iOS 6 unveiled with Siri enhancements, Passbook, new Maps

iOS 6 logoiOS 6, a new version of Apple's mobile operating system, was unveiled at the company's Worldwide Developer's Conference on Monday. The version will feature "significant enhancements" to Siri, Apple's own Maps app, a new app called Passbook, Facebook integration, changes to phone calls and FaceTime, and improvements to Mail, Safari, and Photo Stream.

Apple stated it has been working "very closely" with Facebook to integrate it into iOS 6. Users will be able to post to Facebook from different apps, similar to the level of Twitter's integration now. Users will see notifications from Facebook in the Notification Center, and Facebook events and birthdays will appear in the Calendar app.

Third-party apps can now be launched with a command to Siri—for example, "Play Temple Run" opens the app. Users can also now tweet from Siri, a formerly noticeable hole in the Twitter integration throughout the rest of iOS. In addition to hands-free mode, Siri now has "eyes-free" mode, where the app doesn't light the screen, but still reads responses out. Apple is working with BMW, GM, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Honda to bring a "Siri button" to their cars that will work with iPhones within the next 12 months.

Siri в iOS 6

Siri has become more knowledgeable about restaurants and theaters, said Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS software. Restaurant search results are now sorted by Yelp rating, and tapping on them takes the user into the Yelp app. OpenTable, a reservation booking app, is also integrated into the restaurant results. For movies, Siri can bring up artwork and the slate of movies playing at a nearby theater, along with information culled from Rotten Tomatoes. Siri is also now able to respond to questions about sports ("What was the score of the last Giants game?"), including queries on standings and player stats.

Apple will add many international languages to Siri, including Canadian French and English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese. The new app, Passbook, is built to collect documents as they are created by different apps or services. The app can save things like movie tickets and plane tickets, a store card from Starbucks, or a coupon from Target. The passes are able to integrate with location information (for instance, bringing up the Starbucks pass when you are in range of your favorite Starbucks), and also update live (if your plane's gate changes, your ticket will reflect it).

Apple iOS 6

The new Maps app has been built from the ground up by Apple. The app has a "Traffic View" that layers traffic data over traffic incidents using "anonymous, realtime, crowd-sourced data," so users can determine whether the congestion might clear up soon. The app offers turn-by-turn directions and can calculate the quickest route to a destination while factoring in traffic. It includes a 3D viewing mode that allows users to fly over city buildings and change viewing angles, or zoom back out to 2D view. Over 100 million business listings, culled from Yelp, will power the map app's local searches.

Maps itself will not feature information on public transit or alternative methods of transport like biking, as Google's app does now. Instead, Apple will release APIs for Maps and allow developers to build their own transit apps that will be featured, integrated, and promoted from within Maps.

As for direct OS features, iOS 6 will offer more control over phone calls. Users receiving a call will be offered two new buttons: reply with a message, or a prompt for the device to remind them about the call later. For video calls, FaceTime will finally work over cellular service with iOS 6. Apple plans to unify cell phone numbers and Apple IDs so that calls that ring on an iPhone can be answered on an iPad or Mac. Likewise, if someone messages a user on a phone number, that message can be replied to on an iPad or Mac.

A new Do Not Disturb mode allows iOS 6 to continue to receive alerts, but without making noise, vibrating, or lighting up the screen. The mode will let users set certain numbers to still ring through on the handset.

In updates to mobile Safari, Apple announced that users' Reading Lists for saving links will now be available offline as well. Fullscreen mode will now work in landscape in Safari, and Apple has also added "Smart App Banners" that can appear on a webpage when the owner has a companion app.

Photo Stream, which was cautiously received on launch, is being updated with shared photo streams that can be accessed by groups of friends. The shared streams can pop alerts on friends' phones and will automatically form an album viewable in Photos, iPhoto, or in a Web browser.

In Mail, users can now mark "VIPs" whose messages will pop an alert on the lock screen and be sorted into a VIP mailbox. Users will also now be able to add photos and videos into an e-mail right from the Compose window, instead of forcing them to reverse-engineer the message from the Photos or Video app, a long-missing and much-welcome feature.

iOS 6 will also add some small accessibility features for education and child uses. These include the ability to disable the Home button ("single-app mode") and disable settings so kids can't access certain apps.

For developers, Apple will release APIs for Passbook, as well as some for in-app content purchases from the iTunes Store. A beta of iOS 6 will be available to developers as of Monday, and the OS is set for release in fall 2012.

Tied into the success of iOS is that of Apple's App Store, which now contains 225,000 iPad-only apps, 600,000 apps total, and has now paid out over $5 billion to developers. 365 million iOS devices have been sold as of March 30.

This story is developing, and details will be added as they are announced. For up-to-the-minute information, please visit our liveblog of the WWDC keynote.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Apple, iOS, OSes

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