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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 11, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

    Apple’s WWDC: the announcements

    Ciara O'Brien

    Apple has just kicked off its annual WorldWide Developer Conference in the US, with a closely watched keynote by chief executive Tim Cook. So what is coming up for Apple in the next few months?

    The short version: iOS 6, new MacBooks and Mountain Lion for Macs. That means Siri for the new iPad, Facebook integration and iMessage for the Mac.

    You want the longer version? Read on.

    MacBooks

    If you bought a MacBook yesterday, you missed out on the brand spanking new ones that are coming your way. First up is the 15-inch MacBook Pro that builds in Apple’s Retina display.

    Tim Cook called it the most advanced Mac that Apple has ever built. It’s certainly impressive. It’s thinner than ever before – 0.71 inches – and comes with all flash storage.

    That retina display packs in more than 5 million pixels, at 220 pixels per inch. To put it in perspective, a high definition TV has about 2 million pixels. The iPhone 4S has 326 pixels per inch, and the new iPad has 3.1 million pixels, at 264 pixels per inch. Whatever way you look at it, it’s going to be an amazingly detailed screen.

    It’s also got IPS technology, so the viewing angle is 178 degrees, with less reflection and higher contrast than its predecessors.

    There’s a HD camera for Facetime, and a glass multitouch trackpad.

    On the inside, you’ve got a quad core processor, and  up to 768GB of flash storage to speed things up a lot. Then you’ve got Nvidia graphics, and up to 16GB of 1600MHz  RAM, all in the aluminium unibody.

    For ports, you have two Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt and two USB 3.0 ports, plus a HDMI port.

    The not so good part? Apple is changing the charger to Magsafe 2, which is thinner than its predecessor. It’s not really much of a downer to be fair, but if you’re a dedicated Mac fan, chances are you’ve built up a store of these, and they’ll be useless with the newer notebooks.

    And the existing MacBook Air and MacBook Pros – 13 and 15 inch – aren’t beng forgotten. They’re getting a bit of polish too. That means faster processors, flash storage, graphics and memory, plus USB 3.0.

    iOS6

    The new version of Apple’s mobile software brings in more than 200 new features to supported devices.

    As widely expected, the new iOS dumps Google’s mapping and brings in its own. The redesigned map app comes with turn-by-turn navigation, which is welcome. Maps are vector-based too, so it’s easier to zoom, pan and there’s no more tiles loading painfully slowly. (Google announced vector-based maps for Android in late 2010).  It also has a fly-over view, with photo realistic interactive 3D views.

    There’s also real-time traffic information, so you know how long it’s going to really take to reach your destination, rather than a guess based on distance. And there’s local search built in too, apparently that is going to be global – not just US. If that makes it as far as Ireland, I’ll be happy.

    Facebook is also being brought in from the cold. It’s integrated across the OS, so you can update your status, share photos and keep your contacts up to date across your devices. Events from your Facebook calendar will be integrated into your iPhone calendar. And now you can also “like” content in the App store, so you’ll get some friend-recommended apps too.

    Siri is going to the new iPad and getting more language supports, with Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese now added to the lineup. So that’s 15 countries that it’s optimised for. And because iOS6 has Facebook integration, you can now use Siri to post a Facebook status for you, as well as Tweet and launch apps.

    And you can share Photo Streams with friends and family –choose the hotos, choose the friends, and the photos will go directly to their iOS devices, iPhoto, through Apple TV, and so on.

    One for parents and teachers, Guided Access means you can lock the iPhone or iPad into a single app, and limit touch controls to certain parts of the screen.

    Finally, there’s Passbook, a new app to help you organise tickets, boarding passes, vouchers and loyalty cards. It’s got some location information too, so if you get to the airport, it will throw up the relevant code you need.

    Other updates:

    • Facetime over mobile networks – no longer limited to Wifi only
    • iCloud tabs is getting tabs and offline reading lists
    • A VIP mailbox for designated contacts
    • Do not disturb for notifications at certain times – you can choose to allow calls from certain people though.
    • The ability to refuse calls with a text message, something that is familiar to other smartphone users.

     

    Availability: iOS6 goes live to consumers in the autumn as a free update for the iPhone 4 and 4S, the 3Gs, the new iPad and iPad 2, and fourth generation iPad touch. (Note there’s no mention there of the original iPad. That’s a bit of a kick in the face for early adopters). The beta software and SDK is available to developers immediately.

    Mountain Lion

    Mountain Lion is the ninth release of OS X. The latest update brings updates including:

    Messages app

    Say goodbye to iChat. If you’ve downloaded the beta, yu’ve already seen this but Messages brings iMessage to the Mac so you can text and send photos and HD video from your computer to anyone with an iOS device or Mac. It also supports instant messaging services such as Google Talk, AIM and Yahoo.

    Notification Centre

    All your notifications now in one place. If you’re an iOS device user, you already know the benefits of this. Nice to see it officially on the Mac.

    Facebook integration

    Share everything at the touch of a button. Links, photos, videos can all be sent easily, requiring only a single sign in. You can update your status.  And your notifications will appear in the Notification Centre.

    Airplay mirroring

    Stream your Mac to your HDTV via Apple TV, or stream audio to compatible speakers.

    Dictation

    There’s no Siri, but OS X is getting some voice enabled features. It works anywhere you can type, so it’s not limited to just Apple software.  Good news for users of third-party apps.

    Availability: July.