iOS 6 unveiled with Siri enhancements, Passbook, new Maps

June 12, 2012 | Source: Ars Technica

New iOS maps (credit: Apple Inc.)

iOS 6, a new version of Apple’s mobile operating system, was unveiled at the company’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference on Monday.

It will feature “significant enhancements” to Siri, Apple’s own Maps app, a new app called Passbook, Facebook integration, changes to phone calls and FaceTime, and improvements to Mail, Safari, and Photo Stream.

Siri for iOS 6 (credit: Apple Inc.)

Third-party apps can now be launched with a command to Siri—for example, “Play Temple Run” opens the app. Users can also now tweet from Siri, a formerly noticeable hole in the Twitter integration throughout the rest of iOS.

In addition to hands-free mode, Siri now has “eyes-free” mode, where the app doesn’t light the screen, but still reads responses out. Apple is working with BMW, GM, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Honda to bring a “Siri button” to their cars that will work with iPhones within the next 12 months.

Siri has become more knowledgeable about restaurants and theaters, said Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS software. Restaurant search results are now sorted by Yelp rating, and tapping on them takes the user into the Yelp app. OpenTable, a reservation booking app, is also integrated into the restaurant results.

For movies, Siri can bring up artwork and the slate of movies playing at a nearby theater, along with information culled from Rotten Tomatoes. Siri is also now able to respond to questions about sports (“What was the score of the last Giants game?”), including queries on standings and player stats.

Apple will add many international languages to Siri, including Canadian French and English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Passbook (credit: Apple Inc.)

The new app, Passbook, is built to collect documents as they are created by different apps or services. The app can save things like movie tickets and plane tickets, a store card from Starbucks, or a coupon from Target.

The new Maps app has been built from the ground up by Apple. The app has a “Traffic View” that layers traffic data over traffic incidents using “anonymous, realtime, crowd-sourced data,” so users can determine whether the congestion might clear up soon.

The app offers turn-by-turn directions and can calculate the quickest route to a destination while factoring in traffic. It includes a 3D viewing mode that allows users to fly over city buildings and change viewing angles, or zoom back out to 2D view. Over 100 million business listings, culled from Yelp, will power the map app’s local searches.

As for direct OS features, iOS 6 will offer more control over phone calls. Users receiving a call will be offered two new buttons: reply with a message, or a prompt for the device to remind them about the call later.

For video calls, FaceTime will finally work over cellular service with iOS 6. Apple plans to unify cell phone numbers and Apple IDs so that calls that ring on an iPhone can be answered on an iPad or Mac. Likewise, if someone messages a user on a phone number, that message can be replied to on an iPad or Mac.

A new Do Not Disturb mode allows iOS 6 to continue to receive alerts, but without making noise, vibrating, or lighting up the screen. The mode will let users set certain numbers to still ring through on the handset.