Apple will release iOS 6 later this year. During the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last month, the Cupertino-based company unveiled several new hardware, but the annual event actually revolves around Apple software. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and other executives presented a horde of new information with regards to OS X Mountain Lion, which is due for release next month, and most significantly, revealed iOS 6, the next version of the company’s mobile operating system.
If the rumors about a new iPhone are true, the new smartphone will likely come with iOS 6 preinstalled. Apple already talked a lot about its desktop operating system, Mountain Lion, but iOS 6 is a great addition, as it assures users of the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch of an upcoming upgrade. Apple claims that around 200 new features are in iOS 6, most of which are small tweaks and updates. However, many of these additions will still change until and after the release.
In iOS 6, voice assistant Siri will come with a bag of new tricks, only months since its first release. Primarily, Siri will be available on the latest iPads with Retina display technology that arrived in March this year. Even though the previous version, iOS 5, already allows iPad users to have speech-to-text conversion through built-in dictation, Siri still is an iPhone 4S only feature.
The new Siri will have additional tie-ups to more databases: answer movie information and show times in nearby theaters, improved details on actors and directors, and receive scores and schedules of sporting events and player statistics. Siri will now expand from simple restaurant recommendation from Yelp to booking tables directly from its graphical interface. In addition, Siri will have the ability to launch any apps when commanded to perform such task.
Apple definitely is ramping up efforts to extend the reach of Siri, and even closing deals with carmakers to integrate an activation button for Siri within mass production cars. Dubbed as “Eyes Free”, the deals cover almost all major carmakers, but should exclude Ford units, which already had committed to Microsoft with a license agreement. If this pushes through, expect to see Siri-integrated cars starting next year.
Deeper Social Integration
Apple made sure to keep iOS 6 users updated with the latest buzz. The company’s computer scientists deeply integrated Facebook within the operating system, which they already did in iOS 5 with Twitter. Lucky upgraders can now share photos and Safari, the default browser in iOS 5, links on the world’s largest social networking site from within iOS apps via the Share button. The updated Apple apps include the App Store, Game Center iTunes and Safari. When iOS 6 arrives, app developers would have given enough time to integrate Facebook into their respective apps.
On top of that, the Notification Center will receive an upgrade to include Facebook and Twitter buttons for direct posts, and Siri integration for posting on both social networks.
Through iOS 6, Apple’s mobile devices will tighten links with social media. While this is rather late for Apple to add compared to rival mobile operating systems, owners of iOS devices, especially those who regularly use those social sharing features, will really appreciate its inclusion.
Apple also announced that deeper Facebook integration would also arrive with OS X Mountain Lion this July.
Photo Streams is set to be a big hit among family members and friends. Shared Photo Streams allows iOS 6 users to create groups that have automatic notifications with every new addition of photos, and sends these images automatically to their iPhone or iPad. As an example, you can create a group named “Family” and add all sorts of photos that falls in that category. After that, Photo Streams will immediately notify members listed in that group about the new images, which already are inside their devices. The convenience of instantly sharing selected photos with family and relatives in just a tap of the Share button is always a great addition. Shared Photo Streams will use Apple’s cloud-based storage service, iCloud, unlike the free MMS messaging service.
When first creating a Photo Stream for sharing, you will see an option to make a page of your selected photos that are viewable to the public. This allows family members and friends to see the pictures if they do not own an iOS device. After making a list of your chosen recipients, they will receive a push notification on their respective phones. The sent pictures are also viewable on the Photos application, whereas non-iOS users can see them on a customized webpage. This is a handy feature for a faster and simpler way to share photos, where you can add comments as well for a more social experience.
If you own an Apple TV that can access your Photo Stream, you can transmit pictures to the big screen and set the screensaver to display the latest pictures automatically.
Better Phone App
In iOS 6, the company will include several improvements to the default Phone app.
If you are currently on iOS 5, you will notice that when receiving a call, you can simply swipe across the screen to answer, or dismiss it with the press of a button at the top of the phone.
On iOS 6, users can slide the onscreen phone icon vertically to open newly added options, namely Remind Me Later and Reply With Message. If you choose Remind Me Later, you get to choose between time- and location-based reminders. Remind With Messages opens templates and customized messages for quick response. Moreover, there is an option for activating manually or automatically a system-wide Do Not Disturb feature. It allows you to block all incoming calls and notifications, eventually stopping those irritating iPhone bright lights after receiving emails while sleeping.
However, Apple also included a white list for selected people, which will allow their calls to connect even with Do Not Disturb activated. Another nifty feature is allowing a phone number to connect again if it makes more than one call within three minutes. The iPhone will consider it an emergency call so that it passes through.
In 2007, Apple closed an agreement with Google to provide its mobile mapping service Google Maps for all iOS devices. The company continued to use it even with each software upgrade, but this will start to change with the arrival of iOS 6.
Apple announced at the WWDC that it will drop Google as its backend maps database provider. The company decided to take advantage of in-house talent after its engineers received sufficient knowledge in an OpenStreetMap deal.
The new Maps app will have a cleaner user interface with the following: a Directions arrow, bookmarks on the top menu, and an address bar. The app uses vector-based graphics to deliver a smooth graphics experience alongside its sharp text. If you tap the Directions arrow, a Directions interface pops up. This window allows you to enter start and end locations to get directions for walking, driving or mass transit, which are similar to that of other mapping services. According to The Next Web, developers who tried it at WWDC using the developer build of iOS 6 that the last option apparently relies on third-party apps. This move might be a step back as opposed to previous versions of Maps, but we have yet to see the final build so Apple still has time to make changes.
Based on the developers who already gave it a test run, the latest Maps iteration will work just like the current version with its navigational features, which include pinch-to-zoom, two-finger double-tap to zoom out, and the standard double-tap to zoom in. Though this time around, Maps comes with new tricks, and the onscreen maps view is now rotatable and can be tilted using two-finger gestures.
The new Maps app will receive improved Siri integration, alongside a new feature calle Flyover, which provides 3D views of several large cities. If you want to get directions, Siri will guide you with turn-by-turn navigation with a relatively seamless user interface, displaying driving instructions between traffic sign illustrations. The latest traffic info is gathered from iPhones in a particular area. Maps will quickly recommend alternative routes with less traffic during peak hours. Apple touts that Maps can even display reasons for traffic jams.
Developers were in awe of the new Maps app during the WWDC keynote, which could challenge the way GPS makers make their devices.
Apple’s iOS 6 clearly comes with a slew of new and improved features that promises to give the platform’s followers enough reasons to wait for it. New Siri features, better Facebook integration, Photo Streams, a better Phone app and its own mapping service are only a handful of the 200 additions Apple did for this version. Truly, owners of supported iOS devices will not hold back once iOS 6 is released.