Today’s keynote presentation at the WWDC in San Francisco has brought a huge number of announcements, addressing both Apple’s hardware and software range.
As expected, iOS 6 was launched at the event, with several new innovations.
Apple has a whole new Maps app, with a new 3D flyover feature for large cities – providing far greater detail than a satellite image. The new Maps app also supports ‘turn by turn’ navigation, as seen on traditional satellite navigation devices. Whether Google Maps will be downloadable from the App Store will be very interesting to see.
FaceTime will now be permitted over mobile networks – video calling is something that 3G networks were originally marketed for, before the explosion of the mobile web.
Siri has been greatly expanded in iOS 6, and is now being introduced to the new iPad for the first time. It’s now possible to tweet and post Facebook updates and launch applications directly with the tool.
Shared Photo Streams allow users to share photos easily from the Photos app. If the other user is using iCloud, they are delivered automatically.
A new Passbook app allows barcodes and coupons to be stored safely in one place, rather than having to locate them amongst several hundred emails at the ticket barrier, or having to print them out unnecessarily. This could be really useful for theme parks such as Thorpe Park, which uses a bar code system to grant access to the attraction. The app uses geolocation to determine when the user is close, and can pop up a notification on the home screen.
The Phone app, which has been almost untouched since the first release of the iPhone, is now being updated in iOS 6. There’s a new ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature, allowing users to schedule a ‘Quiet Hours’ period where all notifications are suppressed. Anyone who has been woken by a call or text in the middle of the night (almost everyone) will welcome this feature. It’s possible to define a ‘Favourites’ list who are allowed to call during this period.
Support for the original iPad has been dropped with this release, although the older 3GS will be offered the upgrade. This is because Apple is still selling the 3GS in its stores, while the first iPad has been discontinued. iOS 6 will be released this autumn, almost certainly around the time of a new iPhone.
On the hardware side, the MacBook Air is being updated with faster Intel processors and a new 512GB solid state drive option. It’ll now come with USB3 ports, in addition to Thunderbolt.
There’s an all-new MacBook Pro with a 15″ 2880×1800 Retina class display, while the current generation has been granted faster processors and graphics. Interestingly, there’s no optical drive in the new version. It appears Apple isn’t interested in supporting Blu ray on the Mac, though that’s understandable (if not excusable) as they’d rather customers purchase HD content through iTunes instead.
Mac OS X Mountain Lion will be made available next month in the App Store for just £13.99, and free for any customers who purchase a new Mac from today. Siri’s voice recognition feature will be included, though it won’t be able to process any requests such as creating calendar events. The other features, such as Notification Center have already previously been announced.
It’s interesting to take a step back and examine just how wide Apple’s portfolio is now. We’re in for a great year of new releases – now we’re just waiting on solid news of the new iPhone.