Apple has taken the wraps of iOS 6, showing off new versions of maps, Siri, FaceTime, Mail and Safari and new features like Photo Streams and deep Facebook integration. Apple SVP of iOS Scott Forstall detailed the changes during today’s iPhone 5 launch event in San Francisco.
Forstall started off his portion of the presentation out with a short demo of iO6’s new Apple-developed maps app. The new app adds turn-by-turn navigation, satellite images, real-time traffic updates and tilt and rotate style viewing that allows users to see map information from different angles by swiping two fingers. While it had been known for some time Apple was phasing out Google Maps from iOS 6, today’s reveal will likely cut into the market for GPS and navigation apps on iOS.
Forstall then moved on to a small but useful tweak to the notification center which users can now tap to respond to tweets or Facebook. This feature seemed to work like a widget within the notification center.
One surprising addition to iOS 6 is a new photo-sharing feature called Shared Photo Streams which seems to offer many of the same functions of popular app Instagram. Users can select photos that they’ve taken and choose who they want to share them with. The people chosen then receive a push notification, can comment on the photo or like it through Photo Streams. User with friends using iCloud, other devices using iOS 6.0 or a Mac desktop running Mountain Lion will see shared photos delivered immediately to their Photos app or iPhoto. Non-Apple users will see shared photos online. Photo Streams can also be viewed on Apple TV. According to the Apple website, Photo Stream data doesn’t count against a user’s iCloud storage, and they work over both Wi-Fi and cellular data networks.
Forstall also detailed the latest version of Safari, showing off a fullscreen mode that takes advantage of the iPhone 5’s new, larger screen. Users can now sync their tabs from their computer with iCloud tabs, a feature similar to what Chrome and Android is already offering. As expected, we also got to see the new Passbook, where users can store digital versions of movie tickets, boarding passes, gift cards, coupons, loyalty cards and more — conveniently Passbook items will work from a locked screen. Mail has also been updated with VIP lists, swipe down to refresh and improvements to photo and video sharing.
Digital assistant Siri has also been updated for iOS 6, and can now provide information on sporting events, movie recommendations and restaurant reviews. The application can now be used to launch other apps, and to post Tweets and Facebook updates. Siri responded quickly and appropriately, at least during the stage demo.
Other new features in iOS 6 include new versions of Find My iPhone, Find My Friends, the ability to take panorama pictures, improved accessibility via Guided Access, and changes to the phone app that allow users to automatically send a text message back when they’re unable to take a call. Apple has also introduced a raft of improvements specifically designed for Chinese users such as mixed Pinyin and English typing without switching keyboards, the option to set Baidu as the default search option in Safari, and sharing and posting to Chinese social networks like Youku, Tudou and Sina Weibo.
Starting Sept. 19 owners of the iPhone 4S, 4, 3GS, the new iPad and iPad 2 will be able to upgrade to iOS 6 for free.