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Apple previews iOS 6, coming this fall as free software update

iPad 3 Screenshot - 1107304

At today's Worldwide Developer's Conference, Apple previewed iOS 6, introducing over 200 new features to the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, and released a beta version to iOS Developer Program members.

iOS 6, which will be available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users this fall as a free software update boasts a ton of new features including:

...an all new Maps app with Apple-designed cartography, turn-by-turn navigation and an amazing new Flyover view; new Siri features, including support for more languages, easy access to sports scores, restaurant recommendations and movie listings; Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, with the ability to post directly from Notification Center, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps like Photos, Safari and Maps; Shared Photo Streams via iCloud; and Passbook, the simplest way to get all your passes in one place.

“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,” said Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iOS Software. “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.”

The all-new Maps app features "vector-based" map elements that make graphics and text smooth. Tilting and zooming is said to be "incredibly fluid". The new app includes turn-by-turn directions along with a Flyover feature that has photo-realistic interactive 3D views. With new real-time traffic information, you will be informed on how long it will take to get to your destination with the option to choose alternative time-saving routes if traffic conditions change. Local searches includes information for over 100 million businesses.

Siri is also getting an upgrade. Currently available for the new iPad and iPhone 4S, it adds support for Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Siri will also update your status on Facebook, post to Twitter, and launch an app (if you can get the damn thing to understand you). There is even a new Eyes Free mode that enables you to interact with your phone using nothing more than your voice.

Built-in Facebook integration allows you to sign in once and post from Notification Center, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps, including Photos, Safari and Maps. In addition, your Facebook friends' info is kept up-to-date across all of your iOS devices and updates automatically.

Perhaps the coolest new feature, and possibly dangerous, is the new Passbook app. This new app gathers all of your passes, like baseball tickets or boarding passes, in one place for your convenience. Passbook will scan your iPhone or iPod touch to use a coupon, get into a concert, or check into your hotel.

Additional new iOS 6 features include:

  • enhancements to Safari, the world’s most popular mobile browser, such as iCloud tabs, offline reading lists, photo uploads and full screen view
  • support for FaceTime calls over cellular networks
  • the ability to set up a VIP Mailbox, making it easier to quickly view messages from important people you designate as VIPs
  • the option to decline incoming calls with a quick message, set a callback reminder and enable a new Do Not Disturb option
  • a whole new set of improvements and services specifically for iOS users in China, such as improved text input and built-in support for popular Chinese services including Baidu, Sina Weibo, Youku and Tudou.

The iOS 6 beta software and SDK are available immediately for iOS Developer Program members at developer.apple.com. iOS 6 will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod touch (fourth generation) this fall. Some features may not be available on all products.

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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