iOS 6 will make your phone and iPad do a lot of cool new little things.
Siri does more stuff now.
- Siri can answer questions about major league sports scores and player stats. How tall is Lebron James? I don't know or care, but I could ask Siri if I wanted to.
- Siri's integrated with Yelp and OpenTable. So using it to find a restaurant isn't completely pointless anymore. And she knows what movies are playing at theaters, with built-in trailers.
- Siri can launch apps. And Tweet. Here come the driving-while-your-tweeting tweets.
- Annnd automakers are going to build a Siri feature, Eyes Free, into their cars over the next 12 months. Siri is the new iPod connector.
There's a new mail app
- Mostly you'll just notice pull-to-refresh
- Facebook's built into all of the main apps, like Safari, Photos and Maps. Posting webpages and photos is just like tweeting them out with Twitter in iOS 5.
- It's integrated with Contacts and Calendars. So Facebook birthdays show up in your calendar and it adds data to your address book.
- It's even built into the App Store and Notifications Center. So when you pull down notifications, you can tweet or post to Facebook from there — in other words, there is no escape. And you can Like apps in the App Store.
- You can reply to phone calls with canned text messages. Or with custom ones. "STOP CALLING ME JERK."
- Do Not Disturb is the best thing to happen to smartphones ever. Basically, your phone doesn't bother you with calls or messages or notifications for set periods of time. But the controls are incredibly fine-grained, so certain people can get through, or if somebody calls you multiple times quickly — indicating it's an emergency — you can allow them to get through as well.
- FaceTime calls over cell networks. No more being shackled to Wi-Fi. Plus! Apple's finally connected Apple IDs to phone numbers, so you can answer calls to your phone number on your Mac or iPad. Which I'm hoping fixes iMessages too.
It's much easier to share photos now
- You can upload photos to websites from Safari now. It's wonderful when something from computing circa forever ago is a new feature in 2012.
- Shared Photostreams is a bigger deal than it sounds like. Apple's effectively letting you create ad hoc social networks: You pick some people, you pick some photos, and the photos show up in their Photo Stream automatically, or they can look them on the web. This might be the one Apple social network that isn't a tragicomedy.
Oh, and panorama shooting is built right in. It's pretty solid!
Your phone will work like a wallet, sort of
- A new app, Passbook, holds passes and tickets for all kinds of things. Boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty cards. Um, how long before you can throw in your credit card??
- It supports QR codes. Ew.
The new maps are... well, they're new
- The old Google-powered Maps is dead. Apple built this new app from the ground up.
- Local search is built into Maps. Powered by Yelp, you can pull up info on over 100 million locations, like reviews and hours.
- There's a new Traffic service with live data. It shows traffic slowdowns, accidents and construction along your route and automatically re-routes you to save time.
- It's got turn-by-turn navigation with quick routes. That whistling sound you here is the stock price of navigation companies, dropping.
- Whizbang 3D maps with full three-dimensional models of cities all around the world. It's called Flyover, and it looks real neat.
- Siri is built-in. So you can do a lot of stuff from the lock screen, and ask things like where to get gas.
But, well, it's no Google Maps. It's prettier, and the 3D stuff is nice. The turn-by-turn navigation was very, very rough in early betas, but now it's pretty trustworthy — about as good as most dedicated apps. For people in cities, though, the lack of transit directions is a big problem. There's really nothing: In New York, for example, you can't even tell which trains run at each station, even though the stations are on the map.
Maps is the biggest new features here, and it's mixed bag. I've been using it for a couple months now and I miss Google Maps.