Apple just announced updates to the operating systems for its iOS devices (iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches), as well as the computer operating system (current version called Lion). Let’s take a quick look at the most interesting developments.
iOS Version 6 (coming this Fall; many new useful features, and some really interesting ones)
- Siri upgrade – you can now ask more questions (e.g. who won the last Miami Heat game? What movies are playing at the Metreon?). You can even use Siri to launch applications; this is huge. And Siri will now work with the latest generation iPad.
- Phone notifications – you may have found yourself in meetings where you can’t take a phone call. The new iOS will give you two options when you receive a call, besides “Decline” or “Anwer.” The new options allow you to either (1) Reply with a Message, or (2) Remind you to call later. The “Reply with a Message” option has pre-set responses that all begin with “Can’t talk right now…” – (1) I’ll call you later, (2) I’m on my way, (3) What’s up?, and (4) a custom response that you set up.
- Phone – do not disturb option. This one is huge. It lets you designate a time frame (at night, presumably) during which you don’t want to be disturbed. Your phone will not ring or vibrate at all, except for people in your favorites list (if you choose to enable that option).
- Passbook – a new application that stores your boarding passes, store affinity cards, and electronically delivered movie tickets (e.g. anything with a barcode). Apple has created templates to make it easy for developers to access this application, and presumably it will become more useful the more that developers hook their apps to it. The cards are updated in real time, so theoretically, if your airline gate changes it will update in the app as well.
- Facebook integration – you login once to your Facebook account and associate it with your iPhone or iPad and you won’t have to login again. You can post to Facebook from Safari or other apps that it would make sense to hook Facebook to. Facebook events such as your friends’ birthdays can show up in your calendar automatically. And your friends will be able to see which App store apps you like (assuming you allow it, I presume).
- Goodbye Google Maps – some people will recoil at this, but we knew it was coming. So what’s it mean? The Apple mapping system will have a traffic service with crowd-sourced time incident reports (created in real time by anonymous iPhone users). Built in turn-by-turn navigation. And, for the pièce de résistance it’s integrated with Siri, so you can ask questions like “where can I get gas?” Or even “are we there yet?” to which Siri will respond with your ETA. Apple Maps will also have a feature called “Flyover” which appears to be a 3D map flyover of certain select cities (probably not Topeka, Kansas).
- Lost mode – for those of you that enabled the Find My iPhone option (and you all should) you can also now enable someone who finds your phone to click a button to call you on your lost (and, hopefully, locked) phone.
Mountain Lion (is the next version of “Lion” but not too many changes)
- Will be released in July, and will be a download from the App store. It’ll cost $19.99 for as many computers as you have under one AppleID.
- Dictation – the voice dictation that has been in the iPhone and iPad will now work on your computer, in all applications (including Microsoft Word).
- Reminders – will be available on your computer just as they are on your iPhone and iPad, and will sync across all devices via iCloud.
- Notes – a new app that will allow you to insert images and links. The notes presumably sync across all your devices. Will this replace Evernote? Probably not for power users, but it brings that kind of functionality to people who have not been taking advantage of it.
- Messages – is Apple’s text messaging service that lets you bypass SMS costs on your phone. It’s been on iPhone and iPad, and now it comes to your Apple computer. If you want to respond to a phone call via text message here is the place you can quickly and easily do it.
- Mail – the Apple mail client now allows you to insert photos or videos into an email (i.e. not just an attachment, but actually appears in the body of the message). It’ll be interesting to see where this breaks down, but obviously it’ll work great between Mac users.
- iCloud – updated to work with iWork documents. So now it’s seamless to work on a Pages document or Keynote presentation, and then have it available to you on your iPad or iPhone.
- Power Nap – instead of having your computer go completely to sleep (which means it can’t be updated or do backups) it can now receive updates and send backup data. Works only with the second-generation Macbook Airs, and all the newly announced laptops.
Apple continues to push the envelope with Siri, and voice dictation. The foray into proprietary mapping is interesting, and hopefully will be so incredible that Google Maps won’t be missed. Journalists will be ready to pounce on any snafu with the new mapping service, so expect to see some torches and pitchforks on that one.