How iOS 6 changes the iPad

The latest version of Apple's iOS has some significant new features that just might change how the iPad is used, and the value of iPads with built-in 4G.

Apple

Every year, we engage in the same dance: Apple announces a new version of iOS, and we instantly start wondering how our devices will change as a result.

iOS announcements tend to work forward for phones (the new iPhone is expected this fall), but for iPads they work backward: the third-generation iPad with Retina Display came out in March.

A host of new iOS 6 features change some of what the iPhone can be. Will iOS 6 change the iPad, too? Yes, if you're thinking of heavily using Siri or own a 4G/3G third-gen iPad or iPad 2.

iPad with 4G as a true communication device
Apple's decision to allow FaceTime calls over cellular as well as Wi-Fi includes the iPad, too, but only the latest third-gen Retina Display version with 4G. That LTE connection will be more useful (although Skype and other services already work over 3G and 4G).

iPad with Siri and navigation becomes a car-mounted device
Take that same 4G LTE iPad and mount it on your dashboard and suddenly you have a voice-driven, connected navigation computer thanks to Apple's new Maps app. Some people already use iPads on the road for GPS purposes, but expect that number to grow. And, with Eyes Free being a feature integrated into cars, it could be equally useful to connect a 4G-enabled iPad for long road trips. (Note: while turn-by-turn navigation will work on an iPad 2 or later, Siri will only work on third-gen Retina Display iPads.)

iPad as a hands-free home device
Could Siri be used to enable hands-free control of a connected Apple TV or other services? Siri still doesn't have an API -- a way for developers to hook Siri functions into their own applications -- but imagine docking your third-gen iPad (sorry iPad 2 owners, once again you're excluded) and speaking to it to check out sports scores, e-mails, or other data. The larger screen and viewing distance make using Siri on an iPad in this regard more practical than doing it on an iPhone you hold in your hand, but you'd still need to press and hold the home button to activate Siri ... or, perhaps a Bluetooth remote or another accessory could help make Siri more iPad-useful.

iPad as better road-warrior laptop replacement
What I hope this means is iPad as True Laptop Replacement for bloggers such as myself. I discovered recently that writing a whole post, even from a plane, is doable; but, uploading photos to a content management system or Web site via an iPad has always been a hassle. iOS 6 will make it possible to upload photos or videos directly from Safari (to eBay, Craigslist, or other sites, according to Apple), meaning that, finally, the time may come when direct uploads will be possible without using an app as a middleman.

iPad as better offline e-reader?
Well, that's tough to improve: the iPad has tons and tons of reading apps. However, Safari's baked-in offline reading mode, which seems designed to kill apps like Instapaper, will make offline reading just a bit easier.

iPad as a better second (or third) screen
As seen above in Apple's illustration, features like iCloud tabs aim to make sharing work between multiple screens even easier. With iOS 6, we might be a step closer to the "Minority Report" vision of screens everywhere, with your necessary work thrown onto whatever device is needed. Even more integrated apps and features between iPhone, iPad, and MacBook bear some of that promise.

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