WWDC 2012: Maps and other apps that Apple just overshadowed

June 12, 2012

Did you feel that? That was Apple blowing in with a torrent of new features for iOS 6 — and knocking down a few apps along the way.

With the addition of maps, offline reading, shared photo streams and the Passbook, Apple is adding features that are already present in many of its apps.

Maps, of course, are the most prominent example of this. It’s the company’s way of encouraging its most faithful users to ask, “Google who?” when plotting routes from now on.

Apple’s in-house Maps app adds a lot of features that have had iPhone users eyeing Android with envy — most notably, turn-by-turn navigation. Now, of course, Siri will also be able to help you with navigation, as well as letting you know what’s nearby with information from Yelp. As with Google Maps, Apple’s program will also show you traffic, update construction and other alerts in real-time and display 3D models of cities. Apple’s Maps may not kill off Google Maps for iOS altogether, but the integration will be hard to beat.

Another feature Apple just added, offline browsing, also takes aim at a whole slew of apps such as Instapaper and Pocket, which solely offer users the ability to read Web pages offline. These apps have their own followings and features — such as the ability to store multimedia for offline viewing as well — that expand on the idea of offline viewing. But it may be harder to convince users to sign up for a separate service when it’s baked right into the operating system.

Similarly, Passbook takes on apps such as KeyRing or CardStar, which store loyalty cards for you. Not to mention a little app called, oh, Google Wallet, minus the actual connection to your credit card, of course.

Apple also quietly got into the mobile picture sharing world, with the announcement of shared photo streams, a feature it’s added to iCloud photo storage. This just became a new Apple social network in the vein of Instagram — though without the filters. Users can share photos with groups from their contacts, comment on each other’s photos and even “like” a photo that pops up on their shared stream. Users will also get notifications when photos are added to a friend or family member’s album.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Not that Facebook’s likely to complain. The social network got its own baked-in access to iOS, and phone numbers, birthdays and contacts will integrate with Apple’s own programs. Facebook and iOS users will also get the ability to like a song or app straight from the program you’re in without having to leave the app to do it.

But what if you're not Facebook, and you’re just an independent developer whose app’s main feature got pulled into an OS’s core?

“I think that one thing you have to look at as a developer, if you’re thinking you can provide a core baseline and ultimately compete, then you’re mistaken,” said Greg Kostello, the Chief Executive Officer and founder of the video sharing app, Givit. “You have to look for features and functionality that go beyond what Apple, Google or Microsoft offer.” Developers have to be nimble, he said, and remember that no major company is going to try and be all things to all people. To succeed, you have to look at what you can offer to a smaller piece of the general market.

And Apple adding features is, on the whole a good thing, he said. “Look at Siri. Now Siri is open, so I look at that and think, as a third-party, if I could add a voice component to an application.” The same, he said, is true of Facebook integration, because now it’s much easier to add a feature the average consumer expects into iOS apps.

Related stories:

WWDC 2012: Maps, Siri on the iPad, Facebook integration, Facetime over cellular, Passcard and more

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WWDC 2012: Apple’s iOS 6, Mountain Lion, MacBooks, Macs

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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