will be notified when they are in an area that they can use their Passbook app.

Passbook app in iOS 6
Passbook app in iOS 6

Responding to the demand for iOS devices in the classroom, Apple has developed new accessibility features for iOS 6. Specific features, like hardware buttons or areas of the touch screen, can be independently disabled, and devices can be forced to run in a single-app mode.

Also new in iOS 6 is a totally revamped Maps application. Gone is Google Maps, replaced by Apple's own homebrewed Maps app. It has over 100 million business listings, features integration with Yelp, and includes a traffic information service powered by anonymous, real-time, crowdsourced data. It also includes 3D turn-by-turn navigation, as well as integration with Siri. Flyover is a new feature in the Maps app that gives users a bird's-eye view of fully 3D-modeled cities. It is very similar to the 3D features already found in Google Maps for Android devices, but Apple has included some very detailed 3D renderings of major cities.

Apple says that these new highlighted features are just a part of the new stuff packed into iOS 6. There are tons of other new features as well, such as custom vibration settings for alerts, newly-redesigned app and music stores, focus and exposure control in the camera, and improved foreign language support.

Apple is releasing a beta version of iOS 6 to developers today, and it will be available to the public later this fall. Unfortunately, you will need to have at least an iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, or fourth generation iPod touch to use iOS6, as older devices will not be supported.

source: Apple

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About the author

Dan Seifert
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.

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