We’ve all been itching to get our hands on iOS 6 since it got its first unveiling at WWDC back in June, and today, three months after that announcement, the software finally gets its public debut. Apple’s packed a ton of new features into this update, including some major new features like Map and Passbook, plus some enhancements to existing apps and features, such as new Siri capabilities and a VIP inbox in Mail.
Apple’s been promoting some of these features on its website, but there are tons you may not have heard about. With that said, here’s your comprehensive guide to everything that’s new in iOS 6.
Let’s start with Siri, the feature that revolutionized voice-controlled assistants when it launched on the iPhone 4S last year. It’s received a lot of criticism since then, but in iOS 6, Siri is much-improved.
Now on iPad & iPod touch
For a start, it’s not exclusive to the iPhone 4S anymore; you’ll also find Siri on the new iPad, and on the fifth-generation iPod touch.
International local search
Until now, searching Siri for local businesses or nearby points of interest was exclusive to users in the United States, but not anymore. Local search is now available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. It’s also coming to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in October.
Sports scores, restaurant reservations, movie showtimes, and more
In iOS 6, Siri is more intelligent than ever before. You can now use it to quickly find sports scores and league standings for your favorite teams; to find nearby restaurants and make reservations; to find movie showtimes and see the latest movie reviews; and to launch the apps installed on your iOS device. You can also ask Siri to make posts on Twitter and Facebook — no fingers required.
Google Maps is gone in iOS 6, which means no more Street View. But it makes way for Apple’s awesome new Maps app, arguably one of the biggest and best features of iOS 6.
Forget satellite view and 2D imagery, Flyover is where it’s at. As its name suggests, Flyover allows you to fly over some of the world’s biggest cities, with interactive 3D views that let you zoom, pan, tilt, and rotate around skyscrapers, landmarks, and more. Apple’s highly-detailed imagery is like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and it’ll blow you away.
Yes, I hear you — it’s about time! Android has it, Windows Phone has it, even BlackBerry has it. Now iOS has it, too: turn-by-turn navigation. Stick your TomTom on eBay and trust Apple’s new Maps app to get you where you want to go, with spoken directions, a 3D view, and real-time traffic integration.
And like everything Apple builds, the turn-by-turn feature looks great. It sports beautiful maps; large, shiny road signs and arrows superimposed over the images that show you which way to go and how long it’s going to take to get there; and dynamic camera angles that turn as you do. Turn-by-turn navigation even works from the lock screen, and provides roadwork alerts so that you can avoid the jams.
Like Maps, Passbook is brand new in iOS 6, and it’s the closest you’ll get to an iPhone wallet for the foreseeable future. Boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, store cards and more can be turned into digital cards that all live inside your Passbook app.
Each one is intelligent, too; for example, your Starbucks card will tell you your remaining balance, while retail coupons and boarding passes will automatically pop up on the lock screen when you arrive at certain stores or at the airport — so you don’t even need to open Passbook to use them. And the best bit: they can be updated over-the-air, so if your gate changes after you’ve checked in for your flight, Passbook will let you know.
There are very few third-party email clients for iOS, so it’s a good job Apple has made it so great. In iOS 6, Mail gets a number of new features that you’ll love.
Thanks to good old Tweetie, pull-to-refresh is a gesture we’ve all grown to love in iOS, and you’ll find it built into a huge number of apps. Now Apple’s using it, too. In iOS 6, the refresh button in Mail is gone. To fetch new email, simply pull down your mail list and it’ll refresh.
Missing emails from your loved ones and people who are important to you is now a thing of the past. In iOS 6, you can tell Mail who your “VIPs” are, and it will automatically filter all emails from those people into a dedicated inbox. Then, when you’re in a rush, you don’t need to skim through all the junk in your inbox to find that email from your mom — just check your VIP inbox.
Shortcut to drafts
Finding draft emails is a pain if you have a lot of email accounts. Sometimes you forget which account you used to compost it, then you have to find the drafts folder for that account to locate it. But in iOS 6, there’s a quick and easy shortcut that takes you to every draft email you have — simply tap and hold the compose button until they appear.
App Store previews
If you receive a link to an iOS app via email, Mail will open up a preview window that shows the app’s price, description, screenshots, ratings, and reviews. You can even purchase the app there and then if you want to, and at no point will you be pulled out of Mail and taken to the App Store — it’s all done from your inbox.
Dedicated signatures for all accounts
This is a feature I’ve been calling out for on iOS: dedicated signatures for each email account. You can now set up different signatures for every account set up on your iOS device, rather than having to use the same one no matter which address you’re using.
Tap to insert photos & videos
If you start an email under iOS 5, there’s no way to insert an image or video into it — you have to start the email from your Camera Roll and the content is inserted automatically. In iOS 6, however, you can tap to insert photos and videos directly within Mail. That means you can start your email, write out your message, then attach whatever you’d like to it. You no longer need to scrap draft emails because you forgot to insert something.
In iOS 6, the App Store has been given an entirely new look. Gone is the traditional blue theme so familiar to Apple’s built-in apps, and in comes a new dark look that’s been completely overhauled from the ground up. It sports fancy rotating banners for features apps, the ability to see what’s new in each update without leaving the update tab. When you download an app, you will no longer be pulled out of the App Store and taken to your home screen (yay!), but you will get a handy status bar that shows the progress of your download.
No passwords for updates
You no longer need to enter your iTunes password just to download updates to your existing apps. I’ve never understood why this was a requirement, but thankfully it’s done in iOS 6.
As you’d expect, the App Store’s search section has been given the same new look the rest of the store has, but it also gets an entirely new way to search apps. Rather than being presented with a simple list of apps when you perform a search, the App Store will show you all of your results in miniature previews that include a screenshot of the app. All you have to do is flick through them to find the app you’re looking for. If you used the Chomp service before it was acquired by Apple, this design will already be familiar to you.
Just like the App Store, the iTunes app has been overhauled with a new dark design.
Have you ever previewed a song in iTunes, then moved on and forgotten what it was? In iOS 6, the iTunes store keeps a history of everything you’ve previewed, so you can go back and find out what that catchy tune was that you were listening to earlier.
No more podcasts
Podcasts no longer appear within the iTunes app, but Apple does have a dedicated Podcasts app that’s just fantastic. It doesn’t come pre-installed with iOS 6 unfortunately, but you will find it in the App Store and it’s completely free to download.
Safari gets a number of new features in iOS 6, which could persuade you to ditch third-party browsers like Google Chrome — especially if you’re an iCloud user.
One of my favorite is iCloud tabs, which syncs all the tabs you have open in Safari between your Mac and iOS devices. Open a URL on your Mac, and as long as you’re iPhone is connected to the same iCloud account, you’ll quickly be able to open the same URL there, too. Just tap the iCloud button that sits alongside the address bar to see all the tabs you have open.
Offline Reading List
Reading List is great, but in iOS 5, it wasn’t too handy if you didn’t have a data connection. In iOS 6, however, you can enjoy an offline Reading List, with full web pages — not just links — that you can enjoy wherever you are. So even when you’re 30,000 feet up in the air with no Wi-Fi connection, you can catch up on all those articles you’ve been meaning to read.
Safari now offers fullscreen view in landscape mode, which hides the address and navigation bars so that all you see is your web page.