Facebook integration and a new Apple maps feature are among more than 200 new features in Apple's latest operating system, iOS 6.
The manufacturer gave a sneak peek of the operating system last night at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco last night (11 June). The OS will be rolled out to iPhone and iPad users this autumn, although the first generation iPad will not be able to use the features.
The new Maps app marks Apple's shift away from Google, having used the digital company's own maps application since the iPhone first launched. It offers turn by turn navigation, real-time traffic information and alternative routes if traffic conditions change significantly.
The tie-up with Facebook had been long rumoured and joins Twitter in being integrated into Apple's devices. Users can now post from the notification centre, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps such as Photos, Safari and Maps. Friends information automatically updates the Contacts app when it changes.
Apple is also bringing Siri to the new iPad, with the voice recognition software enabling users to update Facebook or launch an app. Siri also has a new handsfree mode, allowing users to interact with their iPhone by using their voice.
A new Shared Photo Streams service allows users to share photos with other users via iOS devices or the web. Another new feature is Passbook, a new app that keeps coupons, boarding passes and tickets in one place. Other tweaks include support for FaceTime calls over cellular networks, an option to decline incoming calls with a message, set callback reminders and a new Do Not Disturb feature.
Apple senior VP of iOS software Scott Forstall said: '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. We can’t wait for hundreds of millions of iOS users to experience the incredible new features in iOS 6 including the new Maps app, expanded Siri support, deep Facebook integration, Shared Photo Streams and the innovative new Passbook app.'
However, there was no space for an announcement about the iPhone 5 during the conference. Rumours had persisted that Apple would reveal the next version of its smartphone portfolio. A 2012 release date for the phone is still expected.
Francisco Jeronimo, research manager for European devices at IDC, said the new features showed Apple was 'again one step ahead' and were driven by a need to create value. He said: 'Apple already understood that applications or features per se are not enough to drive stickiness and loyalty. Despite announcing 200 new features, Apple is focused on providing the right "services" and the right experience to users that make their lives easier. The integration with Facebook will be difficult to match on stand-alone Facebook applications. The partnerships with external content providers and the integration with Siri is all about adding value to end-users.
'Apple is not developing new features or new applications anymore. Apple is creating new ways to improve usability and to add value. Other vendors will continue to add more features to their devices, but none will be able to match Apple's experience in the short term, because they haven't yet understood the importance of focusing on users capabilities rather then phone capabilities.'
Editor: Graeme Neill