Apple announces iOS 6: Siri for iPad, Facebook integration, Facetime over cellular connection and more

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At their annual WWDC keynote, Apple have today announced the next version of the OS powering the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, iOS. iOS 6 seems to be a minor update compared to previous changes, but there are still some interesting tidbits. Just nothing big, which is a little disappointing.

The new update kills support for iPod touch 3rd gen, iPad (original), and pre-3GS iPhone’s, which is a little odd as the iPod touch 3 and iPhone 3GS had generally the same specs, but Apple is still selling the 3GS.

Firstly, a new set of functions for Siri (no API in sight) has been shown off, including sports scores, launching apps, Rotten Tomatoes ratings when looking at movie showtimes, restaurant selections sorted by rating and new languages (Chinese and Korean). Apple also announced iPad compatibility with Siri, which could be a little confusing for users with the Wi-Fi model of the iPad, as when you’re on the go, you will completely lose that functionality.

Facebook integration has arrived. Just like what iOS 5 did with Twitter, iOS 6 now has features like posting a status from the Notification Center, sharing a photo (or a website) and a couple of other integrations, such as App Store reviews. Interesting for some, but mostly meh news. Android has had open sharing for years, not just what Apple decides is OK, so why can’t iOS have things like the ability to share a photo to any app?

Also added is ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, which is insanely brilliant, and so simple. It works by blocking notifications when you switch it on. But the real good stuff comes with features like scheduling it to turn on, which is such a simple idea, but hasn’t yet been shown off. There are a number of other things you can change in it too. But the only core difference with this and Airplane Mode is that the messages still come, they just don’t light up the screen.

Facetime now works over your mobile network, meaning you can Facetime on the go (finally). And it seriously looks like Apple could anyday just kill regular phone calls and replace them with 3G data calling. Expect to see a lot of people on trains speaking loudly to a pixelated image soon! Sadly, it’s still not an open standard (as originally promised), but this is quite interesting.

In another move to kill telco’s, iMessages now works with your mobile number on other devices. So if someone iMessages your number, then it’ll now work on your Mac and iPad. Also if someone calls or regularly messages you, you can answer on your Mac. Impressive if that is what it seems.

Safari now syncs tabs, like Chrome, and has an offline reading list. Instapaper and Pocket killer? Because it’s by Apple, yes and no.

Mail now has VIPs, just like Mountain Lion, where you can set friends who will get priority in your inbox, something that could’ve been done automatically, but instead is completely manual from Apple. It also has pull-down to refresh (finally) and photos and videos can be added in-line to messages (another finally). Still no ability to change your default client to something else, so no Sparrow.

Apple has added Shared Photostreams, which wasn’t too detailed, but included the ability to ‘Like’ photos from your friends, but not using Facebook and instead iCloud. Could Apple be going for Instagram and Facebook in their own Apple social network?

Passbook was also announced, which lets you add “all your passes in one place”, putting them literally one step away from adding NFC (speculation: it’s literally almost confirmed for the next iPhone now). Reward cards, boarding passes and almost anything with a barcode can be added and then you can just use it like you would with the physical card. Developers can add features (maybe), or that could just be partners.

Apple has replaced Google Maps with their own solution, also adding turn-by-turn navigation (works under the lockscreen), Yelp integration, and traffic reports. Siri can also be asked “are we there yet”, which will spit out the time until you arrive. Also, a feature called “Flyover” allows you to look at 3D cities around the world. It looke like Apple still has a few things to add to match Google Maps, but it’s a solid effort.

There is also “lost-mode”, where you can text a number to call if found (if they’re friendly), guided access, which lets you disable certain parts of apps and / or hardware buttons, with the example being autistic children, and there is also a set of features for China.

It feels like iOS has succumed to desktop-OS status, where the basic OS stays the same and each new version just adds a few layers. People who were hoping for a brand new UI will not find the droids they were looking for. But they may instead find an Android phone. There is something in this update for most people, but not exactly what we seem to have expected from Apple.

It’ll be coming in September, October or November, with a developer preview available now.

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