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Apple details iOS 6 at WWDC 2012, launches this Fall

Apple’s SVP of iOS Software Scott Forstall has just announced iOS 6, the next version of “the world’s most advanced mobile operating system”, at WWDC 2012 in San Francisco. The update brings over 200 new features, ranging from Siri upgrades to an entirely new Maps experience developed in-house at Apple. While developers can get their hands on the iOS 6 Beta today, users will have to wait until iOS 6 officially launches this Fall. So, what’s new in iOS 6?

Siri upgrades
Siri has been updated with a number of new features and commands; Scott Forstall says she’s been “studying up” since she was born 8 months ago. Siri can now report sports scores and stats. During the on-stage demo, Forstall asked her questions like, “What was the score of the last Giants game?”, and “What is Buster Posey’s batting average?” Siri replied in kind, with new cards displaying game scores, player stats, and other useful information. Siri can now sort restaurant recommendations by rating, and through a new partnership with Rotten Tomatoes, she can look up movie times, ratings, and trailers. You can also search for a specific actor to see a list of their old and recent movies. Siri can also launch any app now by simply saying “Play Temple Run” or “Launch Twitter”.

Apple is introducing a feature called “Eyes Free”, that will see the company partner with auto makers like GM, BMW, Toyota, and others to add a “Siri button” to cars. Scott says we will start to see this within 12 months. In addition, Siri is also gaining local language support for Canadian English and French (because we’re the ones with the accents…), Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Korean. Siri is also coming to the new iPad… iPad 2 users, we’re out of luck.

Facebook integration
Next up is Facebook integration. Just like Twitter, users can sign in to their Facebook account in Settings, and their credentials will be shared system-wide. You can share photos, webpages, map locations, iTunes apps, etc. You can even update your Facebook status directly from Notification Center thanks to a new “Tap to Post” button that sits next to a new “Tap to Tweet” button. Facebook integration is also coming to the iTunes and App Stores, allowing users to “Like” songs, artists, movies, TV Shows, and apps.

Phone and FaceTime
Apple is also bringing some enhancements to the phone experience. The first major change is the ability to reply to a call without answering it. Scott gave the example of being in a meeting, and needing to let the person know that you are busy without answering your phone. Similar to the quick-access Camera button users see now on their lock screen, a Phone icon will appear next to the “Slide to Answer” slider when a call comes in. Sliding this icon up will present users with a host of options for replying, such as sending a text, or even a predefined message such as “Call me later”.

A new Do Not Disturb mode has been announced for iOS as well. Do Not Disturb is a new toggle in the settings app; turning it on will ensure that your phone does not ring or light up the screen when a call, message, email, or other notification comes in. Your phone still receives these messages, it just doesn’t alert you. In addition, users can schedule Do Not Disturb to turn on at a specific time, say every night before you go to bed, so that your phone does not disturb you in the middle of the night.

iOS 6 will also enable FaceTime over cellular, a feature many users have been clamouring for since FaceTime was introduced back in 2010. Apple is also unifying your phone number and Apple ID, so if someone FaceTime’s your iPhone, you can answer on your iPad or Mac. The same goes for iMessage, which hopefully means that texts you receive from non-iPhones will be forwarded to your other iOS devices, though this is unconfirmed.

Mobile Safari
Apple is including some updates to Mobile Safari in iOS 6. iCloud Tabs allows you to keep open tabs in-sync across your Mac and iOS devices, while Offline Reading List is a fairly self-explanatory new feature. One really nice feature: you can now upload photos to any website using Mobile Safari. Apple is also adding support for full-screen browsing in landscape mode.

Apple’s default Mail app has seen some significant updates that will make it more competitive with the likes of Sparrow. One of my favourites: pull to refresh! Apple has also introduced a new VIP inbox, which ensures that you never miss a message from people you mark as VIPs. Another major addition to Mail is the ability to add photos and attachments to a message directly from the compose window.

Apple has introduced a brand-new app called Passbook, that collects boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, loyalty cards, and more all in one place. The app organizes all of your passes and tickets for easy and quick access at a store or movie theatre. Passbook also displays coupon expiry dates, remaining gift card balance, and where your concert seats are. Geolocation will pull up a card automatically when you are near a store or business for which you have a card or coupon. Cards are live, so a boarding pass, for example, will auto-update with time or gate changes. Apple has created templates for devs to use to integrate with Passbook, and we can only assume this will tie-in to NFC should Apple include that in future iPhones.

Apple Maps
Apple has announced their new Maps application, developed entirely in-house. The new app is integrated with Yelp for local business listings, and the app includes new, very detailed info cards. Apple is also building a traffic service to show construction, slow downs, and accidents. Turn-by-turn navigation is built-in, with a very GPS like display that will also appear on your lock screen. And, of course, you can get directions using Siri, or ask her important travel questions on the fly, like “Where can I get gas?” There is a new feature included called Flyover that displays 3D aerial views of major cities. The 3D models Apple showed off look fantastic, highly realistic and beautiful. The app is said to be very smooth and responsive.

Redesigned Stores
All three of Apple’s digital stores have been redesigned for iOS 6. The iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore are all sporting darker looks with redesign top and bottom navigation bars. In addition, the layout of the stores has been updated: the iPad features a large Cover Flow-like area at the top, while the iPhone has edge-to-edge images.

iOS 6 will be compatible with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S, as well as the 4th generation iPod touch, iPad 2, and new iPad. Developers can grab the iOS 6 Beta right now (we’ll be going hands-on soon) while users will have to wait until the Fall to update. To see more images and check out everything that’s new in iOS 6, head on over to Apple’s iOS 6 Preview page.