We’re sure many of you are anxiously waiting for the iPhone 5 to hit your doorstep in the coming days (or weeks—depending on when you ordered). In the mean time, the folks at Apple have something to calm your nerves: as anticipated, the hard-working men and women of Cupertino have pushed out iOS 6. If you own an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, fourth- or fifth-generation iPod touch, iPad 2, or the new iPad, you can check out Apple’s latest offering for free right now. Apple is making iOS 6 available in an over-the-air update to those on iOS 5. However, as the company’s servers start being slammed by the hoard of users looking to get going, delays are expected. If you would rather install the update the old-fashioned way (by connecting it to iTunes), you will need to install Apple’s latest iTunes 10.7 offering.
Announced at WWDC 2012, Apple said iOS 6 brings “over 200 new features” to the table. A version of the software has been available to developers a part of Apple’s Developer Program for those willing to iron out the wrinkles before Apple shipped it to the masses. Apple’s Senior Vice President of iOS Software Scott Forstall called iOS 6 a “rapid pace of innovation.” So, what exactly does this innovation encompass? We got the full details below:
What some call the highlight of iOS 6 is Apple’s new Maps solution. It is built from the ground-up by a select team at Apple, and it ditches the company’s reliance on Google for a mapping solution. I had the ability to test Maps for the better part of three months and have to say it got me out of a couple situations where, let’s just say, I was lost. With the soft touch of Siri’s voice, Apple Map’s turn-by-turn navigation feature allows users to get real-time directions as they are driving. Furthermore, Maps’ real-time traffic solution can definitely save you some time if traffic gets finicky. The big part of Maps is the way it is built. Apple made it vector-based in the hopes of smoother loading—especially with its “realistic” 3D views. But, as we have seen, Apple’s Maps app does have some issues.
First launched in iOS 5 last fall, Apple has further added quite a few features to its beloved voice-assistant Siri, which is available on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and now the new iPad thanks to iOS 6. Benefiting its users across the globe, Apple has added language support for Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, and Cantonese, which make for 15 countries where Siri is currently supported. Furthermore, Siri has been given the ability to allow users to post a status update to Facebook (more on that later), make restaurant reservations, see the latest sport scores, and the ability to launch apps. Apple partnered with Yelp and integrated OpenTable functionality for better restaurant related results as well as Rotten Tomatoes to get information on movie-related content like reviews. Lastly, Siri now includes a new “Eyes Free” mode that allows users to interact with their iPhone just by voice. Apple said it is working with many car manufacturers in an attempt to integrate a hardware button into steering wheels that can activate Siri sometime over the next 12 months.
Here is where iOS devices get more social: adding to Twitter integration first introduced with iOS 5, Apple and Facebook in iOS 6 have formed a partnership to integrate the world’s top social network into Apple’s platform. Like Twitter, Facebook integration is system-wide. It allows users to keep their friends’ details synced through Contacts and Calendar, post to their Facebook wall directly from Notification Center, and post a status update by voice through Siri and Facebook-enabled apps including Safari, Maps and Photos.
Adding to its iCloud offering introduced in iOS 6, Apple included ways to keep photos synced across devices. Using Shared Photo Streams, users can share select photos to other iOS devices or iPhoto and Aperture on the Mac. People you’ve shared photos with can also comment and like them.
Speaking of photos: another notable camera-related iOS 6 feature is the new Panorama mode. It essentially lets users “capture everything from a family reunion group photo to a jaw-dropping shot of the Grand Canyon” with one motion. Folks can shoot a whopping 240-degree, 28-megapixel image by just using the iPhone 5′s gyroscope, A6 chip and Camera app.
The last highlight of Apple’s iOS 6 announcement is Passbook, which is a new organizational app pre-loaded on iOS 6. Users can manage various entities of their life like boarding passes, movie tickets, store cards, and other passes that have QR codes, barcodes or visual, scannable codes. Many thought Apple would release NFC on the iPhone 5 to compliment Passbook, but the company chose to opt-out. The offering does not offer any payment solutions, such as MasterCard, Visa, or PayPal, as Google does with its Wallet offering. Phil Schiller expressed NFC is not currently a great solution and further stated, “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.”
Perhaps the greatest addition to Passbook is its location awareness. Say you have a gift card to Starbucks…your card will appear on the Lock Screen so it can be quickly scanned to complete your purchase. Passbook also has alert abilities to let you know of a flight change, for instance, which could save you from getting to the airport extremely early.
Some of the smaller iOS 6 enhancements include changes to Safari, such as: iCloud tabs (synced between desktop and iOS), offline reading lists and full screen view. Also on iOS 6: when getting an incoming call, you can decline the calls and give the unwanted caller a quick message. Better yet, Apple also included a new Do Not Disturb option that puts your phone in a setting so you’re not interrupted.
For China users, Apple included improvements like Chinese text input. Just as it did with Facebook and Twitter, Apple also made partnerships to include built-in support for popular Chinese services like Baidu, Sina Weibo, Youku and Tudou.
Lastly, Apple included the ability to make FaceTime calls over cellular networks. AT&T already announced that it will make customers be on a certain data plan to get this feature rolling, while Sprint and Verizon said everyone will have the feature. No more are the days where you had to search for a Wi-Fi network to complete a FaceTime call. Well, maybe no one really did that.
So, that is the bulk of iOS 6′s new features. What do you think?