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WWDC 2012: Apple Maps, Photo Stream and FaceTime better in iOS 6

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Finally, we can stop cursing the limitation of Maps, FaceTime and Photo Stream. Apple on Monday announced some sweet updates for iOS 6 at its developers conference, WWDC.

For Maps, it's (as expected) bye-bye, Google, and hello, 3-D flyovers and turn-by-turn directions. FaceTime isn't just for Starbucks, McDonald's and at home. It's gone cellular. And Photo Stream has gotten more friendly with Facebook, allowing you to share your photos with your friends.

The map app will integrate local search and Yelp for business pages. You'll get traffic and information about crashes, using anonymous crowd-sourced data to keep information fresh and current. And yes, Siri will work with it, helping you to find, say, gas stations or to let you know how much longer it'll take to get where you're going.

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The app includes 3-D real-time rendered Fly Over that lets you zoom in and see exactly what buildings look like. Though it sounds cool, it may end up being a bit more like Siri -- great to show off at parties but not so useful in the wild.

Safari and Mail also got updates. The browser includes the iCloud tab feature (allowing DropBox-style access straight from the browser's bar), an offline reading list and the ability to upload photos to websites as you would from your desktop. The offline reading list really is killer and could challenge apps such as Instapaper and Pocket. 

One update that will probably get mixed reviews is the unifying of your iPhone number and your Apple ID so that you can answer your calls and iMessages on any Apple device. Though convenient, it probably would be nice to be able to opt out when you'd like.  

In further efforts to overtake the wallet, Apple's iOS now includes something called Passbook. It's where you can store all passes purchased -- movie tickets, boarding passes, sports game tickets, and store cards, such as those from Starbucks. It'll also serve as a storage locker for bar codes and QR codes. Apple calls it "the simplest way to get all your passes in one place."

You'll be able to add photos and videos directly into a message. No more little camera icon in the text field.

Mail gets a little Google treatment now, allowing you to indicate your very important people. The VIP feature will give you a text-message-style alert when you get messages from this group. In your inbox, their messages will be starred. Refresh in Mail no longer means tapping the refresh arrow; instead it's pull to refresh.

Lastly, for those of us who need a little more control in focusing some users to a single app, Guided Access gets rid of certain buttons in single-app mode and locks the home button. This could be great for education and family use or for those with disabilities.

The beta is out for developers now. The iOS 6 update will work on iPhones 3GS and up as well as on iPad 2 and its successor.

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