Apple announced the sixth generation of its groundbreaking mobile operating system this week at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. iOS 6 will be available this fall on the iPhone 3G and later, as well as the second and third generation iPads. (A developer beta is available now.) The company is touting over 200 new features and enhancements in this release, but here are the six most worth getting excited about:
6) A cloudier Safari: With the next release of mobile Safari, Apple is introducing iCloud tabs, which will be shared between your iPhone, iPad, and computer. You can also look forward to an offline reading mode and fullscreen browsing.
5) Siri, for real this time: Siri had a splashy-but-rocky debut. But with new app-launching powers, as well as integration with RottenTomatoes, OpenTable, Yahoo! Sports, and more, you may find yourself asking for her input a lot more often. Even more interestingly, Apple is partnering with a variety of car manufacturers to develop eyes free functionality. And when iOS 6 drops this fall, Siri will show up on your iPad as well.
4) Facebook integration: Twitter was already pretty deeply integrated into iOS 5, and now Apple is adding Facebook to the mix. You’ll be able to post a status update straight from the Notification Center, as well as sync your contacts. The App Store and iTunes are getting Like buttons, as well, so your friends can see just how much you love Adele and Temple Run. (Facebook is similarly integrated in Apple’s next Mac OS release, Mountain Lion.)
3) Passbook: A one-stop wallet for digitized discount cards, boarding passes, event tickets, hotel reservations, event tickets — if it has a barcode and you keep it in your pocket, odds are you can keep it in Passbook instead. There have been a few apps in this vein before, of course, but they tended to require clunky scanning or photography, and they weren’t integrated with the service providers in question. But if your gate changes after you slip your United boarding pass in Passbook, the app will update to reflect the change. It’s a relatively quiet feature, but Apple has the clout and infrastructure to make it a game-changer.
2) FaceTime, for real this time: Until now, FaceTime’s been a bit of a novelty, since you could only chat over WiFi. Even if you live in a WiFi-drenched urban area, you can’t really FaceTime call someone at any time of day and expect them to be able to pick up. That limitation hobbled FaceTime’s adopt-ability, at least as a commonplace platform, but all of that is changing with iOS 6. You’ll be able to make FaceTime calls over cellular networks (Apple hasn’t gotten more specific yet, so it’s not clear if this will be 3G or 4G LTE). Maybe more crucially, FaceTime IDs will be tied to phone numbers, so FaceTiming someone could be a little more like SMS — just another way to go about getting in touch.
1) Turn-by-turn navigation: When I was debating switching from Android to iOS, the only reason I hesitated was the loss of Google’s free turn-by-turn navigation. Now Apple has its own Maps architecture and its own free navigation, built in conjunction with TomTom. It’s deeply integrated with Siri (you can ask her, “Are we there yet?”) and Yelp, and can dynamically reroute you based on changes in traffic. The navigation works from the lock screen, too. It’ll be exciting to see how it compares to Google’s service — and whether it sparks a game of oneupsmanship in free navigation.
What’s your favorite feature of iOS 6? Were you hoping for something more? Let us know in the comments!
Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and researcher for CollegeScholarships.org, where recently she’s been researching student loans. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.