Alongside the freshly redesigned iPhone 5, Apple formally launched the newest version of its mobile operating system this morning. iOS 6 will ship pre-installed on the iPhone 5 starting September 21, but existing customers can download it from Apple two days earlier.
Scott Forstall took to the stage at the Moscone Center and outlined some of the new features of iOS 6, most of which we already saw at the WWDC in June. Among the most prominent enhancements are PassBook, upgrades to Siri, Facebook integration and a radical overhaul of the native Maps application.
Since the iPhone launched in 2007, the device has used Google Maps for navigation and directions. Starting next week, iOS users will say goodbye to the Google experience in favor of Apple's own solution, which features Siri integration, turn-by-turn GPS and 3D flyover maps. Transit directions are conspicuously absent, which opens up a huge new opportunity for third party transit app developers.
Maps isn't the only Google-made app getting the boot from iOS. Also missing will be the preinstalled YouTube app, which Google released its own version of earlier this week.
Passbook will be a very interesting feature to watch. Long-swirling rumors of an NFC chip in the iPhone didn't come to fruition this morning, but it's inevitable that Apple will integrate the technology. When that happens, Apple's new ticketing, gift card and coupon management app is ripe to become a full-blown mobile wallet.
Siri is also getting a big update. The voice control feature first debuted on the iPhone 4S will pull from more data sources and be a little more polished. New features include looking up movie times and sports scores, finding restaurants, launching apps and making social updates. Siri's integration with Maps in particular is bound to make the iPhone 5 the ultimate driving assistant.
Just as iOS 5 came with deep Twitter integration, the new version will allow users to connect their Facebook accounts for easy sharing from a variety of apps. This feature has been much anticipated. With it, the world's biggest social network is baked right into one of the most widely-used mobile operating systems.
Other new features in iOS 6 include shared photo streams, FaceTime over 3G, cloud-synced browser tabs and cross-device syncing of iMessages.
These are just the highlights. iOS 6 will ship with over 200 new features. Keep an eye on ReadWriteWeb as the launch approaches for a more thorough look.