What Features To Expect In iOS 6?

Typically, every major iOS release up till  now has focused on adding much demanded features lacking from the OS. Third party app support in the second major iteration, copy paste in the third, multitasking in the fourth, and (finally!) revamped notifications in the fifth (along with a slew of cloud based features).

So what will it be for iOS 6?

The most demanded and glaring feature omissions of (previous versions of) iOS seem to have been taken care of, although the implementation of some features like Notification Center is still a bit wonky. That said, there doesn’t seem to be any obvious feature omission, or as John Gruber calls it, “the low-hanging fruit,” as of the current iOS release. Think about it, the absence of copy paste was a big thing, so was multitasking and the other features mentioned earlier, is there any such feature missing from iOS right now?

Apple’s set out to target a big goal with iOS 6 — serving mapping data from its own servers instead of Google’s. But we’d argue that this isn’t as big as, say, multitasking or copy paste, even if its comes with the incredible 3D-mode, at least for the average user who already has a Maps app that works reasonably well. For Apple though, it might even be bigger than the glaring omissions we’ve listed earlier. To get to this position of serving maps from its own servers, Apple had to acquire three companies over a period of three years. This means that teams at Apple have been working on this for at least three years. Delivering to people’s expectations at such a large scale has to be something of the highest priority to the company. Users however would know how essential (or not) Apple’s mapping solution will be only after iOS 6 publicly releases.

Coming back to our discussion about features that users might feel the need for, Gruber lists out a few of them:

  • Clever inter-application communication. […]
  • Third-party Notification Center widgets. Like the Stocks and Weather ones from Apple — information at a glance, without launching an app.
  • Third-party Siri APIs. Let other apps provide features you can interact with through Siri.

There does exist inter app communication to a certain degree on iOS (example: opening a pdf file you’ve received as mail in iBooks or Good Reader), but it is in no way even close to that of Android or Windows Phone. In both these operating systems, apps can associate themselves with certain media types like images or video, and act as gateways to their own network. For example, you could upload a photo to Facebook, or a file to Dropbox from any app, without any explicit support for these networks, the OS does all the magic under the hood.

The framework for Notification Center widgets is already included in iOS 5, it’s just that Apple has to open that up to developers. Jailbreak tweaks have been using this framework since quite sometime now.

Although Gruber tries to label the points above as a wishlist, MG Siegler hears that work is indeed being done at Apple to open up Siri to third party developers:

As a quick aside, while there’s not much other iOS 6 information floating around out there right now, there have been whispers backing up Gruber’s assertion that Siri APIs are another possibility. There have also been whispers about Siri for iPad finally coming. Specifically, I’ve been led to believe it’s more of a UI issue than anything else. After all, Apple is using the technology for the Dictation functionality found on the new iPad. They’ve just been working on what Siri for iPad will look like, I’ve been led to believe.

Siegler also reports that iOS 6 is internally codenamed “Sundance” after the ski resort in Utah following its tradition of naming iOS builds after ski resorts.

Apple’s expanding the iCloud web interface to include data from Notes and Reminders, but apart from that there isn’t any concrete sign of an iOS 6 feature being known to people outside of the company.

From what we can see, Maps is going to be the highlight of the WWDC keynote, unless, of course, Apple has another surprise in store for us.

What are your predictions for iOS 6 features?

See also: Apple has started testing iOS 6.

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