Apple's new iOS 6 adds deep Facebook integration, dumps Google Maps


Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled the latest version of its iOS mobile operating system at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference, adding deep integration with Facebook and introducing a new Maps platform to replace Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps data.

Dubbed "The world's most advanced mobile OS" by Apple CEO Tim Cook during Monday's WWDC 2012's kickoff event, the forthcoming iOS 6 brings roughly 200 new features in all. It will be released to registered developers today and will ship to consumers this fall, said Apple Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall. The new OS will support the iPhone 3GS and up, as well as second-generation iPad tablets and up.

"We have been working very closely with Facebook to create the best Facebook integration ever in a mobile device," Forstall said, promising a series of user-friendly features including single sign-in across all Facebook-enabled iOS apps as well as sharing from Photos, Safari and Maps. Apple also will integrate Facebook into iTunes and the App Store, enabling consumers to "like" apps, music, TV and movies and also browse friends' recommendations.

iOS 6's Facebook integration mirrors Apple's efforts to incorporate Twitter access across iOS 5, introduced in October 2011. iOS 5 allows users to sign in once and then tweet directly from all Twitter-enabled apps--among them Photos, Camera, Safari, YouTube and Maps--with a single tap. Twitter signups tripled after iOS 5's release--Forstall said iOS 5 users are now responsible for 10 billion tweets, with 47 percent of photos posted to Twitter originating from devices running iOS 5.

As expected, Apple also introduced a new Maps feature built in-house, ending its longstanding reliance on Google location data. Maps for iOS 6 includes 100 million business listings and Yelp recommendation engine integration alongside anonymous, real-time crowdsourced traffic data, turn-by-turn navigation, suggested travel routes and integration with Apple's voice-activated Siri search software. Additional highlights include Flyover, which offers landscape views from above, as well as satellite views and 3D models of cities across the globe. 

Last month, 9to5Mac reported Apple is leveraging acquisitions Placebase, C3 Technologies and Poly9 to develop the proprietary mapping database. Onlookers have long expected Apple to roll out its own mapping and navigation service: In June 2011, MacRumors reported that a "Map Data" section discovered within Apple's iOS 5 lists licenses from nine different third-party companies that provide location-enabled services. The firms include Waze, which offers real-time maps and traffic updates culled from crowdsourced data; Urban Mapping, which supplies neighborhood-specific data including crime, school performance and economic indicators; and TomTom, whose TeleAtlas data is also licensed to Google. Apple did not specify Monday which technologies and partners would play a role in the new mapping platform.

Google Maps could lose up to a third of its mobile users with the launch of Apple's alternative service, according to research firm Analysys Mason. A recent study conducted by the company in partnership with Arbitron Mobile determined that iOS device owners account for 28 percent of Google Maps users in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Spain. Last week, Piper Jaffray Analyst Gene Munster issued an investor note forecasting that Google is on track to generate around $4.5 billion in mobile revenues in 2012, with Apple contributing about 40 percent of that total.

WWDC 2012 also heralded the introduction of a revamped Siri coming to both iPhones and iPads running iOS 6. Forstall said the Siri overhaul boasts more than 200 new features in all, including automatic voice launch of iOS applications (e.g., "Play Temple Run") and voice-enabled Twitter posting. Also new: Eyes Free, a Siri-based initiative developed in association with automakers to help minimize distracted driving. The new Siri additionally brings expanded sports information, restaurant ratings and OpenTable integration for dining reservations, and movie reviews and trailers in partnership with Rotten Tomatoes. 

iOS 6 brings several new features led by Passbook, an app that stores and updates boarding passes, retailer loyalty cards, movie ticket apps and related consumer information and documents. iOS 6 also features Photo Stream (enabling users to collect and share photos across different devices) and VIPs (which highlights and separates messages from contacts of particular importance to the user).

The refreshed Safari for iOS 6 adds iCloud tabs for offline reading, a feature enabling users to upload photos from Safari to their favorite websites, fullscreen support in landscape and synchronized Web activity and app activity. Apple also will integrate Baidu search services into its Safari browser, a move to drive product sales in the lucrative Chinese market. Baidu fits with Cook's vision to gain a larger toehold in China, which is currently responsible for about 20 percent of the company's sales. Adding Baidu, which handles about 80 percent of all of China's search queries, not only boosts Apple's value proposition but also further distances Apple from its reliance on search services provided by archrival Google. According to Forstall, about two-thirds of all mobile Web traffic originates via Safari for iOS.

As first announced in February, Apple is expanding its Game Center multiplayer gaming network to Mac. Launched for iOS in the autumn of 2010, Game Center-enabled titles allow players to compete against friends, send friend requests, vie for achievements and organize online multiplayer games. The cross-platform Game Center will support turn-based and head-to-head gaming, said Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. Apple said there are now more 130 million registered users across the Game Center network, submitting more than 5 billion scores each week.

Apple additionally introduced three new cross-platform applications optimized for its iCloud storage platform: Messages, Reminders and Notes. "I think the really huge one here is Messages," Federighi said. "If you're sitting at your Mac and your phone buzzes, you can respond right there."

Cook began his keynote by trumpeting the continued growth of Apple's App Store, which he called "the most important app ecosystem on the planet." The storefront now offers more than 650,000 iOS apps, including 225,000 optimized for the iPad tablet; consumers have now downloaded more than 30 billion apps in all, with developer payouts exceeding $5 billion. Cook added that the App Store is now available to customers in 120 countries, and will expand to 32 additional markets by the end of this month. As of March 2012, Apple has sold about 365 million iOS devices worldwide.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless story on FaceTime over cellular
- read this Verge live blog

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