Apple announced the newest version of iOS at WWDC today, and it’s packed with awesome new features for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches alike. Here’s a rundown of the best new stuff you’ll see in iOS 6 later this year.
A Completely New Maps App with Turn-By-Turn Navigation
The most exciting upgrade is the completely new version of Maps. Apple has ditched Google as its primary maps provider, creating its own system with maps for all over the world. It has listings for local businesses and integrates with Yelp, so you can get reviews and other info right from the map (though that’s not necessarily going to be of much use in Australia). You can switch to a traffic view to better plan your routes, and view incident reports to keep up on accidents and when they might clear. All of this is crowdwourced from other iOS users using maps, but Apple didn’t explain whether this would be more like Google (where it’s all done automatically) or like Waze (where individuals need to manually report things for you to get this information). You also have a photographic 3D view of a number of cities called Flyover, which is very cool but not super useful.
Most exciting, though, is the inclusion of turn-by-turn navigation. Just find your location on the map, and with one tap you can start navigation mode, dictated by Siri herself. The navigation gives you an ETA, and updates it as traffic speeds change. It will also give you an updated route if an accident happens or if traffic gets slow enough to require a detour, and it can even do so from the lock screen. You can also launch navigation right from Siri (if you have a compatible device) and ask her questions.
A More Knowledgeable And International Siri
Speaking of Siri, the voice-commanded personal assistant is getting a pretty good upgrade in iOS 6, too. Not only is she available on the new iPad (sorry, first- and second-gen users), but she knows about a lot of other things this time around, like:
- Sports scores, stats, standings, and schedules
- Restaurant info like menu information, prices, locations, Yelp reviews, and OpenTable reservations
- Movie showtimes, trailers, and RottenTomatoes reviews. It also has some other functionality (like being able to see movies with a certain actor), but it doesn’t look like it integrates with an app like IMDB directly.
Siri can also launch apps directly with one simple voice command (like “Play Temple Run”). Siri also has a new “Eyes Free” mode designed for cars, in which you can press a button on the steering wheel to activate her or have her read things back to you. Right now, Apple has already partnered with a number of vehicle manufacturers, including GM, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Jaguar, and Land Rover.
Lastly, Siri is now available in a number of other languages and locations, including Canada, Spain, Mexico, Italian, Switzerland, Korea, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. Local search will work around the world, too, which is a good shift. Sadly, Apple didn’t say anything about Siri’s voice recognition or answers being more reliable, which we were hoping for.
System-Wide Facebook And Twitter Integration
As expected, iOS 6 is going to have Facebook integration akin to the Twitter integration we saw in iOS 5. You can log into your Facebook account from the Settings app and stay logged in on any app that uses Facebook, so you don’t have to log in multiple times. You can post photos, web sites, Game Center scores, apps you like, and other elements right to Facebook, as well as “like” apps, music, movies, TV shows, and other iTunes Store items. Facebook events will show up right in your calendar app, and of course, the whole thing integrates with Siri.
The coolest part is that both Facebook and Twitter have been added to the notification dropdown, so you can post a new status without having to open their respective apps.
Passbook: One App For All Your Scannable Tickets And Gift Cards
Passbook is an awesome new app that holds all your airline tickets, movie tickets, gift cards, and other similar items in one central app. It will show you the balance of any of your gift cards as you use them, and let you scan QR codes pretty much anywhere you go. The coolest part is that it integrates with the notification centre, sending you a push notification when you arrive at a location that works with one of your passes. When you’re done with a pass, you can just delete it and it won’t get in your way anymore. (The challenge here is how well this will work with non-US retailers.)
Do Not Disturb And More Phone Options
The Phone app has received a pretty cool update, including a Do Not Disturb feature that will silence all notifications while it’s on. You’ll still receive them; your phone just won’t make noise or light up when they arrive. You can customise Do Not Disturb to automatically turn on at certain times, allow for phone calls from certain contacts or groups of contacts, as well as tell it to allow calls that happen multiple times in quick succession — such as if someone is trying to contact you in an emergency.
You’ll also see a new icon on the lock screen when you get a call, not unlike the camera icon you have on the lock screen in iOS 5.1. When you get a call, you can slide this up to send the caller a message, or have iOS remind you to call them back. You can set the reminder to go off in an hour, when you get to work or get home, or even when you leave your current location.
Priority Contacts, Embedded Media, and Pull to Refresh in Mail
The new Mail app has a cool feature called “VIPs”, where you can tell it who your most important contacts are and it will give you a more eye-catching notification on your lock screen when they send you an email. You can also view all messages from VIPs with one tap in your inbox.
Mail also now lets you embed photos and video into a message, open password protected office documents, view flagged messages, and pull to refresh the mailbox.
3G-Enabled FaceTime, Messages And FaceTime Now Work Between All Your Devices
FaceTime also works over your 3G or 4G data connection, which is awesome (though potentially expensive if you’re on the wrong plan). In addition, FaceTime and Messages have finally been updated to work much more seamlessly between all your iOS devices. Now, if you get a FaceTime invitation or message on one device, it will show up on your other devices, too.
Safari has received some handy updates, including the ability to sync your open tabs between all your iOS devices, the ability to read articles from your Reading List offline, and upload photos to your favourite web sites right from Safari. It also has a new feature called Smart App Banners, which can detect when you’re on a web site that has an iOS app available (like Yelp). If you go to one of those web sites, you’ll get a banner that leads you to the App Store to download the app, or if you already have the app on your phone, it’ll send you to that app and pick up right where you left off in your browsing.
Photo Stream, Parental Controls, and More
If you use iOS’ Photo Stream feature, you now have the ability to share your photo streams with your friends. They’ll get a new album in their Photos app with all the photos you’ve shared, and you can all comment on those photos too.
iOS also has a new feature called “Guided Access”, in which you can disable certain elements of the UI so a child can’t accidentally change them when playing their games or using apps. You can also turn on a “Single App Mode”, which turns off the home button and keeps them in the app they’re currently using.
Lastly, Apple hinted at a ton of other features in iOS, like better privacy controls, per-account signatures in Mail, more accessibility options, easier methods for finding a lost phone (it will now dial a set emergency contact if the phone is registered as lost), and over 200 other features.