As expected, Apple today unveiled the next version of its mobile operating system, iOS 6, which Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iOS Software at Apple, said includes more than 200 new features.
That includes a revamped Maps app, Siri on the iPad, as well as Facebook integration, and FaceTime video chat over cellular networks.
A beta version of iOS 6 was released to developers today, and the full version will be available for everyone else in the fall. It will work on the iPhone 3GS and above, the iPad 2 and up, and fourth-generation iPod touch and beyond.
Siri Gets Boost
"We're taking Siri beyond the iPhone 4S, and we're bringing it to the new iPad," Forstall said today at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
Among the improvements to Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant currently available on the iPhone 4S, is enhanced sports knowledge. Ask for the latest stats or individual player data, he said. (Sample questions: "Who's taller? LeBron or Kobe?" or "When is the first 49ers game of the season?").
Siri also now includes improved restaurant recommendations, which pull up Yelp reviews and the option for OpenTable reservations, as well as movie data, aided by Rotten Tomato stats. Perhaps more importantly, however, Siri will now open apps. "Siri, play Temple Run," you could say, and the addictive game will open automatically.
Getting Social With Twitter, Facebook
Have an inspiring, 140-character thought? You can also tweet right from Siri, including a hands-free integration with your car.
Twitter won't be the only social network baked into iOS, however. Forstall announced a deeper integration with Facebook, just like the micro-blogging service. Just log in to Facebook and it will be integrated across iOS, from apps and the notification center to Siri. You can also "like" apps in the App Store and share them with friends.
Facebook will also be included in OS X, the next version of which - Mountain Lion - is coming in July.
Farewell, Google Maps
As expected, Apple also showed off a revamped mapping solution that ditches Google Maps and includes turn-by-turn navigation, improved traffic, and Yelp integration, among other things.
For security, the mapping features will work in the lock screen, according to Forstall, while Siri will also make an appearance.
Like Google's recently revamped Maps, meanwhile, Apple will deploy flyover 3D modelling for its Maps app, including buildings and geographical features.
FaceTime Over 3G, VIP Access, More
What else? For video chat fans, Apple is finally bringing its FaceTime video chat feature to cellular networks. Until now, it only worked when both users were connected to Wi-Fi. Now, it will function as long as you have a data connection, Forstall said. FaceTime will also work with iCloud, so if you get a call on your phone, you can answer it on your Mac or iPad.
Forstall showed off "Reply with Message," which will let you send a text reply instead of answering a phone call. Type your own or pick a set message: I'll call you later, I'm on my way, or What's up? Or, select a "remind me later" option. If you're really busy, meanwhile, you can select a "Do not disturb," setting, which will gather all your notifications in the background instead of having them pop up, though you can opt to have certain messages come through.
On that front, iOS 6 will include a VIP option, which will gather messages from VIPs in a special iOS Mail folder, while "Guided Access" will lock down your phone, allowing your kids to play with your device without deleting important docs. "Single-app mode," for example, will let your kid play Angry Birds - and only Angry Birds.
In a nod to mobile payments, meanwhile, a new Passbook app will gather all your important documents in one place, like boarding passes, scannable cards, and tickets. It will have geo-location capabilities; if you're near a Starbucks, for example, your Starbucks card will appear on the screen, ready to use.
If you lose your iPhone, a new "Lost Mode" will let you send a phone number to the device. The person who finds it can call that number (if they're charitable) to get in touch with you and return your precious smartphone.
Forstall also discussed updates to the Safari browser, including offline reading lists, which are cached automatically, and banners that will offer the option to switch from the Web to the app version. If the app is not installed, a banner will prompt you to download. Shared photo streams, meanwhile, will let you share photos with friends. Friends will see the pics in their photo app in iOS and can comment on them. It will also work in iPhoto and on Apple TV.
Forstall said Apple has sold 365 million iOS devices so far, and 80 per cent are using iOS 5. There are about 140 million iMessage users, who have sent 150 billion messages total, for an average of about 1 billion per day.
Apple's Tim Cook said Apple's App Store now has 650,000 apps, 225,000 of which were developed for iPad. Users have downloaded 30 billion apps, resulting in $5 billion paid to developers. At this point, 120 countries have access to the App Store, with another 32 coming on board by month's end, Cook said.
Also today, Apple revamped its notebook line and took the wraps off a completely new, next-generation MacBook Pro with the rumoured Retina display.
The arrival of iOS 6 was confirmed on Friday when Apple hoisted several banners at WWDC with the iOS 6 logo. Prior to that, there were iOS rumours about deep Facebook integration, an Apple 3D maps solution, and Siri for the iPad.
At last year's WWDC, Steve Jobs showed off iOS 5 and iCloud, both of which arrived on iOS devices by Oct. 12. The update added the BBM-like iMessage and a notification center, and allowed for PC-free upgrades, among other things.