Apple iOS 6 explained – the best new features
What is iOS 6?
iOS 6 is the latest version of the Apple iPhone and iPad operating system – the software they run on. It adds several new features, including a new maps app that includes turn-by-turn navigation, Facebook integration and several other smaller improvements.
When can I download it?
iOS 6 will be available for download on September 19, just ahead of the iPhone 5 launched on the 21st.
Will my Apple device support it?
The new operating system will be supported by the iPhone 3GS and later models, iPod Touch 4th generation, iPad 2 and the new iPad.
What are the key features?
There are lots of new features in iOS 6 – some are very big and some very minor. Below are the top 5 best iOS 6 features, starting with one particularly important one…
1. New Maps app
Up to now the Maps app on iPhones and iPads has been provided by Google, but in iOS 6 Apple has dropped Google in favour of its own maps specially developed maps app.
This provides vector-based maps, which means you can zoom in without losing detail and smoothly pan through maps. It also has turn-by-turn navigation like a sat nav and can present a 3D view in major urban areas. The app can keep track of traffic and will offer a new route if an accident or roadworks means it will be faster.
This will put it in direct competition with sat nav apps such as the AA satnav app and Co-pilot live. See our satnav app reviews to see how they perform and compare with dedicated satnavs.
Major cities can also be viewed from the air with flyover, which presents a photo-realistic 3D view of the area which can then be rotated and tilted to give you the view you want.
2. Improved Siri and now on the iPad
Siri, Apple’s ‘smart’ voice recognition system, is finally coming to the iPad – or at least the iPad 3 anyway. Apple has added functionality to allow users to search for sports, movie and restaurant information – although until it launches we won’t know how ‘optimised’ it is for the UK.
New features such as being able to find restaurants by cuisine or outdoor seating should be useful – probably more so in California for outdoor seating – but like previous versions of Siri may be US only. One new feature that should definitely make it to the UK version is the ability to launch apps using Siri.
3. Integrated Facebook
Like Twitter before it, Apple has integrated Facebook into the operating system so it will be easier to share photos and videos with your friends and post updates directly from any any app. Contacts and calendar information will be synced so events will automatically show up on your calendar and you will also be able to see who has liked apps, movies and songs on iTunes.
4. Facetime over the mobile networks
Apple has removed the wi-fi only restriction on its video calling app, Facetime, letting users make video calls over the mobile network – as long as their network lets them anyway. There’s no information yet on whether this will be available on any of the UK networks, but if it is introduced it’s worth bearing in mind that it may use a lot of your data allowance and cost you a lot to use.
5. New Passbook app
Passbook is a new app designed to give you a single place to go to find things like vouchers and boarding passes. It is also time and location based, so if you arrive at the airport at the right time it will present a link to your boarding pass on your lock screen so you can quickly get the barcode to hand for the staff to scan.
What else is new?
But Apple wouldn’t be happy with just five new features so what else is new? Shared Photo Streams gives users the ability to share specific photos or albums through iCloud. You just select the photos and then choose who you want to share them with and they will receive a notification. Users can then add comments to photos and view them on any iCloud connected device.
Apple has made some improvements to the everyday experience of using your phone with the ability to reply to a phone call with a message rather than picking up a call. Set messages such as ‘I’ll call later’, ‘I’m on my way’ and ‘What’s up?’ are included to speed up the process – or if you’re too pressed to even reply with a template message you can choose for it to remind you to call them back later, either in 1 hour, when you leave your current location or when you get home.
Do not disturb is a new feature that allows you to stop all notifications and call alerts during a set period. You can also set it to only allow a certain group of people to call you so you won’t miss anything important from friends or family.
Apple has given its Mail application an overdue overhaul with an improved interface and addition of a VIP inbox to make sure you don’t miss emails from the most important people in your life. There is also a faster way of adding photos or videos to emails.
The Safari web browser has been improved with the introduction of full screen browsing and iCloud Tabs so you can pick up your web browsing in the same place on a different product. Reading List now also saves entire web pages rather than just links so you can read a page later even if you don’t have signal.
Guided Access allows you to restrict a device to a single app or to turn off areas of a screen for use by children. Apple has also expanded the VoiceOver tool to work with the Maps, Assistive Touch and Zoom features to help blind or partially sighted users.
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