Apple's new iOS 6 comes loaded with new features, including new maps, Facebook integration and a new version of the voice-activated personal assistant Siri. It looks quite sweet. These will be the new features of your iPhone and iPad.
We've now got a quick hands-on video of iOS 6 running on an iPhone to show you. It's only a quick run-through, and right now, we don't know which features are coming to Australia and which aren't. Apple Australia have told us that there's no information on feature availability at this time.
Siri keeps being updated. The new version on iOS 6 does sports scores and stats. You ask what was the score for the Giants and she will reply that they were downed by the Rangers. It will also tell you about batting averages.
Siri is being integrated with Yelp and OpenTable. You could ask for a good Italian restaurant near you and Siri will tell you about the best ones using Yelp information and allow you to make a reservation with your voice using OpenTable.
It's also bringing movies with IMDB for reviews and information. You can ask for a movie that stars your favourite star or director, and Siri will find them for you. The result screen is quite nice, with integrated Rotten Tomatoes ratings. I wonder how much more useful this will make Siri. Would people use it more now that it has some neat integration with these useful services?
Siri is also being updated with more languages: Canadian French; Spanish for Spain, Mexico and the US; Italian; French, German and Italian dialects for Switzerland; Korean; Mandarin; and Cantonese.
Siri will also be available on the new iPad with iOS 6. We reckon a lot of these new features won't be available outside of the US — we'll see what filters through to users in Australia.
2. Facebook integration
Facebook is now completely integrated with the iPhone. You will be able post to Facebook from Apple's apps, just like you can with Twitter. That includes images directly from albums in the Photos app, location from Maps, and the Calendar app, so birthdays and events are automatically synchronised at all times with Facebook. It's even integrated with Siri.
The most interesting thing is that there will be an API for it, so every developer can enjoy the same Facebook services. This means that your favourite apps will be able to post things on Facebook or get Facebook information easily.
3. New phone features
This is a welcome surprise: Apple is updating the Phone ap, which has remained almost frozen all this time. Nokia had this feature implemented some years ago: you can reply automatically with a message when someone calls you. The phone will show you a list of messages such as "I'll call you later" or "I'm on my way" that you can click and automatically send while rejecting a call.
Do Not Disturb is a new feature in iOS 6 that tells your phone not to bother you with any push notifications or texts. If you want, you can choose not to receive any calls at all or just specify which people you don't want to hear from. However, if someone is calling you repeatedly and continuously, the new Phone app will push the call, assuming it's an emergency. This, I'm sure, has the potential to be misused.
4. New FaceTime
The first big news here is that iOS 6 will bring 3G support for FaceTime. The quality of a call will not be as good as Wi-Fi, but it will be supported.
Another neat feature of the new FaceTime in iOS 6 is that device IDs are being unified. When someone calls your phone number, you'll be able to answer the call from your iPad or your Mac straight away. The ID unification will be the same with iMessage, which will hopefully fix the confusion. Sometimes, users get messages on one device but not another.
5. New Safari
Safari is getting the live synchronisation of tabs with Mountain Lion, so your browsing experience is unified across devices using iCloud. It also uses iCloud synchronisation for an Offline Reading List, which allows you to read a story that you have marked to read later without a web connection. This is pretty neat for train commuters and flights.
One of the best features, however, is the new support for web forms uploads. It can be so frustrating not to be able to upload a photo to a website. Now you can click on the upload button, a Photo browser will appear, and you'll be able to upload. I wonder if this service will also be available for other file types, like Pages documents.
6. Photo streams on iCloud
In the past, iCloud allowed you to upload photos constantly to your personal stream. Now you can share specific streams with selected people. You can pick friends, and they will be able to see any photos you upload in a dedicated stream automatically and leave comments.
It's like creating private Instagram feeds from the Photos app.
Mail's Mailboxes have also been revamped for a new feature: VIPs. You can mark people as VIPs, and their emails will automatically go into a special folder. This is going to be the only folder I'm going to read from now on.
Another much-needed feature is attachment of photos and videos straight from the New Message window. At last!
This a new app. It will allow you to have all your tickets and coupons — aeroplanes, train, movies, concerts, sport events, gift cards, loyalty cards, whatever — in a single wallet. It's quite pretty and useful. If you have a gift card, for example, it will show the card balance after you use it. It will also alert you about nearby shops when you have shop's coupons or gift cards.
Another really neat feature of Passbook is that it will update any changes to the gate number on your boarding pass in real time.
Again, it's doubtful that Passbook will be made available to users outside of the US.
9. New guided access features
This is one of the star features of the iPhone for people with disabilities. Apple is adding new things to this mode, such as custom enabling of controls. You can put an iPhone and iPad in single app mode now, which is also useful for schools. Teachers can send tests to students' iPads, locking them in the test so they can't go into other apps to cheat.
10. New maps
The new Maps — fully developed in house — seems pretty insane. It's a complete overhaul and it truly looks fantastic, much better than the old Google-based version. Here are all the new features:
New cartography Apple bought a cartography company in 2009 and this the result of that. The new Maps app has new cartography, completely different from the one provided by Google. This includes new points of interests, restaurants, shops... everything is new. We will need to compare to see what's better.
Vector based vs bitmap The new maps are not bitmap-based anymore. Say goodbye to the horrible and slow tile loading. Now they are vector based, which means faster loading — it still loads sectors, but very fast based on our hands-on experience — and smoother with much better graphics.
Turn-by-turn navigation Apple's Maps will come with turn-by-turn navigation, just like any other car GPS app. It works with Siri driving directions and 3D view.
Business information card Now, every location in Maps includes a card that gives you all you need to know about it. If it's a restaurant, it will show you reviews and ratings, along with photographs.
Siri integration Siri is completely integrated with Maps. You can ask for directions with your voice, it will guide you while driving, and if you ask something like "Are we there yet?", Siri will answer you with the estimated time of arrival. And tell you to shut up.
Traffic information Traffic information loads constantly, even when you are not looking at it. If Maps detects a change on traffic conditions that would make your trip faster, it will ask you to reroute.
3D view Apple bought another company last year with cool 3D maps technology. Looking at the demo of the Flyover feature, it was worth the price. This thing is impressive. It looks like a movie, but it's rendered in 3D graphics in real time.
Missing features But for all this neat features and awesome interface, there are two important missing things in maps: public transit information and Street View.
The first is extremely important for those of us in big cities. The old Maps gives you this information easily and completely. You could really plan your commuting at any time. This feature is a must. Apple says that developers will be able to add this in their applications, plugging into Apple's Maps, but it's clearly a big miss.
Update: We tried this on our copy of iOS 6, and when you click on the public transit directions button, it will bring you up a list of apps you can choose from. Right now, that list is empty, but we imagine that once iOS 6 is released there will be apps that directly integrate into Maps in this third pane.
Street View is important too when you are going to new places. It gives you a street-level visual reference that the 2D maps and the new Flyover 3D view may not be able to give you. I've used Street View many times to locate obscure restaurants and shops, and it always saves time. Apple hasn't said anything about Street View.
It's expected to arrive later this year, perhaps with the iPhone 5. It will be available for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the 4th-generation iPod Touch, the latest iPad and iPad 2. So the rumours were right: the first iPad is out of this upgrade.
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