Apple Takes On Google With New iOS Maps

Apple’s iOS 6 offers 200 new features, including a multi-lingual Siri, better Facebook integration, and a mapping application aimed at replacing Google Maps

Apple kicked off the first day of its Worldwide Developer Conference with, as promised, an introduction to iOS 6 that’s headed for iPhones, iPad and the iPad Touch this autumn and, as rumoured, a new mapping app.

Among the 200 features added to the mobile OS are an updated Siri, Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, and a new Passbook app.

Rapid pace of innovation

“iOS 6 continues the rapid pace of innovation that is helping Apple reinvent the phone and create the iPad category, delivering the best mobile experience available on any device,” Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS Software said in an 11 June statement.

The new Map app features “vector-based map elements” said to make graphics and text smooth and panning, tilting and zooming fluid. A Flyover feature has photo-realistic interactive 3D views, and there’s real-time traffic information and data – for local searches – on more than 100 million businesses, including info cards tied to Yelp ratings, reviews, photos and deals.

It’s rumoured that, with the app, Apple will be able to cut ties with Google and stop shipping its devices with Google Maps preloaded.

Siri – which while she has no problem chatting with celebrities, but has been more problematic for others of us – now has better ties to sports and restaurant information, making her more helpful for things like booking a reservation or finding out a score.

With an Eyes Free mode, iPhone users can direct Siri with just their voice. The new Siri, which will also work on the new iPad, includes language support for English, French, German and Japanese, and has added support for Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Apple is calling its new ties to Facebook the best ever on a mobile device. Users can sign in and then post from the Notification Centre, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps such as Photos, Safari and Maps, and friends’ information is updated across all of a user’s iOS devices.

Photo sharing

With iOS 6, iCloud includes new ways to share photos, including Shared Photo Streams. Just select the photos to share, select the friends to share them with, and the photos will appear in the Shared Photo Streams albums on their iOS devices. Friends can also “like” or leave comments on the photos.

The new Passbook app offers a single place to keep track of things like boarding passes, loyalty cards and tickets for events. Virtual coupons and cards can be scanned on the device, and Passbook can alert users to related information like flight delays.

Another addition to the platform is Guided Access, a feature that lets the device be locked into a single app – something Apple imagines could be useful for test-taking or helping people likely to get distracted to stay focused.

Other new features include updates to Safari, such as iCloud tabs, offline reading lists and a full-screen view; support for FaceTime over cellular networks; and the ability to decline incoming calls with a message or enable a Do Not Disturb function. A VIP Mailbox can also be set up for emails from people designated as VIPs, and loads of improvements and services have been built in for supporting Chinese services, including Baidu, Sina Weibo, Youku and Tudou.

Apple made no secret of wanting to do all it can to make it easier for developers to create apps for China, a tremendous new market for Apple and the rest of the mobile industry.

‘Mountain Lion’

On 11 June a beta version of iOS 6 was released to iOS Developer Programme members, and this autumn it will be offered as a free software update.

In addition to iOS 6, Apple showed off OS X “Mountain Lion”, which will be available in the App Store in July, introduced updates to its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks, and introduced what it’s calling the next-generation MacBook Pro – or the MacBook Pro with Retina display.

A thin and light machine, it features a 15.4-inch display with a resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 and 220 pixels per inch, and an up to 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor. Apple says that even its insides have been “reinvented” and is calling it the best notebook it has ever made.

How well do you know your operating systems? Take our quiz.