As speculated, Apple announced the next generation of its mobile operating system, iOS 6 at WWDC yesterday. The update looks to consist mainly of small improvements rather than any major “killer features”, and many of the features are playing catch-up to Android or Windows phones. That said, there are still several new improvements in iOS 6 worth getting excited about.
After switching from a Blackberry to the iPhone, I can’t count how many times I’ve tried to upload pictures to Facebook from the iPhone’s native Camera App. Being able to not only upload pictures (and videos) to Facebook more easily, but also to post status updates using Siri is welcome news to Facebook users everywhere. You can also post high scores from within Game Center, “Like” Apps or media from within the App Store or iTunes, post your location from Maps, or share a link from Safari. But even more exciting is that your Calendar and Contacts Apps will work with Facebook, so you can get reminders about events or birthdays, and always have the most up-to-date contact info for your friends.
I know, Android users, you’ve had this for a while, and maybe it is overdue, but I’m really looking forward to Apple’s own Maps App. Sure, it has 3D flyovers, but more importantly, it offers turn-by-turn voice directions. Without a co-pilot/navigator, the current Maps App is not only challenging, but very dangerous to use while driving.
When I first bought my iPhone, I loved Siri and her ability to instantly answer whatever I asked. But now, she’s mainly relegated to turning my music on and making calls. And I’m not alone in thinking Siri’s become less helpful; even The Woz has commented on it. With iOS 6, Apple promises a number of improvements to Siri, including better answers, integration with popular sources like Rotten Tomatoes, Yelp, and sports info, the power to launch Apps, and, again, the ability to update your Facebook or Twitter. As a bonus, if you’re planning to buy a new car next year, you may benefit from an integrated Siri button on the steering wheel to aid with hands- and eyes-free phone use.
Receiving dozens of notifications and calls is great for making you feel popular, but it’s not so great for trying to be productive. The next version of iOS should help with that, at least somewhat. You can select contacts and designate them as VIPs to receive only their e-mails as notifications. For calls you can’t — or don’t want to — take, you can easily respond with pre-made or custom texts, and give yourself a reminder to call back. When you really need to tune out the outside world for a bit, like during a meeting, iOS 6 will have a do-not-disturb mode where only your most important contacts get through.
You can now videochat on the go with cell network support for Facetime. Plus, Apple plans to unite your phone number and Apple account, so you can answer Facetime calls on any of your devices.
This might not be as useful in Montana as in more metropolitan areas, but having your boarding passes, venue tickets, coupons, and loyalty cards in your phone is still much more convenient than, well, not. Even better, it’s time- and location-aware.
All told, Apple promises over 200 updates in their next mobile OS update. Compatible with the iPhone 3GS and later, as well as second- and third-generation iPads, iOS 6 will be available this fall, so there’s still the chance that we’ll see even more new features before then.