Is iOS 6 the 'world's most advanced mobile operating system'?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: June 11, 2012

Heading into the WWDC keynote this year, we had a pretty good idea as for what to expect. There has been talk of slimmer and more powerful MacBooks with Retina Displays, new Macs and even the possibility of a smaller iPad for some time now. And the iOS 6 banners that were unveiled Friday afternoon all but confirmed that we would see the next OS version at the developers conference.

In typical Apple jargon, the tag line beneath the new iOS 6 logo on the banner reads, "The world's most advanced operating system."

Hopes have been high for a major improvement this year. For months now, we all have been trying to piece together what the next iteration of iOS would bear. And some of use have been letting our expectations soar with our imaginations. Will we see Siri stretch its reach to the iPad? The iPhone 4? Will Facebook be integrated system-wide? Will Apple finally implement a front-end file system? Will there be an interface redesign?

Possibilities for improving iOS are endless. The software is aging and so are its looks. There are more than a few sore points, and feature requests stretch far and wide.

Just moments ago, during the WWDC opening keynote, Apple's fearless leader Tim Cook made iOS 6 official. And with the aid of some of his most notable employees, the highlights of the new version were detailed. Just as last year, this version comes packed with hundreds of new features and improvements.

So what are those new features we've all been dying to learn?

First Scott Forstall took the stage to tout some impressive feats of Apple with iOS and to make iOS 6 officially official. Just like iOS 5, iOS version 6.0 comes with more than 200 new features.

First up is Siri. Siri can now give users information on sports (scores, player stats, comparisons, standings, schedules, etc.). Dinner recommendations now return a lot more information than previous searches. They now yield things such as Yelp ratings, average price and quick access to reservations via OpenTable. Siri now has Rotten Tomatoes integration for movies, the ability to launch applications and more. Then there is a new feature called Eyes Free, which lets you keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the steering wheel. BMW, GM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda all are promising support for a Siri-compatible button on the steering wheels in their cars in the next 12 months. Siri will be available in new languages, in new countries and on the new iPad.

As we all expected (and much to my dismay), Apple has decided to integrate Facebook throughout iOS. Just like the Twitter integration we saw last year, you can now share Web pages, locations, photos and more to Facebook from virtually anywhere in the OS. There is now contact syncing and the ability to like applications from within App Store. "Also your Facebook events will appear in calendars, and birthdays." (Call me a curmudgeon, but that's one thing I do not want.)

Next is the ability to set call reminders or ignore calls and immediately reply with a preset text message. Reminders can be set for an hour, when you leave, when you get home or when you get to work. There is also a new feature called Do Not Disturb. For use at night or when you need a break from your phone, with Do Not Disturb, "messages will still come to your phone, it just won't light up the screen or make a sound." You can put Do Not Disturb on a schedule and ignore repeat callers. (A second call from the same person within three minutes will be silenced.)

FaceTime has now been extended from Wi-Fi only calls to calls over cellular. (Goodbye, gigabytes!)

Apple also updated mobile Safari with iCloud Tabs and an offline Reading List ability. You can now view open tabs from your desktop Safari and read the pages you saved when not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular. You can also upload pictures from your camera roll directly to websites now. There are now smart app banners, which notify you if you're using a Web site of an application that is installed on your phone, or one that has an application that you can download. And they have added full screen mode in landscape

You can now share Photo Streams with your closest friends and family members now, too. And Apple made some much needed changes to the Mail app. You can now make contacts VIP by starring them, and with the VIP inbox, you can view emails by only those who have been starred. Apple also added the much-needed ability to add photos and videos from the Compose page in Mail. You no longer have to begin an email by sending photos from the Photo app, but you can add them in-line during composition. They also added the pull to refresh feature to Mail. (Yay!)

Also new is Passbook, which strives to organize all your different store cards, boarding passed, movie ticket apps, etc. When you are near a location that you may want to use such an app, geolocation will notify you. "When you get to the movie theater or the airport, you have to fumble around to find the pass. This organizes them," says Forstall.

There is now Guided Access for accessibility options, single-app mode and the ability to disable hardware buttons. Forstall also introduced the new Maps in iOS 6. (Goodbye, Google Maps!) This new version of maps comes with an anonymous, crowd-sourced incident report system to fuel a traffic service. And, wait for it … buitl-in turn-by-turn navigation with real time traffic re-routing. Apple has integrated Siri with Maps, and one of the coolest features is the turn-by-turn navigation can be accessed and viewed from the lock screen. There is Flyover mode, 3D mode and the ability to bookmark locations.

There were also improvements added to iCloud. One new iCloud feature, for instance, is iCloud Tabs, which syncs your open tabs across your Apple devices, similar to how tab sync in Chrome for Android works with the desktop version. With Tabview, you can also preview your open tabs from Safari.

Apparently, all of these changes are just scratching the surface. One of the final iOS 6 slides showed a few more unmentioned features, such as: redesigned stores, improved privacy controls, custom vibrations for alerts, alarms with songs, control camera focus and exposure, per account signatures in Mail (yes!!) and many more.

The update will be available in beta form (to developers) today, and will be made available for the iPhone 3GS and later, the fourth generation iPod and second and third generation iPads. 

To be completely honest, I'm sort of surprised … and somewhat impressed. Some of the features that I wrote about in my last-minute feature request article last night were things I really didn't expect Apple to implement, like turn-by-turn navigation, full screen Safari mode, iCloud tab sync, etc. These were things that came off the top of my head last night that I really wanted to see in iOS. There were even some I've mentioned in the past and forgot about, like the ability to add photos to emails while composing (and not just before), Siri for the iPad and FaceTime over cellular data. And, come later today (when I install the beta on my phone), I will have them. And I'm excited for that.

But there are come caveats. There was no interface refresh; Notification Center looks and acts the same (at least on iOS); there are no improved multitasking options; Apple didn't open up sharing APIs like I had hoped; and iOS is still, more or less, the same iOS we've come to know over the last six years. It wasn't the major overhaul I was hoping for. It wasn't the major overhaul Apple desperately needs. It was, like always, just a plethora of new hit or miss features that will subside complaints for a few months.

Does any of this make iOS 6 the most advanced mobile operating system in the world? That's a tough question to answer. But it's certainly nothing to scoff at, especially when it comes to user base and developer support. Tim Cook revealed that there are now over 650,000 iOS applications and 225,000 that are specifically for iPad. There have been over 30 billion downloads from App Store and there are over 400 million App Store accounts. Over 365 million iOS devices had been sold as of March 2012. And one of Apple's latest services, iCloud, has garnered 125 million users.

Still, none of that makes iOS any more advanced; just … unquestionably popular and widely adored. The new Maps are great. I will definitely take advantage of free turn-by-turn navigation. And Facebook integration and the extension of Siri to the iPad are nice touches. But I'm not inclined to say any of this makes iOS any more advanced than, say, Android. Until I can share images, Web pages or other content to virtually any service from within any application on iOS, the title for most advanced mobile operating system in the world is still up for grabs.

What say you, folks? Does the iOS 6 update make Apple's mobile platform the most advanced mobile operating system in the world? Or does it still have a long way to go before nabbing that title? Is it missing features you were hoping for? Or was it everything you wanted? Sound off and share your sentiments below!

Image via The Verge