Following its mini-update to iOS devices Thursday, Apple released iOS 6.1 beta and a Xcode 4.6 preview for developers to tinker with.
On Apple's developer website, engineers have identified a file named "Build 10B5095f" as iOS 6.1's beta.
It's the first peek at the next version of iOS 6. Now programmers can play with the beta in the iPhone 5, 4S, 4 and 3GS environments as well as on the fifth and fourth iPod touches and full versions of the iPad.
A version of iOS 6.1 that works with the new iPad mini has yet to pop up on the developer site. It is, however, expected to arrive Friday.
New tools for making Maps
The most notable new tool is a class called "MKLocalSearch" for the Map Kit framework.
The kit lets programmers "search for map-based addresses and points of interest," plus lets developers enter placename information and portions of addresses as well as have search returns that match the info and provide additional data.
One example given by Apple was if a user searched for "coffee," the new tool will generate returns with the location of local coffeeshops and provide extra info on each java joint.
The new Xcode 4.6 per-release was unleashed too. It's said to be identified as "Build 4H90b." It includes the software development kits for both iOS 6.1 and Mac OS X 10.8 for desktop.
The beta version comes stocked with Xcode IDE, the iOS simulator and all the necessary tools and frameworks for building OS X and iOS apps.
Maps still lost with 6.0.1
The release of both betas comes the day Apple updated iOS to version 6.0.1, which was mainly aimed at fixing a host of bugs. Since iOS 6 is about a month old, Apple still had some kinks to work out.
Those hoping Apple Maps would be fixed during the incremental update should continue to hold their collective breath.
Many users have been upset with the inaccurate and missing data in the navigation app Apple launched during iOS 6 to replace Google Maps.
After the public backlash, Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized to customers through an open letter.
In it, Cook said Apple was working on Maps' problems and recommended other avenues (like Bing and even Google Maps) that would help customers find their way until Maps was fixed.
Finding a way for Maps
Since Cook's letter there have been rumors that Apple was enlisting its army of Apple Store employees to help fill in the information gaps, but there hasn't been much movement on the Maps-improvement front for a while.
The release of these new geo-themed developers tool is the first glimmer of hope that Maps might become more accurate and informative, or at least tell users where to get a decent cup of coffee.
We'll know after the new iOS 6.1 launches, which is expected to find a release sometime after the holidays.