iOS 6: 10 Coolest Features
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Yesterday Apple announced their iOS 6 at WWDC conference 2012. This supports on handsets and tablets. This is not a simple update, it comes with 200 new features — it will be Apple’s interpretation of exactly how a modern mobile OS should perform. At the WWDC keynote, the company highlited 10 key areas of improvement to wow the masses.
The new features that Apple highlighted basically focus on two key areas: convenience and accessibility. These are the cornerstones of Apple’s mobile experience. If nothing else, Apple wants to make touch-based mobile computing as easy as possible for the mass market — no matter its customers’ ages, technical inclinations, or disabilities.
Here’s a look at how Apple aims to make your iDevices better than ever with iOS 6.
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As predicted and anticipated, iOS 6 features a much-needed update for Apple’s digital assistant, Siri. Specifically, she gains additional functionality in queries relating to sports, dining, and film; gains more system wide functionality; and expands her language support by leaps and bounds.
Siri brushed up on her knowledge of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, and hockey. You can ask questions about specific players, teams or games, as well as major league standings. With all queries, she responds with a succinct audio answer, but also provides snazzy graphical information on-screen.
For example, when you ask “Who’s taller, LeBron [James] or Kobe [Bryant]?”, Siri responds with “LeBron James appears to be slightly taller.” Onscreen within Siri, you can see a picture of LeBron, his position and team name, stats like birth date, height and weight, and a collection of his career highlights. Information for Kobe Bryant appears below that.
You can also get more detailed information about restaurants through Siri’s Yelp integration, and you can make restaurant reservations through OpenTable. Additional restaurant information includes the average price of menu items, and you can click on a listing to get more information, like reviews, all without leaving the Siri interface. For reservations, you leave Siri and head to the OpenTable app.
iOS 6 also allows you to use Siri to get movie info, like what’s playing nearby, and information on actors and directors. You can also watch movie trailers from within Siri. Movie information is powered by Rotten Tomatoes.
In iOS 6, you can also use Siri to open any app on your iDevice, so there’s no need to sift through pages of apps and folders if you’re pinched for time. You can also tweet and post Facebook status updates using Siri, something that a number of other competing digital assistant apps have been offering for a while.
Siri’s new functionality feels mostly like catch-up, but nonetheless, it’s useful and appreciated.
Speaking of Facebook, iOS 6 finally brings Facebook to Apple’s mobile platform. Like with Twitter integration introduced in iOS 5, once you sign into your Facebook account in settings, you can easily Like and post from throughout the iOS ecosystem.
For instance, you can like apps on the App Store, as well as movies, music, and TV shows in iTunes. You can also post photos from Camera Roll, share a map from the Maps app, or share a webpage from Safari. It’s integrated with Notification Center, so when you get some new action on your Facebook page, you’ll get the alerts right on your lock screen.
Facebook integration has been a long time coming, and with its Like-ability in Apple’s digital store fronts, it looks like it could slowly fill the void left by Apple’s social music platform Ping.
Just kidding. No one has ever used Ping.
Apple’s Maps app will be ditching Google as its backend, while picking up a ton of new functionality along the way.
One of the most exciting new iOS features is turn-by-turn navigation. It’s been available on Android systems for a while, but now finally comes to iOS. Apple’s demo suggests that it’s seamless to flip from turn-by-turn mode, to an almost head-on view, to an over-the-top view. This means you can see which way you need to turn next from your own perspective, or zoom out and get your bearings on where you are in the city as a whole. Turn-by-turn directions also give you your estimated time of arrival, and will recommend a faster route when it’s available.
The new Maps app also integrates traffic information, and can overlay accidents that have been identified on top of its onscreen roadway illustrations.
Within Maps, Apple also introduced a super-snazzy 3-D photographic rendering feature called Flyover. It seems more like a way to get bird’s-eye views of tourist attractions than a tool to help you get to your destination. Still, for providing a photographic look at the city you’re trying to navigate, it could come in handy.
In iOS 6, the new Maps app also remains persistent on the lock screen, so when you’re trying to figure out which exit to take in heavy traffic, you no longer need to fumble with unlocking your phone, and opening the app.
Phone App and FaceTime
Phone functionality has remained relatively unchanged in iOS for years — and that’s a problem when you consider the word “phone” takes up exactly half the letters of the term “smartphone.” But now Apple is adding two new buttons that pop up when you get an incoming call: Reply With Message and Reply Later.
Reply With Message lets you choose one of four texting options to send to a friend who’s calling you at a bad time (three brief preset messages as seen in the image above, and a custom message option). And with Reply Later, you can set a reminder to call back your caller based on a time or even location. That’s right, the feature is geofenced, so you can get the reminder when you get home or when you get to work.
Also, FaceTime, Apple’s video conferencing service, can now be used over cellular connections and not just WiFi.
Do Not Disturb
iOS 6 also introduces a feature that provides sanctuary from all the messages, alerts, texts and phone calls that bombard us during all hours of the day and night. It’s called Do Not Disturb. You still get all those messages and notifications, but your device won’t ring, ping, or even light up and disturb you.
It’s not just a blanket on-off switch, though. You can set exceptions, so if a close friend or family member calls you any time, those calls will still go through (you can set up groups of favorites in your phone settings). You can also set Do Not Disturb to disengage whenever someone calls from the same number twice in three minutes — a feature that recognizes how people use the phone during emergencies.
The Safari web browser expands some of the features that were introduced with iOS 5. Reading Lists, for example, will be available offline in iOS 6. When you add an item, it will download and cache the story so you can read it later — even if you don’t have internet connectivity.
Safari in iOS 6 also introduces what Apple calls “smart app banners.” Basically, when you visit the mobile version of a website that also has its own app in the App Store (like Yelp), a banner will appear across the top of the page — click it to go directly to its page in the App Store. This is great marketing for both app developers (who may be reaching out to less-savvy iOS users), and for Apple (as more downloaded apps buoy the greater ecosystem).
Shared Photo Streams
Photo Stream is a feature Apple introduced with iOS 5 that shares photos across all of your iOS and Mac devices using iCloud. Adding a bit more utility to that feature, in iOS 6 you can create Shared Photo Streams.
Shared Photo Streams let you choose and share photos with friends. They receive a notification when your photos are sent to them, and can also comment on your images. You can view photos in the Photos app, iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac, or in the web browser on Windows PCs. It’s basically a quick and easy way to share photos with a group of people, with the option to easily view them on other platforms, like Apple TV.
Apple’s built-in mail app was in dire need of a few updates, and iOS 6 does not shy away from problem areas.
Now, finally, you can pull to refresh to get new messages. You can also add photos and videos to messages right from the app’s compose window. Before, the easiest way to email a photo was directly from your Camera Roll.
You can also mark some contacts as VIPs, so if you’re awaiting a very important email, you’ll get a lock screen notification when an email from that sender arrives. Emails from all of your VIPs are collected in a single folder, and flagged messages are collected in a special folder, too.
If you’re handling password-protected Microsoft Office documents, in iOS 6, you’ll be able to open those up right on your iDevice, too.
Passbook is a brand-new iOS app from Apple that solves the chaos of all those tickets, boarding passes, and coupon apps on your iDevice. Instead of needing to search through and find the app, then find the QR code or barcode you’ll need to get scanned, Passbook collects all of those apps in a single unified place.
Such apps include Fandango (for movie tickets), Starbucks (for your Starbucks card), and United Airlines (for boarding passes). And multiple tickets, like for a multi-leg flight, are grouped together.
One of the best parts about this is that it integrates with your lock screen. Thus, apps like Starbucks will set off an alert when you get near a location, so you’ll remember to use your card or coupon. Likewise, you can get your Fandango movie ticket code right from the lock screen when you walk into the theater.
And when you use up a pass, Apple had a little fun — it destroys it onscreen with a virtual card shredder.
Lastly, Apple introduced a feature called Guided Access. This is geared more toward parents, educators and caretakers of autistic children. It’s basically a fullscreen single-app mode for your iDevice. This means kids with wandering fingers won’t accidentally close out of an app, or adjust the device’s settings without your permission, for example.
This makes it easier for autistic children, for example, to learn within a single app environment. It will also make it easier for institutions like museums to incorporate iPads in guided tours, keeping guests secured in a single app environment.
So those are the 10 most interesting features in iOS 6 — or at least the features Apple decided to call out in its WWDC keynote. Apple purports to have at least 190 more new features in iOS, and Gadget Lab will cover the best of them as our iOS coverage continues.