iOS 6 is no doubt still a long way from being released, but I think if you’re a serious app developer, it’s time to start giving it some thought. Apple has a tendency to feature apps that show off the platform, so working in some features of a newly released version of iOS is a good strategy for getting your app on the front page of the App Store. I have no inside information, but I think it’s still possible to take an educated guess at some of the things we’ll see in iOS 6. Here they are in particular order.
I think this is a feature many of us are hoping for, but it could go either way. Technically Siri is still a beta product – a pretty rare occurrence for Apple. I’d be surprised if they managed to turn around a beta product in 12 months to one that has full third party support. Still, I have no doubt that they’re working on it, and if it doesn’t appear in 2012, there’s a good chance it will in 2013.
Better Cross-App Communication
Let’s face it – Apple’s competitors currently provide better options for cross-app communication. Sure, we have URL Schemes, but both Android and Windows Phone 7 have much better options. Apple is really great at crossing off items from the list of “Things Competitors Do Better”, and I think there’ll be some nice improvements in this area for us to play with in iOS 6.
We’ve already seen some hints of this in OS X 10.8, so I think there’s a good chance we’ll see some improved sharing controls in iOS 6. Although the chances are low, I’d love to see some built in Facebook sharing functionality.
Notification Centre Widgets
Historically, I believe Apple has always liked the idea of widgets. Although they never really made it into iOS, they certainly were given some serious thought. Now that we have the weather and stock widgets in Notification Centre, I think it makes total sense to open this up to third parties. You’ll have a set amount of space to work with, and data calls will only be allowed when Notification Centre is activated. Some developers are going to come up with some really nice ways to use this feature. Personally, this is an area that I’m going to concentrate on.
Although this is more of a hardware feature, the possibilities for neat things you could do with Near Field Communications are endless. If NFC finally does make it into the iPhone hardware this year, I’m expecting it to be fully locked down – no third party integration for us this year (much like Siri is now). Still, it can’t hurt to start thinking about what sort of things we could do if we had some NFC APIs.
Better Location Support
Apple has already started playing in this area in iOS 5. The Reminders app is a classic example, allowing you to set off a reminder when you leave or enter a certain region. I expect we’re going to see some even cooler things in this area in iOS 6, although I can honestly say I have no idea what!
I’m betting the release date will be early October – the same time period as iOS 5. This date makes a lot of sense for Apple, as they can hold off announcing iOS 6 until WWDC. What better venue to announce the new features of iOS than at the premier Apple developer conference for the year? I think there’s very little chance Apple will introduce new iPhone hardware at WWDC this year, and this gives developers a few months to get up to speed before the public release later that year. The iPhone 4S is selling ridiculously well – it just doesn’t make sense for Apple to cut it off early. Finally, an October release is just around the corner from Christmas, perfect for a booming quarter.
So that’s everything on my list. What about yours?