Apple unveiled the next version of its mobile device operating system, iOS6, with Scott Forstall, the company’s senior VP of iOS Software, stating that the update has “more than 200 new features.” Headline updates include support for a new Apple maps service, displacing Google as its maps search partner, Facebook integration, and “significant enhancements” to its Siri voice recognition technology.
Unveiled at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday, Apple said that more than 365 million iOS-powered devices had been sold by 30 March 2012. It also said that “more than 80 percent” of customers are running the latest version of the platform – iOS5 – compared with around 7 percent of Android customers running the latest incarnation of the Google OS.
According to Forstall, “in iOS6 we have built an entire new mapping solution from the ground up, and it is beautiful.” The company said that it is doing the cartography for the service itself, describing the process as a worldwide effort. Features include turn-by-turn navigation, Siri integration, and local search – with more than 100 million points of interest and businesses already included.
The executive also said that “we have been working very closely with Facebook to create the best Facebook experience ever on a mobile device.” Users will be able to post directly to the social networking service from core apps including Photos, Safari and Maps, as well as being able to “Like” content from the App Store and iTunes. Facebook has also been integrated with Siri.
With regard to Siri, the company has added support for a number of new languages, including Mandarin and Cantonese for Chinese markets, Spanish for Spain and Mexico, and Italian. The technology is also being made available to owners of the latest iPad, marking its first availability beyond the iPhone 4S. Apple also highlighted an “eyes free” mode, for in-vehicle use, stating that it is working with auto manufactures to offer a steering wheel Siri button on cars, to enable access to the service without touching or looking at the smartphone.
Other iOS 6 highlights include support for FaceTime over mobile networks (it was previously WiFi only), features designed to appeal to consumers in China, and improved privacy controls.
The platform will launch “this fall,” and supported devices will include the iPhone 3GS and later versions, and iPad 2 and later versions. A beta release has been made available to developers.