Once again, Apple relied on its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco to unveil its latest mobile operating system, iOS 6. The OS, which is scheduled to ship in the fall, includes 200 new features, with the most prominent one being support for Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant, on the new iPad.
Apple has been heavily promoting Siri, which had previously been available solely on the iPhone. Well, that is no more. Unlike the smartphone version, Siri for the iPad (which is only coming to the new iPad, not the iPad 2) is not a full screen experience activated by holding down the home button on the device. Instead, Siri appears as a small window on top of whatever interface the user currently is interacting with and slides to the center of the display, once activated.
The latest version of the voice recognition system has many new features. Siri has become conversant in Cantonese, Italian, Korean, and Mandarin in addition to its existing support for English, French, German, and Japanese.
Finding a local restaurant has become easier. Consumers can use Yelp to pinpoint a good local Italian restaurant and make a reservation via OpenTable. Similar features are available for movies. Consumers can ask for information, such as the main actor, the director, or review ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and then purchase tickets via Fandango. The voice recognition system now compiles sports scores and stats. Users can ask for the scores of games played the previous night or find the batting averages of their favorite players.
With the new Passbook feature, customers rely on their iPads to redeem coupons, get into concerts, or check into hotels. This new app stores a user’s tickets and coupons (airplanes, train, movies, concerts, sport events, gift cards, and loyalty cards) in a single virtual wallet and provides various management functions. If a person has a gift card, it will show the card balance after it is used. The app will also update a flight gate number on a boarding pass in real time.
The tablet’s communication features were also improved. Consumers can set up a VIP Mailbox, making it easier to quickly find messages from important people. Users can also decline incoming voice calls by clicking on a pre-defined message, like “I’ll call you later” or “I’m on my way”. They can also set a callback reminder or enable a new ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature that will automatically turn off an iPad’s sound and lights at night.
This new operating system has 3G support for FaceTime and another new FaceTime feature is that device IDs are now unified. When someone calls a user’s smartphone, the person will be able to answer the call from their iPad. The ID unification also works with iMessage, so sorting through email has become less cumbersome.
As evidence of the increasing overlap in their expanding product lines, iOS will no longer rely on Google Maps. Instead, Apple has built its own mapping system, which includes a number of functions. Its app features vector-based map elements that make graphics and text seem smoother and delivers robust panning, tilting, and zooming functions. A new turn-by-turn navigation feature guides users to their destinations via spoken direction. The app sports a 3D mode that users invoke by clicking on a button. The new Apple Maps integrates with Yelp and Apple is building its own traffic service that can offer anonymous, crowd-sourced and real-time incident reports. Finally, the Maps system highlights any relevant developer mapping apps, such as a transit bus app.
Facebook integration is another area of emphasis with the new release. Users can now post to Facebook from Apple’s apps, pull images from photo albums, and identify locations from maps. Birthdays and events are automatically synchronized with users’ calendars, so they won’t miss any important activity.
Enhancements were made to the Safari browser. It now supports live synchronization of tabs with Mountain Lion, so a user’s browsing experience is unified across all devices using iCloud. With this feature, individuals could leave tabs open on their iPad, check them on their iPhone and reopen them later on a Mac. Using iCloud synchronization, an Offline Reading List allows a person without a web connection to read a story that was earlier marked.
Developers now have access to the first beta versions of iOS 6; consumers can expect to see it arriving on Apple devices in the fall. While iOS6 will run on second and third generation iPads, it will not operate on first generation tablets.
To date, Apple has been able to garner a significant share in the tablet space. By adding the new Siri support as well as developing its own mapping system, Apple continues to put pressure on Google, which has been trying to increase its presence in the tablet market.