updated 03:50 pm EDT, Mon June 10, 2013
Apple Radio, activation lock, Siri car integration key features of update
[Updated with tweet from Sen. John McCain] In parallel with the hardware announcements at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference, Apple announced the availability of an iOS 7 beta for the iPhone. Calling it "the biggest change to the iOS since the introduction of the iPhone," the new version of the operating system adds nearly 100 new features according to Apple.
Key features added to the new version of the OS include multitasking for all apps with the operating system keeping track of which apps need to be updated based on use, background updating of apps, enhanced push notification, and easier overview of running apps. The Mobile Safari browser has seen significant renovation. The new version includes tabbed full-screen browsing, an iCloud chain, and most of the innovations with OS X "Mavericks." The latest iOS devices will be able to use a feature called "AirDrop," rapidly allowing for file transfer between devices, similar to "Bump" on Android and Samsung handsets.
Also notable is Activation Lock -- if a phone is stolen, and the user chooses to disable the handset remotely using the "find my iPhone" set of features, the device can't be reactivated or used in any way without the entry of both the iCloud user name as well as the password for the device.
The keynote speech to the conference demonstrated greatly improved Siri integration with car in-dash systems. Additionally, the long-rumored iTunes Radio streaming service is integrated into the OS, with future addition to iTunes and OS X.
Other features teased but not discussed at any length include FaceTime Audio, Enterprise single sign on, view of PDF annotations, an inclinometer, long MMS support, Per-App VPN selection, Maps bookmark syncing, a Chinese-English bilingual dictionary, communications blocking, handwriting recognition for multiple Chinese characters, smart download of TV episodes, improved Mail search, a "do not track" option in Safari, night mode for Maps, new smart mailboxes, turn-by-turn walking directions, and FaceTime audio.
A beta for the new iOS will be made available today for the iPhone. An iPad version will be available in the next few weeks. Release of the operating system is expected in the fall. The new OS is compatible with the iPhone 4 and up, iPad Mini, and iPad 2 and up.
Update: Senator John McCain took to Twitter later on Monday to thank Apple for adding automatic background app updates to the forthcoming iOS 7. McCain, in a lighter moment during Apple CEO Tim Cook's testimony on Capitol Hill about Apple's tax avoidance strategies, had mentioned that he loved his iPhone and that "his granddaughter even knew how to use it," but complained humorously "why the hell do I have to keep updating apps on my iPhone all the time and why you don't fix that?"
Cook chuckled and replied that the upgrade effort was part of Apple's intent to constantly improve the product. Apple at the time already had introduced background updates to certain MacBook models (through a feature called Power Nap), and now has plans to bring the feature to iOS devices with the release of iOS 7 in the fall.