iOS 6 adds new Facebook features and mapping

As expected, Apple’s launching its own mapping solution with iOS 6, ditching Google Maps in the process.

Also new in the iOS 6 preview, now available in beta to developers, is an increased focus on Facebook. This includes Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, with the ability to post directly from Notification Center, Siri and Facebook-enabled apps like Photos, Safari and Maps.

Shared Photo Streams with iCloud lets users pick the photos they want to share and with whom, making them avaailable instantly. And Passbook centralizes passes such as airline boarding cards, coffee shop loyalty cards or baseball tickets in one place.

“iOS 6 continues the rapid pace of innovation that is helping Apple reinvent the phone and create the iPad category, delivering the best mobile experience available on any device,” says Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iOS Software.

“We can’t wait for hundreds of millions of iOS users to experience the incredible new features in iOS 6 including the new Maps app, expanded Siri support, deep Facebook integration, Shared Photo Streams and the innovative new Passbook app.”

The new mapping system will be a big blow to Google, which has benefited from a deal with Apple since 2007. Last week, it announced a series of improvements to its own Google Maps in what was clearly an attempt to bolster its place in the market in the face of the new competition.

Apple’s new offering, produced in conjunction with TomTom, includes turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions from the Siri personal assistant. Local search includes information on over 100 million businesses, for help finding restaurants or gas stations, and the app also includes real-time traffic information.

Vector-based graphics, as seen on Google maps for Android, replace bitmap images to make graphics and text smoother, and panning, tilting and zooming more fluid, says Apple, and a Flyover feature photo-realistic interactive 3D views.

“The decision of Apple to replace Google Maps with its own mapping solution comes as a no surprise. Apple had to reduce its dependency on a competitor’s solution,” says Forrester analyst Thomas Husson.

“Apple Maps, Facebook’s integration or Yelp’s partnership highlight one of the underlying trend of today’s announcements: Apple is pulling consumers away from Google in search, local and sharing.”