June 12, 2012, 9:40 AM

Apple unveils the latest version of its mobile operating system

The system, iOS 6, includes a new Maps app of interest to retailers.

Lead Photo

Apple Inc. on Monday previewed iOS 6, the latest version of its mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Apple says it will release the new operating system in the fall, a move that could presage the coming of the iPhone 5 and a mini-iPad tablet.

New iOS 6 features include a Maps app with Apple-designed cartography and turn-by-turn navigation. This will replace the Google Maps app Apple has used since the iPhone debuted in 2007. There are also expanded Siri voice recognition system functions, including support for more languages. A Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar enables users to post to Facebook directly from iOS 6’s Notification Center, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps like Photos, Safari and Maps.

The new Maps app is significant for retailers because millions of consumers use Maps as a search engine for local businesses. Apple says the Maps app will access information on more than 100 million businesses worldwide, offering information cards that contain Yelp ratings, reviews, available deals and photos. Apple did not make clear where it will get the information about retailers or whether retailers will be able to include deals and change incorrect information. Apple, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, did not respond to a request for comment.

Built-in Facebook integration enables a consumer with an Apple device to sign in once and post from numerous apps Apple builds into the devices. A consumer’s Facebook Friends information is kept up to date across all iOS devices, automatically updating details in Contacts when they change, and scheduling events and birthdays in the Calendar. A consumer can also Like content directly from the App Store and iTunes and see what friends recommend.

Additional new iOS 6 features include:

  • Enhancements to the Safari mobile web browser, including offline reading lists, photo uploads and full screen view.
  • Support for FaceTime video phone calls over cellular networks. FaceTime currently can only be used on Wi-Fi networks.
  • The ability to set up a VIP mailbox to quickly view messages from people a consumer designates as VIPs.

The iOS 6 beta software and software development kit are available now for iOS Developer Program members. Apple’s iOS 6 will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod Touch (fourth generation) this fall.

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