To kickoff Apple's WWDC conference yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives announced many new Apple products. (If you want to watch the entire two hour presentation, you can do so here.) Apple announced new Mac hardware (including the cool new MacBook Pro with a Retina Display) and new features in the upcoming Mac OS X Mountain Lion due next month. And although not mentioned during yesterday's keynote, Apple also released a new product similar to the the iPad Smart Cover called the iPad Smart Case; it's like the polyurethane version of the Smart Cover but it covers the back as well as the front of the iPad.
Cook also announced that there are now over 650,000 apps in the App Store, and over 225,00 of those are designed specifically for the iPad. Cook said that as of March of 2012, Apple has sold more than 365 million iOS devices.
But I think that the most exciting announcements yesterday had to do with iOS 6, the next version of the iPhone and iPad operating system that will be available this Fall. Apple says that there are over 200 new features in iOS 6, and some great new features were demonstrated yesterday. Here are some of the reasons that lawyers will love iOS 6:
The iPhone and iPad can do lots of fancy things, but the Mail app is probably the most important and most-used app for most lawyers. Enhancements to Mail in iOS 6 will make this app even more useful.
First, Mail will support a feature called VIP. You can designate certain people (such as your biggest clients and your spouse) as VIPs, and when one of them sends you an e-mail, you will get specific notification, similar to when you get a text message. In your inbox, messages from your VIPs will have a star next to them so that they jump out at you more easily. A VIP mailbox gathers all of these messages in one central location. All of this should make it faster and easier to get and respond to the e-mail messages that matter the most to you.
Currently, if you are composing an e-mail message and you decide to add a picture, you need to go to the picture in the Photos app and start a new e-mail. In iOS 6 you will be able to insert a photo or video into an e-mail that you are already composing.
If you have different mail accounts on your device, such as a work account and a personal account, you can now have different automatic signatures for different accounts.
If you like to flag messages, there is now an inbox of all items that are flagged.
If someone sends you a Microsoft Office document that is password protected, the iPhone will now give you the option to enter a password to view the document.
Finally, to refresh your inbox, you can now pull down the screen to refresh—the same feature used by others apps such as Facebook and many Twitter apps.
Apple is making the iPhone a more useful phone, or at least a less annoying phone.
If there is a period of time when you don't want to be bothered by a phone ringing or a text message tone or other alerts (such as when you are sleeping or when you are in a meeting), you can turn on a do not disturb setting to stop the phone from making noise or the screen from lighting up. At the same time, however, you can designate specific people for whom the phone will make noise and light up. And you can also ensure that other urgent calls get through by telling your iPhone that if someone calls twice in the last three minutes, the call should come through even if you are in do not disturb mode.
Also, when the phone is ringing but you cannot pick up, you can instead choose to reply with a text message such as a message that I'll call you back later. And you can also tell the iPhone to remind you to call back later—either call back at a later time, or even call back when you leave your current location, so that when you leave your meeting the iPhone will remind you to return the call.
For me and many other lawyers who I know, the best part of Siri is simply the ability to convert voice to text so that you can dictate an e-mail instead of typing it. There were no announcements on this.
However, Siri is also useful a useful way to tell your iPhone to do something or to ask your iPhone to answer a question. This part of Siri will see major improvements in iOS 6. First, Siri will be able to cover more subjects. For example, Siri in iOS 6 knows about sports and can answer questions about sports scores, player statistics, schedules, etc. With iOS 6, I suspect that Siri will be able to settle many bar bets. Apple also expanded Siri support for restaurants by partnering with Yelp to get more information and reviews and by partnering with OpenTable to let you make reservations. Apple also expanded Siri support for movies, with integrated reviews, movie trailers and show times.
Second, you will able to use Siri to tell your iPhone to launch apps. This will be useful when you have a lot of apps and cannot remember the page on which an icon is located.
Third, Apple is working with a number of car manufacturers (such as BMW, GM, GM, Mercedes, Audi, Jaguar, Toyota, Honda, and others — but notably not Ford) to add a Siri button to the steering wheel so that you can talk to Siri without your hands leaving the wheel. This feature should be coming to cars in the next 12 months.
Fourth, Siri will understand many more languages and be available in many more countries.
Fifth, full Siri support is coming to the third generation iPad.
FaceTime works well for videoconferencing, but currently you can only use it if you have Wi-Fi access. With iOS 6, you will be able to use FaceTime over a cellular connection. And when a FaceTime call comes in on one device, you can now choose to answer it on either an iPhone, iPad or your Mac.
iOS 6 will add a new app called Passbook, an app to store boarding passes, store cards, movie tickets, and other similar items. These are the sort of things that traditionally existed in paper or plastic form so you would stuff them into your wallet or purse. Nowadays, more companies are offering digital versions, but they are scattered throughout your iPhone in e-mails, different apps, etc. Passbook will be a central location to store all of this information so that it is always at your fingertips.
Safari will add a feature called iCloud tabs so that you can see any tab that you have open in Safari on your iPad or computer.
Safari also adds an offline reading list to make it easy to read an article later, even when you don't have internet access.
Safari also gains a few other features such as the ability to upload photos to websites.
If you use Facebook, you'll appreciate full Facebook integration throughout Apple's apps. Third parties will be able to easily add Facebook integration to other apps.
Apple is getting rid of Google Maps support in the Maps app, and instead will use a new mapping system that Apple designed from the ground up. It will include turn-by-turn navigation which may make it unnecessary to purchase a third party GPS app. It also includes beautiful 3D, full-color renders of buildings in cities. (No indication of which cities. [UPDATE 6/13/12: David Pogue of the New York Times reveals that Flyover is finished for 35 cities with more to come.] [UPDATE 6/14/12: Cult of Mac says that the following cities are included: Cupertino, Chicago, Copenhagen, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney.]) It also includes local search to find businesses.
The Maps app will also add traffic information which is based in part on anonymous, real-time crowdsourced data from other iPhone users. Thus, as long as other folks with iPhones are on the road, their misery from being stuck in traffic and moving slowly can be your gain by learning that you should take an alternative route. When the iPhone is navigating you to a destination and it notices that a faster route is available, it will suggest the route and tell you how much time you can save by taking the alternative route.
The new Maps app will also work with Siri, which should make the turn-by-turn directions even more useful while you are driving and need to look at the road, not the iPhone screen. It also lets your kids ask the age-old question "are we there yet" and get a response with the estimated time remaining.
One of the things that I like about Google Maps support is the ability to use Street View to see what a building looks like from street level. Apple did not announce any such feature in the new Mail app. To give you access to this feature and other features unique to Google Maps, I wonder if Google will soon offer its own Maps app for the iPhone.
And more to come
Apple was clear that these are only some of the many new features. It wouldn't surprise me if Apple has a big, new feature or two waiting in the wings just so that it has something exciting to announce when iOS 6 is finally available. Plus there will be tons of tiny new features that didn't merit mention in the keynote but will be appreciated by many, such as putting a Bluetooth on/off setting just below the Wi-Fi entry in the Settings app instead of keeping it buried in sub-menus.
Apple says that iOS 6 is coming this Fall. My guess is that, like last year, we will see both iOS 6 and the 2012 version of the iPhone in October. I can't wait!