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Apple iOS 6: New Features

Apple has announced the latest version of its mobile device operating system - iOS 6 - at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2012) in San Francisco.

There have been many rumours and much speculation of late as to what iOS 6 might contain, from Facebook integration, to 3D Maps, and support for Siri on the iPad.

It has now been confirmed that all this going to be a part of iOS 6. This platform is due to arrive in Autumn this year, for the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S devices; iPad 2nd and 3rd generations and for iPod touch 4th gen models. This range of supported Apple products leaves out the 3rd generation iPod touch and the original iPad products, which were supported by the last iOS 5.

iOS 6 will ship with 200 new features and some significant advancements to the eight-month old Siri voice assistant. Apple's CEO Tim Cook demonstrated some of these new Siri abilities at WWDC. The the company head asked a wide range of Baseball questions, such as "What is Buster Posey's batting average?" with the correct answer always coming back.

Siri's response for dinner suggestions now delivers a great deal more information, with ratings, average prices and a Yelp rating. Apple has partnered with OpenTable, in the USA, for automated booking reservations through Siri, which means that toptable will probably be implemented in the UK version.

Apple has teamed up with Rotten Tomatoes, for delivering movie information such as reviews, trailers and detailed info about a film - all from a request through Siri. The list of actions that Siri can now perform is quite considerable, such as using the voice app to reply to a tweet and even launching an app, which was a missing and much requested feature.

Another new ability of iOS 6 is known as ‘Eyes free', where a number of car manufacturers are incorporating a Siri button inside a car - for quick and easy access to the Apple voice assistant. BMW, GM, Mercedes Benz, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda have all been listed as working on this implementation. They have all committed to delivering Siri access within their cars, in the next 12 months.

Siri's language support has now been expanded to now include 15 languages. There is new support for Spanish, Italian, Korean and Cantonese - with localised search results being produced, even in China.

Another notable addition and one we've been waiting for, is iPad support for Siri. iOS 6 will feature the voice assistant, on the iPad 2 and new iPad for the very first time, and in a pop-up window. Unfortunately, the very first Apple tablet will be left out of the equation. There is no word from the company as to why this has happened, but we expect more details around this to be made public soon.

The new platform also features Facebook integration, in the same way as Twitter was integrated into iOS 5. The social networking giants' features will be thoroughly worked into iOS 6, with the ability to Facebook-share from various parts of the operating system, such as: photos, Safari, maps, the game centre and even from apps - all with the same pop-up window. Logging into Facebook, just the once, allow you to share from any number of apps automatically.

The notification centre will now offer the ability to post to Facebook, along with twitter. App store also has a social networking element included, as you can see what apps your friends have liked and this carried across to movies, TV and music.

As with other platforms, such as Android and Windows Phone, Facebook events have been brought into the iOS; with birthdays and calendar appointments now thoroughly integrated.

Apple unveiled some overall enhancements to the phone app, at WWDC. These relate to sending a text message response to an incoming call, instead of answering it. It will soon be possible to respond to a call, with a text message, such as: "I'll call you later" or "I'm on my way", from a simple pop-up menu. Of course Android phones like the Galaxy S2 have been offering this feature for well over a year.

The new OS will also remind you of a missed call, applying a range of options: in an hour, when I leave, when I get home or when I get to work. These options all work with geo-fence and can be used to ensure that a missed call isn't consigned to the depths of your memory and just forgotten about.

Another useful addition is a Do Not Disturb feature, inside of the phone's settings menu. This new ability can be switched on, as an example, at night time and can disable notifications and messages on an iPhone. The screen will no longer light up or make a sound at 3am, when a spam email arrives. Inside this function is another option, called Repeated Calls - if someone calls, from the same number, within three minutes, the phone will be awoken from the Do Not Disturb setting. The call will then be delivered and heard, as it is seen as a matter of urgency.

Apple's video calling feature, FaceTime, was released with iOS 4 and the iPhone 4 handset. However, it could only be used over Wi-Fi. iOS 6 brings in FaceTime over the data network, for the very first time on an Apple mobile phone. There will also be unification between a phone number and an Apple ID. This ability will allow a FaceTime call to be answered on an iPad or Mac, even though those devices won't necessarily have that particular SIM card installed.

During the WWDC keynote, Apple made public that two thirds of mobile traffic comes from Safari in iOS devices - as a way of introducing new changes to the web browser. iCloud tabs, offline reading lists and the ability to upload photos from the browser are new, along with full screen support, in landscape mode.

iOS 6 will see the introduction of shared photo streams, where a few simple steps will allow you to share your iCloud photos. This simply operates by choosing which photos you want to share, then selecting which friends you want to share the images with and they will all receive a notification message. Photos will then appear in their albums, where they can even comment on them. This appears to be a similar feature as to what is available with Facebook; perhaps the two could be further integrated in the future.

Apple has introduced a prioritising mailbox feature into iOS 6, under the name of VIP. This is where a VIP inbox is created and contacts are then added to it, for streamlining countless messages and highlighting the important ones. There are some other minor new additions to messages: an easier way to insert photos or video in the message window, and opening password protected Office docs. This is in addition to Pull to Refresh for emails, which works in the same way as refresh does on the mobile app version of Facebook, or Twitter.

A form of Google Wallet will be featured in iOS 6, under the name of Passbook. Apple device owners will be able to store credit card details, cinema tickets and even boarding passes here. The latter is a similar feature to the BA boarding pass app that launched on Windows Phone Mango 7.5. Electronic tickets will be easily accessible, by always being present on an Apple phone or tablet. The demo of this at WWDC highlighted tickets to sports games, a Starbuck loyalty card, Apple Store cards and a plane boarding pass. These even work with geolocate and the various cards will pop-up, when you are near the store, from the lock-screen, too. These cards are live, so if the boarding gate changes on your plane ticket, it will do so on the Passbook version too.

Under the title of Guided Access are new selectable limitations inside iOS 6. This function can disable parts of the screen, or buttons. There is also a Single App mode that is ideal for children, when using games or apps that are geared up for them. Together, this prevents children from leaving a running app when they shouldn't or touch areas of the screen they do not need to. It is possible that teachers and places, such as museums, could also benefit from this and use an iPad as an educational tool.

Rumoured for some time was a new mapping feature on a new mobile Apple platform. iOS 6 will see new maps from the company, all developed in-house and with a 3D mode, similar to the one Google announced last week. Support for this new ability is worldwide, with countries such as Italy, New Zealand, Singapore and France being only a few of those mentioned.

The new maps will see over 100 million business listings brought in. These can all be searched upon and with Yelp integration. Apple is also building in a traffic service, where red bars will indicate traffic slowdown and icons will show accidents. There will also be photos, traffic view, incident reports and anonymous real-time crowed source updates.

Apple has notably dropped Google as its maps provider, while partnering with TomTom - to what full-extent is unknown, at this stage. The addition of turn-by-turn directions in mapping could very well be from TomTom. This will be accessible from the lock screen and with Siri integration.

Apple has added a Flyover feature to the new mobile OS version. This is just as it sounds, a flyover view of cities on a very detailed level, in a Google Street view-esque way - only much higher up. 3D mode offers up more solid views of cities around the world, with fast real-time rendering and clear driving routes, even behind buildings.

Last, but not by any means least is iCloud's Lost Mode. This is a way to locate a lost Apple device, from Find My iPhone. This new aspect can be used to send a phone number to the security-locked handset, and when the person receives it, they can just tap the number to call you straight back - with no further access to the device.

Apple's iOS 6 welcomes in a whole wealth of new features that will be available in the Autumn, when the operating system becomes available to download and install from iTunes.

Images published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc

Rob Kerr is a journalist with more than 14 years experience of news, reviews and feature writing on titles such as Wired, PC Magazine, The Register, The Inquirer, Pocket-Lint, Mobile Industry Review, Know Your Mobile and The Gadget Show. The mobile phone world is his real passion and forte, having owned a handset as far back as 1994 where he has seen them grow from just a business tool to a necessity in everyone’s everyday life.