Irony. That was the unintended theme of today's iOS 6 launch at Apple's WWDC in San Francisco. For a company knee-deep in litigation against most of its major competitors over infringement of patents held by Apple, it was curious to see so many of iOS 6's new features borrowing heavily from other smartphones.
Touting over 200 additions and updates, iOS 6 is the newest software for the company's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. It entered beta stage today with its release to developers. End users should see the official update land sometime in the fall, most likely to coincide with a new iPhone.
Breaking down Apple's new features, we find improved Siri integration, a new Maps app, Facebook integration into the OS, shared Photo Streams, Passbook and various other tweaks and improvements.
Siri sees expanded support for 15 countries and 9 languages, as well as the inclusion of sports scores, Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes. Siri can also be used to update Facebook and Twitter, open apps and with the new "Eyes Free" mode can even be used without having to touch your iPhone. These last additions are borrowed straight from Vlingo, a voice app available to Android users and integrated into Samsung's Touchwiz interface on the Galaxy SII and Note.
Much rumored before today, Apple has indeed removed Google Maps as the default mapping provider in iOS, replacing it with a clone of Google Maps for Android. Featuring Siri integration, turn-by-turn navigation (only on the iPad 2, new iPad and iPhone 4S), Yelp integration, 100 million business listings, traffic data with rerouting (courtesy of anonymously collected data from users) and 3D maps, Apple's home-grown system is very similar to that enjoyed by users of the dessert-themed OS, albeit with an extra layer of visual polish synonymous with most of Cupertino's offerings.
Taking inspiration from Windows Phone 7, iOS 6 now features deep Facebook integration to complement the Twitter integration introduced in iOS 5. Users can now share directly to Facebook from Siri, Notification Center, enabled apps such as Photos, Safari and Maps, and various third party apps that utilize the function. The Contacts app updates with friends' details, and events and birthdays are added to the Calendar, much like in WP7 and OEM Android skins such as Samsung's Touchwiz and HTC's Sense. Users can "like" App Store and iTunes content, and share recommendations with friends.
Passbook renders the third party app Keyring obsolete, pulling data such as boarding passes, sports tickets, hotel bookings and coupons into one app. A nifty feature is a timed display on the lock screen, so if you visit the same coffee shop every day, the app will automatically show your loyalty card when you order.
Shared Photo Streams, one of the original features introduced, enables the sharing of multiple photos with friends and family. Photos are viewable as an album on any iOS, OSX or Apple TV device, with the ability to comment or "like." Whether this addition will actually be used is another question, given the ease with which social networks have already enabled photo sharing.
Other features include FaceTime finally being updated for use over cellular connections; the ability to set up VIP mailboxes; an Ice Cream Sandwich-like feature to reject incoming calls with a text message; Do Not Disturb, which silences notifications while you sleep (something Blackberry users have enjoyed for years); and a string of updates specific to China, including built-in support for Chinese services.
iOS 6 will be available this fall on the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, and the iPad 2 and new iPad.
Full Press Release here.
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