Yesterday, Apple Inc. finally revealed their latest iteration of iOS for iPhone and the iPad. There were no real "wow" moments just the continued rehash of market numbers and a collection of little improvements to the world-wide hit operating system.
We're not trying to be too bitter here--look, Apple and iOS have a massive success on their hands so they're not messing with a good thing (think of all the grandparents with iPhones!). But today's unveiling of the new iOS is starting to show that Cupertino may be out of "big" ideas for mobile and are instead concentrating on refinements. That's not exactly a bad thing and we don't necessarily blame them, especially with their strong market share. But it sure does make for some boring discussion.
Our friends at iMore were there for the whole event, turtlenecks and all, documenting all the new additions to the sixth version of the OS. Due this fall, here is their summary of the major changes:
- Maps - Probably the biggest news was the addition of Apple's own Maps app which will be powered by TomTom. Maps will come stock with turn-by-turn navigation, traffic info, and a new feature called Flyover.
- Siri additions and enhancements- Siri received quite a few updates under iOS 6 including iPad support, integration with many car manufacturers, and several new features.
- Passbook - Passbook is a brand new way to store and save airline apps, boarding passes, and more all in one place. Many different services and Passbook apps are already available such as express check at hotels, Target cards, movie tickets, coupons, and more.
- Photo Stream sharing - Photo Stream sharing will allow you to create separate streams (similar to how you'd create albums currently). You can then share those separate streams with whoever you'd like. Have one with family for vacation pics and one with mom and dad for baby pics. They'll also be given the ability to comment and like photos native in iOS.
- Mail enhancements - Multiple e-mail signatures, VIP Mailbox allows you to add all the important people in your life to a VIP list and their messages will automatically be filtered into a new VIP mailbox that appears under your default inbox.
- Facebook integration - In iOS 5 we saw Apple integrate Twitter into iOS natively. This year the same will happen with Facebook. Post status, upload pictures, and more without needing a third party app.
- FaceTime over the cellular network - FaceTime has only ever been available for us on a Wi-Fi network since it's release in iOS 4. iOS 6 is about to change all that and you'll soon be able to FaceTime wherever you are, Wi-Fi or 3G/4G.
Read more after the break for some exclusive Windows Phone 8 news...
There are some who are suggesting that Apple "stole" the Facebook and Twitter integration thing from Windows Phone. Perhaps. Though let's be clear, no one outside of hardcore fans really care about feature origins--consumers just care if the experience is good and it works. So while it's a shame that Apple is picking the best from Windows Phone for their OS, we can't exactly be shocked (and let us be happy they're steering clear of Metro so far).
The Maps thing is certainly interesting if only because it now shows how uncomfortable Apple is with Google. In reality this is very bad news for the company behind Android. With Google Maps relegated to "just an app" on the iPhone, they're losing a big chunk of the mobile market which actually makes Microsoft and Bing a bit stronger.
And what about Windows Phone? Some sites are reporting that future Nokia Windows Phones, Nokia Maps will be the default engine for mapping. That's actually false. In Windows Phone 8, Nokia Maps replaces Bing Maps all together and will feature 3D navigation and hardware acceleration across all Windows Phone devices. Should Apple be worried? It's a pretty serious mapping solution that Microsoft and Nokia are putting up and it will give developers some fun tools to play with too. Windows Phone 8 won't trump Apple or Google here but yes, it will offer something just as impressive.
Although FaceTime will now work over cellular, Windows Phone 8 will feature Skype built into the OS and integrated into your contacts--and not just messaging but VOIP. Skype for Windows Phone 8 will behave like a regular phone call with a little Toast window popping down as you multi-task with different apps--completely seamless. Don't like Skype? That's okay, we hear other VOIP providers can patch into the OS just like Skype can because, once again, Microsoft is service-agnostic even when they own the service.
The fact of the matter is that Skype has 200 million registered users and works across devices and platforms. FaceTime does not.
Passbook is certainly a neat idea but it is hardly something that Microsoft or a third party app couldn't implement just as easily. While Windows Phone 8 users won't have something comparable, Windows Phone Wallet should be a nice addition for many users out there. As Apple seemingly skips over NFC for another generation, Microsoft is embracing it for Windows Phone 8.
Siri is still a serious app and Microsoft doesn't have a solution in Windows Phone 8 for it as far as we know. Yes, TellMe is still powering Bing but there is still no native question/answer service as well-rounded as Siri (or with the personality). Of course there is still the question: Is Siri more gimmick than useful feature? We'll leave that to you to ponder. We'll just say this: Windows Phone developers will like the new Voice tools and we hear Ask Ziggy is due for some serious upgrades.
In conclusion, Apple has announced a nice collection of minor updates and improvements to their hit OS. We can criticize them all we want but last we checked, they're doing pretty well with these releases while Microsoft languishes with 2% market share.
Having said that from what we've seen of Windows Phone 8 (aka Apollo) it will be a massive overhaul--more so because it trades Windows CE for a version of WinRT but also because it brings a massive onslaught of new features, including some creative tools for devs e.g. the camera app (cough, Lenses, cough) and native development for gaming.
While Apple had their day, next week Microsoft will begin to unveil how they do more in one update than Apple does in three. Mark our words.
Read more on the latest from Apple an iOS 6 here at iMore.