Apple just unveiled a bunch of new iPhone and iPad features coming this fall in iOS 6, but no big surprises.
The biggest new feature, as expected, is an entirely new Maps experience. Apple has taken over its maps back-end from Google, including a gorgeous 3D “flyover” mode, crowdsourced traffic information, Siri integration and turn-by-turn directions. (Public transit directions, a nice feature of Google Maps, seem to be missing. Perhaps Google will launch its own iOS Maps app now?)
A new (and unexpected) Apple app called “Passbook” is very interesting: You can store things like your Starbucks Card barcode, digital movie tickets, United boarding passes, Amtrak tickets and more. So far, Apple doesn’t seem to be inserting itself into the mobile payments chain, but it’s at least starting to aggregate payment credentials. Certainly something for Square and PayPal to keep an eye on.
As expected, Apple is adding deep Facebook integration to iOS: You’ll be able to add your Facebook account to iOS and share from apps. And you can now “like” apps in the App Store, and see what your friends like: A big commitment to Facebook on Apple’s part.
Siri, Apple’s voice dictation “assistant,” is also getting a bunch of new features: It will be able to retrieve sports scores and stock prices, launch apps, tweet, make OpenTable reservations, check Rotten Tomatoes movie ratings and listings, find friends, send mail and more. It’s learning new languages, including Spanish, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese. And it’s coming to cars: Apple says it’s working with car makers – including GM, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, Honda, etc. – to add a Siri button for “eyes free” help. But it doesn’t look like Apple is giving all third-party developers the keys to Siri yet.
iOS 6 will run on Apple’s iPhone 3GS and later, the iPad 2 and current “new iPad,” and the most recent (fourth generation) iPod touch. The “fall” launch timing suggests that’s when Apple will announce this year’s new iPhone, too.