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WWDC: Apple’s iOS 6 Takes Direct Aim at Android

Mon, 06/11/2012 - 12:09pm
Andrew Berg

Apple continued to take aim at Android today, doing away entirely with Google Maps in iOS 6, the company's latest iteration of its mobile operating system.

Apple also unveiled a new "Passbook" app, which appears to follow Google's lead in the wallet space, giving iOS users a place to store tickets, boarding passes and loyalty cards.

The new products were unveiled as part of an opening keynote delivers at the company's five-day annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.

While a rival to Google Maps might have seemed to many almost too monumental a task for any company, Apple's engineers apparently didn't think so. IOS 6 includes new turn-by-turn navigation guides, a Flyover feature with photo-realistic interactive 3D views and an anonymous real-time traffic alerts system. The company has also integrated its virtual assistant Siri to work with iMaps.

While not NFC-enabled, the new Passbook app allows users to store things such as boarding passes, tickets and loyalty cards in one place. The app automatically displays those "passes" on the iPhone's lock screen based on a specific time or location, so when a user walks into a coffee shop the loyalty card appears and can be scanned to buy a coffee or check the balance of the card. Passbook also alerts users to the last-minute gate changes while travelling.

Siri learned a few new tricks. Among other things, the sassy virtual assistant has learned to spit back sports scores and stats when queried and can also sort restaurant recommendations via a partnership with reservations service OpenTable. Apple will also make Siri available on the new iPad when iOS 6 officially launches.

Also big news was Apple's deep integration with Facebook. The company has included dedicated virtual buttons within the iPhone's notifications page that will allow users to 'Tap to Tweet,' as well as 'Tap to Facebook.'

Apple announced its plans to integrate iOS with Twitter last June, when it unveiled iOS 5 during WWDC 2011. CEO Tim Cook said that Twitter has since seen a threefold increase in tweets from iOS users.

Nearly half of today's two-hour opening keynote was devoted to revisions of the company's line of Macbooks and the latest of iteration of OS X, Mountain Lion. However, it is increasingly difficult to draw distinct line between iOS 6 and the latest desktop platform, as the company slowly but surely begins merging the two environments.

Examples of how Apple is leveraging its iCloud to unify mobile and desktop can be found in major updates to Facetime and Messages. Users can now make Facetime calls over cellular networks, and the company has combined the users’ phone numbers with their Apple ID, so that they will be able to receive and answer phone calls and messages on any Apple device, including desktop computers. 

Scott Forestall, Apple's senior vice president of iOS Software, told the audience of developers that "almost all of our users are running iOS 5," according to a live blog of the event broadcast on Verge.com. "Now if you compare that to the competition," Forstall continued, "they released a dairy product 4.0, about the same time as we released iOS 5. About 7 percent of their users are running it."

Apple's WWDC and Google I-O developer events have become sounding boards for company executives to fire shots and their competitor’s software and devices.

Just prior to Apple's event, Google’s top Android executive Andy Rubin took to Twitter to announce that Android is currently activating 900,000 devices per day.

Apple has created a fairly robust ecosystem around its devices. The company said it currently counts 400 million active accounts on the app store, which vends 650,000 apps for the iPhone and 225,000 for the iPad. The Apple App Store has seen 30 billion downloads to date and paid out over $5 billion to developers since it opened.

As of the first quarter 2012, Android controlled 56.1 percent of the smartphone market by operating system, according to Gartner. Apple’s iOS followed in second place with 22.9 percent of the market, up from 16.9 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

OS X Mountain Lion will be available sometime in July, while iOS 6 beta software and SDK are available immediately for developers. Apple said the commercial update to iOS 6 will be available free for users of the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the new iPad, iPad 2 and the fourth generation iPod touch this fall.

Shares of Apple fluctuated throughout the announcement, hitting a daily high of $588. Investors soured after the news was released as gains for the day were erased. As of this writing, shares of Apple were trading down 1.29 percent to $572.85.

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