In a keynote that opened with Siri telling the audience a bunch of jokes by video (including “Have any of you been working on Ice Cream Sandwich? Or Jellybean? Who comes up with these codenames, Ben and Jerry’s?”), Apple announced iOS 6, the next iteration of their mobile operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the announcements and see how they stack up to what Android has on offer.
One of the flagship features of iOS 6 is an all new mapping solution, independent of Google Maps. iOS 6 Maps features Apple designed maps with a “Flyover” feature that allows you to see the area in photo-realistic, interactive 3D.
Just last week, Google highlighted its plans to offer 3D images in Google Maps – although with no news on when these will be released, it seemed like an obvious attempt to get in before Apple. The new Maps app from Apple does have a release date; it’ll be launching in the fall as part of iOS 6.
The 3D "Flyover" feature of iOS 6.
One of the key points Android users have maintained in defence of their OS has been turn-by-turn navigation, a feature lacking in the stock Maps app in iOS, even though it was then powered by Google’s service.
iOS 6 features turn-by-turn navigation built right into the preloaded Maps app. It even works in conjunction with Siri for iPad, allowing you to ask your device to find a place and then launch turn-by-turn directions.
The new Maps will also offer real-time traffic information to calculate an ETA. Google Maps has, for some time, had crowd-sourced traffic data, though.
This does seem like Apple playing catchup, although I should note that Apple’s 3D “flyover” feature does seem much more polished than Google’s.
Turn-by-turn directions on an iPhone running iOS 6.
With iOS 6, Apple’s bringing Siri to the iPad, as well as enhancing it with a bunch of new features, such as sports scores, movie information and the ability to launch apps by speech. You can even use Siri to tweet or post a Facebook status.
I looked at Siri and its Android counterpart, Voice Actions, back in March and it seems like this update is closing the gaps in areas that Siri lagged behind Voice Actions. Stock Android really needs to bring a significant voice command offering soon, as Siri begins to gain steam and amass user adoption.
Siri on the iPad, as well as the new sports and movies features showcased on the iPhone.
This next item is more of an iCloud feature than an iOS one, but it’s notable enough to mention nevertheless. The Photo Stream feature that was introduced as part of iOS 5 last October is now shareable, offering you the ability to show your photos to other users. They can even then comment and “like” photos in your stream, showing some of Apple’s efforts to get into the social game. You’ll also be able to view these photos on the iCloud website.
Facebook integration in iOS 6.
Apple’s also introduced Facebook integration similar to the existing Twitter features in iOS. I’m not a heavy Facebook user, but this seems pretty useful if you are, with the results appearing throughout the operating system. For example, you can view who among your friends like an app, or an album, in the iTunes and App Store apps. You can also easily pull in contact and calendar data from Facebook, and share to the social network in the same way as you can do with Twitter today.
Apple’s new features in iOS 6 continue to highlight the stellar ecosystem Apple’s developed, and iCloud.
Safari has brought some new iCloud features, such as the ability to open “iCloud tabs”, the tabs that are open on your other iCloud-connected devices will show up through an action button in the browser, allowing you to easily open the app. The Reading List feature, that syncs a saved list of webpages, can now even be accessed offline, and it’s all done very intuitively through iCloud.
Everything stays in sync across all your Apple devices, which is, unfortunately, not something Google can hope to achieve without pushing out a full-blown desktop operating system themselves.
What It Means for Android
Google doesn’t need to be awfully worried over Apple’s announcements today. Most are, in fact, minor tweaks to the OS and just neat extra features. However, some features like Siri are continuing to improve and edging ahead of the Android equivalent, which is an area Google needs to take as a call to action.