updated 03:18 pm EDT, Mon June 11, 2012
Passbook app keeps digital passes in central spot
At today's WWDC 2012 keynote, Apple formally unveiled iOS 6, its next-generation mobile OS. In all the firmware is said to have some 200 new features, foremost of which is a new Maps app. The software severs ties with Google, and has several major new features including local business search, and 3D map views in some cities, using vector and/or aerial imagery. Turn-by-turn navigation has been introduced, which also supports Siri commands such as navigation and point-of-interest requests. Traffic data is based on real-time anonymous data from iOS users.
Siri functionality is being expanded in several other ways as well, such as movies, sports, and the ability to launch apps. The technology is coming to the third-generation iPad for the first time, and new language options include Spanish, Italian, French, German and Korean, as well as Canadian English and French, Mandarin for Taiwan, Cantonese for Hong Kong, and both Mandarin and Cantonese for mainland China. A platform called "Eyes Free" will see buttons appear on car steering wheels, letting people trigger Siri without having to pick up their device. BMW, GM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda are all promising support in next 12 months.
Facebook support is now being integrated throughout the OS. Similar to the way Twitter integration works, this involves a one-time sign-in, and sharing options like posting images from Photos, URLs from Safari, and locations from Maps. Users will also be able to post status updates via Siri, however, and sync contacts.
Another focus area is the Phone app. During incoming calls, for instance, people will be able to slide up to be reminded of the call later, or send a message back; buttons will present quick message options such as "call me later." Smart reminders can be set to trigger based on location, for instance telling the user to call someone after leaving the office. Call screening has also been implemented, letting people block select numbers or everyone. Users can toggle whether or not they want to let numbers through after multiple attempts.
FaceTime now works over both Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connections, and providing a phone number and an Apple ID will permit users to pick up on multiple devices. Safari has seen several changes, such as access to desktop tabs via iCloud, quick photo upload to sites like Shutterfly, and a mostly developer-oriented feature called Smart App Banners. These will trigger when Safari users visit certain webpages, redirecting people to an App Store page to download a related app.
An entirely new app is the Passbook, which gathers together boarding passes, movie tickets, and other similar material into a central location. Fandango, United, Amtrak, Starbucks, and Apple retail stores are among early participating companies. The data in passes can update dynamically -- for example changing the gate on an airplane ticket -- and it can be made location-aware, popping up the app when near a venue.
The Mail app now highlights "VIP" messages in the app and on the lockscreen. Photos and videos can be inserted directly into the app's composition window, and password-protected Office documents can be accessed. Some other changes include pull-to-refresh, and separate personal and work signatures.
Miscellaneous upgrades to the OS entail Photo Stream image sharing, a Do Not Disturb mode, support for Chinese services such as Baidu, Todou, and Youku, and Xbox Live-style achievements in Game Center. A Guided Access option can temporarily remove the ability to leave an app, while a new Lost Mode displays a notification people who discover an iPhone can tap to contact the owner. "Made for iPhone" hearing aids are being supported, providing access to certified hearing assistance.
The final version of iOS 6 will ship sometime in the fall. The beta is available to developers today; users must have at least an iPhone 3GS, second-generation iPad, or fourth-generation iPod touch.