So much for doubling down on secrecy.
On Friday, several San Francisco residents snapped photos of banners being raised in the Moscone Center's west exhibition hall, one of the event sites for Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC), for the world's most advanced operating system, iOS 6.
Even though WWDC 2012 will apparently center around the Mac -- including the new OS Mountain Lion and a thorough refresh of the computer line-up -- Apple will nevertheless find time to introduce developers to new tools and features for the iPhone's and iPad's next-generation operating system.
iOS 5 introduced many of the iPhone's and iPad's most important features, including the cloud storage and streaming system iCloud, the free messaging service called iMessage, the organized Notification Center, and deep integration with Twitter, to tweet almost anything from your iPhone or iPad. Apple was ambitious with iOS 5: the company managed to package a whopping 200-plus features into the operating system. Apple hopes to improve upon iOS 5 with an even more aggressive update, one that hopes to improve the general experience of using an iPhone or iPad.
Even though iOS 6 will be unveiled at WWDC 2012, bets are it won't be fully baked and ready for the public until the end of summer or early to mid-fall. Likely just in time for a new iPhone.
Apple has not confirmed if any of these features will definitely be included in iOS 6 -- we won't truly know until the official unveiling at WWDC -- but here's what we've heard is coming.
Apple iOS 6: Features We Hope To See At WWDC 2012
Mobile Store Redesigns: Apple uses three central platforms to sell and distribute its content: The App Store for mobile applications, the iTunes Store for movies, music, TV shows, podcasts and radio, and the iBookstore for books. These stores have revolutionized how users purchase and consume their multimedia content, but Apple hasn't redesigned these stores in about three years, and several tech sites say an overhaul is imminent.
Apple has yet to debut the technology and tools it acquired in February from Chomp, the app search and discovery platform purchased for a reported $50 million. Chomp, which was available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, offered plenty of great ways to discover great apps, featuring pages for new apps, trending apps, apps on sale, and free apps of the day. Chomp also provided pages for the apps considered All-Time Greats, as well as those apps trending heavily on Twitter. Chomp would also suggest popular app searches for categories users may not know about, such as voice recording apps, or guitar apps, or system utilities apps.
Mark Gurman, who originally reported the story for Apple blog, 9to5Mac, explains the new store designs anticipated for iOS 6:
The new design is said to be even simpler and more user-friendly than the current design, Gurman said. Apple is working on ways to enhance the speed and efficiency of finding new content, such as songs, videos, and applications. The cornerstone element of Apple's new iTunes Store is interactivity. As Apple vaguely explained to a number of music labels and entertainment partners, Apple is looking to make the iTunes Store a much more engaging experience.
Gurman believes the App Store, iTunes Store and iBookstore will attempt to mirror the experiences on the Mac, as iOS 6 and Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion have been in production simultaneously. Even though Gurman believes iOS 6 will be released in the fall -- just in time for a new iPhone -- the new system could be unveiled at WWDC.
Maps, by Apple: The first iPhone launched in 2007 with a maps application from Google, which helped users find local businesses, find their own location, and get directions. Five years later, after several bitter patent infringement lawsuits with Google, Apple is looking to move on and introduce a new in-house maps application, which will be made from the technologies of three acquired mapping companies, including Placebace, Poly9, and C3 Technologies, which were purchased in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively.
The new application promises extremely detailed 3D maps, 2D maps and street views, and more information about traffic and location data. The data is collected by a plane which covers 100-square-kilometer areas at a time, taking photos of the area and sending them to a fully-automated graphics generator, which creates 3D models of the land, terrain, and objects in the photos. The process is automatic, and it creates a veritable third dimension for users to explore their maps.
Rumors of the app's unveiling at WWDC are likely spot-on: After all, why else would Google have felt compelled to hold its own event on June 6 -- just five days before WWDC -- to introduce its Next Dimension of Google Maps?
Features From OS X Mountain Lion: In an effort to better merge iOS with the Mac operating system, Apple is reportedly adding many features from OS 10.8 Mountain Lion to iOS 6. Citing trusted sources, 9to5Mac believes Apple will add Mail VIPs, a Do Not Disturb feature for the Notification Center, and a new feature called iCloud Tabs, which lets users view their tabs opened in Safari across all iOS and Mac devices. Users simply click a designated iCloud Tabs button and all the tabs opened on each device are shown in a synchronized list, letting them see what's open across all their Apple devices.
Deep Facebook Integration: In iOS 5, Apple elected to optimize an in-house app for Twitter, which allowed users to tweet photos, pages from Safari, movies from YouTube or even their location out to their Twitter followers. The integration was easy: Users would sign into their Twitter accounts once in order to tweet any kind of content their iPhone. In iOS 6, Apple will reportedly apply many of these deep integration tactics with Facebook, the world's largest social network with more than 900 million users.
Facebook is a great company and I have great appreciation for them, Cook said. Our relationship is very solid ... For us, we want to provide customers simple and elegant ways to do the things they want to do. Facebook has hundreds of millions of customers. So, anyone that has an iPhone or iPad, we want them to have the best experience with Facebook on those platforms. So stay tuned.
Facebook went public on May 18, but the company's shares have dipped in value from $38 to a low of about $25. Mark Zuckerberg's stock could jump if Apple makes this significant investment in Facebook -- letting users sign in once to post and share comments, images, events, and more with their friends.
Siri on iPad: Siri has been one of the most polarizing features ever embedded into an Apple product. Apple's virtual personal assistant is useful and even funny at times, but it's slow, it isn't perfect at yet understanding natural language, and it requires a decent Internet connection to truly work. When it doesn't work, which is often, Siri is very awkward to use in public. Still, we saw its potential, and we want it to work.
Apple endowed the new iPad with Siri's Voice Dictation technology, but the entire Siri package was noticeably absent. That is apparently about to change: According to 9to5Mac, Apple will bring support for Siri to the iPad in iOS 6.
Siri, which is exclusive to the iPhone 4S, helps users place calls, create and send texts and emails, schedule meetings and reminders, play music, surf the Web, and answer complicated and context-sensitive questions. Some figured the iPad would never receive Siri because people typically hold their iPads farther away from their mouths than their iPhones, which would make it difficult to hear and interpret one's voice commands. This worry, however, has since been dismissed.
9to5Mac's Gurman describes what Siri looks like on an iPad:
Unlike on the iPhone 4S, Siri for iPad is not a full screen experience, Gurman said. This makes sense given the device's larger, 9.7-inch display. Siri on the iPad is activated by a quick hold of the home button, just like on the iPhone 4S. The interface slides up from below the display with a clever animation. Siri is built into the iPad as a small window on top of whatever interface the user is currently interacting with. This Siri window with rounded corners sits at the bottom center of the display, as you can see in our mockup above. The Siri iPad interface takes very little space over the iPad interface currently in use, and is designed with the same linen texture as on the iPhone 4S. Siri for iPad also works from the lock screen.
Siri on the iPad makes sense: Given that Siri is designed to boost one's production by helping the user become better organized, this technology, when paired with the iPad, has incredible potential. In schools, the iPad could read aloud a selection from a new iBooks textbook, or remind a student to study for an upcoming test. Beyond the classroom, Siri for iPad can be a boon for professional settings, too. Imagine sitting in an office with an iPad instead of a traditional PC. The iPad already helps users write and share documents, track of financial data and create ready-to-go slide presentations, but Siri can also remind employees of meetings, help them perform research, or even set timers if they're working on a deadline. Because of the tablet's flexibility, the iPad can be perfect for all business settings, from small start-ups to large enterprises and beyond.
Yet, there's still so much more Siri could do. Cook recently said Apple is doubling down on its Siri efforts, so hopefully, we'll soon see Siri plug into more application programming interfaces from useful services like OpenTable, MovieTickets.com, and Stubhub -- which the original app could do, interestingly enough. If Siri could ever partner with Wikipedia, or if it could integrate with WebMD's symptom checker, users would be more inclined and less embarrassed to ask her questions. But even better, if Siri could remember our preferences -- which is not unheard of in the technology realm -- Siri could fulfill consumer's shopping needs, news needs, music needs, and even more. The potential of an iPad with Siri is virtually endless.
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What do you hope Apple improves in iOS 6? Are there any features you're unhappy with? What else do you hope to see unveiled at WWDC 2012? Feel free to discuss in the comments section below.