Apple introduces iOS 6, available this fall

In a presenation filled with detail, Apple introduced iOS 6 today, with 200 new features. It will be available this fall for the iPhone 3GS and later, the iPad 2 and 3, and the fourth generation iPod touch. Ten of the new features were demoed, and they all look pretty exciting. The changes to Siri seem the most remarkable. You can now ask Siri specific questions related to sports (scores, stats, standings, etc.), restaurants (nearby restaurants, maps, hours, prices, reviews -- even make reservations), and movies (reviews, locations and times -- and even view the trailer right within Siri). You'll also be able to use Siri to launch apps, and in the coming year auto manufacturers will begin building a Siri button into the steering wheel such that you can interact with Siri just by touching the button. Siri also will now be available on the new iPad.

Siri will also be deeply integrated with the new Maps app. You'll just tell Siri where you want to go, and you'll get turn-by-turn directions as you drive. And it's all done in real-time, such that Siri might dynamically change your route based on traffic conditions.

And speaking of Maps, that may be the most significant new app introduced. Apple has rewritten it from the ground up, even doing their own cartography. As was rumored, there's a 3-D vector-based maps view. The app now includes local search, and a Flyover mode, as well as a satellite view. 

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Another significant new app is Passbook. It unifies all the passes you might have: movie theaters, airline tickets, App Store gift cards. That way, you don't have to fumble among apps on your device. You just go to Passbook and it automatically shows you the one that you need. Apple gave the example of your movie theater pass automatically popping up as you enter the theater. And regarding your airline tickets, they dynamically update if there are changes to your flight.

As was rumored, there will now be deep Facebook integration. You simply log into Facebook in your settings, and then you're automatcially logged in for any app that accesses your Facebook account. Things such as Facebook contact info and events are integrated with your contacts and calendar in iOS.

The Phone app has some highly useful new features, such as options for responding to a call from the lockscreen, and automatically sending a pre-made text message saying things such as "I'm in a meeting and will call you when I get home." A Do Not Disturb feature lets you get a call but without your device lighting up or making a sound. You'll now also have greater control over what calls come through, such as no calls, or only calls from favorites or a particular group.

A neat new feature of Safari is iCloud tabs. If you have tabs open on your desktop computer, you can choose to see those same tabs in Safari on your device. Other features including uploading photos directly from Safari, an offline reading list, and smart app banners. If you go to a web site that has an app in the App Store, you'll receive an alert that the app is available. Then when you download and open the app, it will pick up right where you left off in your browser.

The big news for Facetime in iOS 6 is that it will now work over the cell phone data network, and not just via WiFi. Also, Apple is now integrating a unified ID, such that if you get a call on your device, you can answer it via your Mac or iPad. iMessage will have the same integration.

Mail has some new features too, including a VIP feature. If one of your VIPs emails you, you can receive an alert in your lockscreen. And there's a special mailbox for VIP email. 

Guided Access is a new app that lets you control what your device shows. You can lock it so that it only accesses a specific app, for example. If you're a teacher giving a test, you'll be able to disallow your students from doing anything else on their iPad while taking the test.

Photostream's update will now let you share selected photos from your Photostream.

Overall, I'm excited. The big disappointment for me is that Siri won't be available on my iPad 2. I may need to buy the new model.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.