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Five things to look forward to in Apple's iOS 6

A lot of small tweaks and updates add up to a big win for iPhone and iPad users

June 23, 2012 06:20 AM ET
iOS 6
iOS 6 is due out this fall.

Computerworld - While hardware got a lot of attention at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the event is still really about software. That's why Apple CEO Tim Cook and other execs offered up a slew of new details about OS X Mountain Lion -- due out next month -- and, more importantly, unveiled iOS 6, the next version of Apple's mobile OS.

iOS 6 will be released this fall, almost certainly in tandem with new iPhones. Much is already known about Mountain Lion, Apple's desktop OS. But iOS 6 is a new arrival, and promises to make iPhone/iPod touch and iPad users very happy when it's released. Apple says there are some 200 or so new features in iOS 6, though many of them are smaller tweaks and updates. But there are still plenty of additions that will change, for the better, how mobile users use their iOS devices.

Here are the five things I'm already looking forward to:

A better Siri

Siri has learned some new tricks in the months since the technology's initial release. First and foremost, with iOS 6, Siri will become available on the latest Retina display iPads released in March. Although iOS 5 allows those iPad users to turn spoken words into text with built-in dictation, Apple's voice assistant has remained an exclusive feature of the iPhone 4S. (iPad 2 owners are out of luck.)

Even better, the Siri service has been tied into more databases, and will have answers regarding movie info and times at local theaters, better knowledge of actors and directors, and access to sports scores, schedules and current player stats. Siri will go beyond simply recommending restaurants based on Yelp and can even allow you to book a table from Siri's visual interface.

Also, Siri will finally be able to launch apps when told to do so. (Thank you, Siri.)

Apple is clearly trying to expand Siri's reach and is busy making deals with automakers to integrate a Siri activation button in their cars. Marketed as "Eyes Free," the integration deals involve most major automakers, with the notable exception of Ford, which has a license deal with Microsoft. If all goes as planned, this feature should be available in cars beginning in 2013.

Going social

iOS 6 is getting more social. Apple engineers have integrated Facebook more deeply into iOS 6, much as they did with Twitter in iOS 5. You'll now be able to share photos and Safari links on Facebook from within the respective apps using the Share button. Among the updated apps from Apple will be Safari, Game Center, iTunes and the App Store, and by the time iOS is ready to ship, developers will have had time to incorporate Facebook into their own apps, as well.

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