Apple has unveiled iOS 6 for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Developers can download a beta of iOS 6 today, and the next-gen mobile operating system will be available to the public this fall. It supports the iPhone 3GS and later, 4th generation iPod touch, and the 2nd and 3rd generation iPad.

Original iPad and older iPod touch owners are out of luck.

The company says there are over 200 new features in the new version of its mobile operating system. Here are a few of the highlights.

Siri

The Siri voice assistant for iPhone has been updated to let you do more things with your phone just by asking. Siri has also gotten better at at answering certain types of questions including queries about sports stats.

You can now launch apps or send messages to Twitter using Siri — two features that felt kind of absent when the voice assistant launched with iOS 5.0.

Siri also now features integration with Yelp and OpenTable, which means you can get restaurant recommendations and even book a reservation by talking at your phone.

Rotten Tomatoes now handles movie information, letting you find movie showtimes, view movies featuring actors, directors, or other details, or view movie trailers.

Apple is also introducing an “Eyes Free” feature that will let you bring up Siri by pressing a button in your car when your phone is docked with a supported vehicle — letting you use Siri’s voice commands without even looking at your phone.

Facebook

With iOS 5, Apple introduced system-level Twitter integration. Now it’s Facebook’s turn.

You can enter your Facebook username and password in the system settings. Once you’ve done that, Facebook updates will show up in the iOS Notification Center, and you’ll be able to share items from Safari, Photos, or other apps to Facebook with just a few taps.

Facebook data is also synchronized with your calendar contact list, automatically bringing phone numbers, birthdays, events and other data to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

Apple has added Facebook integration to the App Store, Music, and Movies, making it easy to see what apps your friends like, and there’s an API that lets third party developers offer Facebook integration as well.

Maps

Apple is dropping Google Maps integration and rolling out a new version of Maps based on technology developed in-house. Apple is doing the map-making and handling search with Yelp integration, real-time traffic results, and listings for 100 million different places around the world.

Maps for iOS 6 also supports turn-by-turn navigation, something Google has offered to Android users for free for years, but which has been missing from the core iOS Maps app.

You can launch Navigation by finding a location and hitting the “quick route” button — or if an iPhone is docked in your car you can access navigation right from the lock screen.

Siri works with Maps, so you can tell your phone where you’d like to go using your voice, and it will pull up turn-by-turn directions.

Flyover

Apple didn’t just develop its own Maps app… it also developed its own Google Earth alternative called Flyover.

It displays 3D photographic imagery of cities around the world.

Flyover is built into Maps.

Phone App

Apple is adding a few new features to the Phone App, giving you more options for responding to a call. If you’re in a meeting or other environment where you can’t answer the phone you can now reply with a preset message or set a reminder to respond to the call in an hour, when you get out of the meeting, or when you get home or work.

There’s a new Do Not Disturb option that prevents your phone from lighting up or ringing when enabled.

That way you can still get messages at night or when you’re in a meeting, but you won’t be bothered by a noise or flashing light.

You can also set rules for Do Not Disturb so that calls from some people will come through. 

FaceTime

FaceTime is Apple’s video chat service. Up until now it only worked over WiFi — but now you can make FaceTime video calls over a cellular network.

Apple is also tying your Apple ID to your iPhone number, so if someone calls your FaceTime phone number you can answer on a Mac, iPad, or other supported device instead of your phone.

Safari

Apple is updating its mobile web browser with an offline reading list. When you add a web page to your reading list, it’ll automatically be downloaded so you can read it even if you lose your internet connection.

There are now iCloud tabs, allowing you to view webpages that are currently open on any other devices you have linked to your iCloud account. So you can start reading a website on your Mac and quickly access the same page on your iPhone.

The new version of Safari lets you upload photos to websites.

Websites that also have iOS apps can also use new Smart app banners, letting visitors quickly jump to the app in the App Store. If you already have that app installed, iOS 6 can sync up a website with the app — so you can start to read a restaurant listing on the Yelp website, for instance, and continue reading in the Yelp iOS app with a single tap.

Safari also now supports full-screen browsing in landscape mode.

Photo Stream

Apple is giving its Photo Stream automatic photo-uploading tool a sharing makeover. You can now select which photos you’d like to share and who you want to share them with.

Mail

There’s a new VIP designation that lets you tell the Mail app which people’s messages are most important. Their messages will have a star, and you can view a VIP mailbox.

This sounds like it was probably inspired by Gmail’s Priority Inbox — but Google’s version is generated automatically based on your habits.

It’s also now easier to insert photos and videos into a message, and you can pull down from the top of the screen to refresh your messages.

Passbook

Apple has introduced a new app called Passbook that lets you store movie tickets, boarding passes, and other virtual “cards” in one place.

It’s kind of like a virtual wallet for things you’ve already bought… as opposed to Google’s virtual wallet which is supposed to let you pay for things.

Cards can be updated live, so if you have a boarding pass and your gate changes, the card will change along with it.

Passbook also supports geo-location, so if you have a Starbucks card, Passbook can pull it up when you walk into a Starbucks location.

There’s an API kit that will allow third party developers to write apps that work with Passbook.

Accessibility

You can now disable or enable certain controls so that children with autism or other conditions can use an iOS device without hitting the wrong buttons.

There’s also now a single app mode for schools or other institutions that might want to use an iPad or iPod touch for just one purpose (at a time). For instance, teachers can administer tests on an iPad and prevent students from using the device to look up answers.

Lost Mode

If you lose your phone, you can send a phone number that will display on your handset so the person who finds it knows how to get in touch with you to return it.

Other updates

Apple has also updated the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore with new user interfaces and navigation gestures.

In China, users will have built-in support for Baidu, Todou, Yokou, and other popular web-based services.

via gdgt and The Verge

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing.He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...