It's been more than 5 years since Apple first introduced the iPhone in America and began changing how we communicate while on-the-go. Since then, just as the iPhone hardware has undergone major technological enhancements, so has the iOS operating system that runs on the device.
The Apple iOS 5.1 operating system has been the standard on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch for almost a year. Now, however, this operating system has received another major overhaul. iOS 6 includes a multitude of new features plus several all-new apps.
One thing you'll notice almost immediately is that certain apps and features that used to require a Wi-Fi Internet connection to function (such as FaceTime or the iCloud Photo Stream) will now function using either Wi-Fi or a 3G/4G wireless data connection (assuming that your wireless data service provider allows for this). However, if your wireless data service has a preset monthly allocation, such as 2GB, using these features (without Wi-Fi) requires a significant amount of wireless data usage and will quickly deplete your 3G/4G wireless data allocation.
Maps Can Now Get You Where You're Going with Turn-By-Turn Directions
One of the biggest changes you'll notice when you upgrade for free to iOS 6 is the revamped Maps app. In addition to providing additional ways to view maps on your device's screen and offering better integration with other apps, the new Maps app can provide detailed, turn-by-turn directions between any two addresses while displaying real-time traffic updates.
The turn-by-turn directions can be spoken and displayed on the screen, giving you portable GPS functionality, without needing a separate device or additional third-party apps (spoken directions are available only on the iPhone 4S and 5). Meanwhile, the new Flyover feature in Maps allows you to see an aerial view of many metropolitan areas and then scroll around on the map as if you're looking through the cockpit window of an airplane. In addition, Siri now integrates with Yelp to provide useful information about many destinations.
Siri Is Getting Smarter
In addition to Siri being introduced for the new iPad with iOS 6, this feature now works in more countries around the world. Siri also can share the latest sports scores, plus restaurant information and details about movies, anytime you ask. You'll also discover that with a verbal command, Siri can launch apps and even allow you to update your Facebook status or compose and send a tweet (via Twitter) using your voice.
Facebook Integration Comes to Your iOS Mobile Device
In iOS 5, Apple began offering Twitter integration within many preinstalled apps. This integration allows you to compose and send tweets from within the Photos app, for example, without first having to launch the Twitter app.
With the introduction of iOS 6, in addition to enhanced Twitter integration, Facebook integration has been added. Thus, you'll be able to update your Facebook status or Facebook page while using a handful of the apps that come preinstalled on your mobile device. In addition to using Siri to speak your update, have it converted into text, and then posted online, you'll also be able to compose and send Facebook updates directly from within the Notification Center window.
Facebook will also work seamlessly with the Contacts app, for example, so you can automatically include your Facebook friends within your personal contacts database. Then anytime someone updates contact information on Facebook (including profile photos), this information will automatically be reflected within your Contacts database.
The Facebook Events calendar also now integrates nicely with the Calendar app, so as your online friends invite you to events on Facebook, and you RSVP for them, those events will get listed within the Calendar app on your mobile device.
Just as with the Twitter integration, you'll soon be able to share photos from your iOS mobile device while using the Camera or Photos app, plus share location-related information from within the Maps app. It's also possible to post links from Safari to Facebook or share your high score achievements while playing your favorite games via Game Center.
Share Your Photo Stream with Others
Since the Photo Stream feature was introduced in conjunction with Apple's iCloud service, it's gone through its own evolution. In addition to being able to currently sync and share up to 1,000 of your most recent digital photos with all your Macs, iOS mobile devices, and Apple TV linked to the same iCloud account, you also can edit your Photo Stream from any computer or device.
In conjunction with iOS 6, you'll be able to select specific photos from your Photo Stream and then share them with whomever you want. This will be done through the Photos app. After launching Photos, tap the Photo Stream option, select the images you want to share, and then click the Share button. A Shared Photo Stream, featuring the photos you select, will be created online and made available only to the people you invite.
The people invited to view a Shared Photo Stream using an iOS mobile device will be able to view them within the Photos app on their mobile device. If the recipient is a Mac user, the photos will automatically be imported into iPhoto. Windows-based computer users will be able to view your images via the web.
Another enhancement to the Photo Stream feature is that it now works with either a Wi-Fi or 3G/4G wireless data connection. Just as before, the online storage space required to store and sync your Photo Stream is provided by Apple for free and does not count against the 5GB of online storage space that's included with your iCloud account.
The Passbook App Is Being Added to the iPhone
Many companies have introduced separate, third-party apps that allow you to create and manage airline boarding passes, train tickets, concert/show tickets, movie tickets, retail coupons, and customer loyalty/reward cards or gift cards from your iPhone. Using the new Passbook app, all this content, from participating airlines, retailers, restaurants, coffee shops, concert venues, and movie theaters, for example, can be managed and accessed from one centralized app called Passbook.
If you have a Starbucks card that you use to pay for your purchases and earn loyalty points, the Passbook app will store all the pertinent information, allowing the Starbucks cashier to simply scan your iPhone screen when you make a purchase. Passbook will also store your gift cards in one place, allowing you to redeem them at participating retail stores without you having to carry the plastic gift cards with you.
If you prepurchase movie or concert tickets online, electronic tickets can be sent to your iPhone and displayed on its screen. Instead of using paper-based tickets, the box office or ticket collector at the venue will be able to scan the specialized barcode that your phone displays.
One of the really cool features of Passbook is that it is location-based, so the appropriate content that's stored within the app will pop up on the screen at the right time and place. For example, if Passbook is storing your airline boarding pass, the phone will alert you of flight delays automatically—and even tell you which gate the flight will be departing from. If a gate change is announced, you'll be alerted as well.
How you'll be able to use Passbook in your daily life will depend a lot on the participating vendors that utilize this technology to help you avoid having to carry around paper-based tickets, coupons, or separate rewards cards and gift cards.
The Phone App on Your iPhone has Learned Some New Tricks
The Phone app continues to be used to make and receive calls from the iPhone. Once you install iOS 6, however, you'll discover a few handy new calling features. For example, if you opt to Decline an incoming call, you'll now have the option to immediately send someone a prewritten text message that says, "I'll call you later," "I'm on my way," "On the other line..." or anything else you compose.
You'll also have the option to set up a callback reminder for yourself from the incoming call screen or turn on the Do Not Disturb feature so your calls will go directly to voice mail without the phone even ringing.
Even if you turn on the Do Not Disturb feature, you can set up your iPhone to still alert you of incoming calls from specific people, such as your spouse, children, or boss.
The Mail App Offers New Features for Managing E-mail Accounts
The iOS version of the Mail app now offers a more streamlined user interface, plus incorporates many of the new features that have been added to the Mac version of the Mail app in conjunction with the release of OS X Mountain Lion. For example, the Mail app on your iOS mobile devices and your Mac will allow you to create and maintain a VIP list.
This new feature gathers together all new incoming e-mails from the senders you select as important (VIPs), and allows you to view these e-mails as a single listing, even if the iOS mobile device is managing multiple e-mail addresses simultaneously.
The new Mail app also makes it easier to add photos or video clips to e-mails you compose from within the Mail app, plus you can quickly refresh your e-mail boxes with a swipe of the finger. In the past, if you wanted to attach a photo or video to an outgoing e-mail, this needed to be done from within the Photos or optional iPhoto app.
Now you can simply double-tap within the body of an outgoing message as you're using the Mail app and then tap on the Insert Photo or Video option. Next, select any image or video clip that's stored on your iOS mobile device to embed into the e-mail message you're composing.
iOS 6 Also Introduces New Safari Features
Regardless of which iOS mobile device you're using, the Safari app will offer a handful of new and useful features, plus enhancements to existing features. For example, when you add something to your Reading List, it will be available almost immediately for offline viewing later. Plus, if your iOS mobile device is connected to your iCloud account, you can access a list of open browser windows on your other Mac(s) or another iOS mobile devices in real-time, without having to re-enter any website addresses.
The full-screen mode of Safari has also been enhanced and can be used when you hold your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch in landscape mode. Plus, the Share button that's built into Safari offers a handful of new options, making it easy to share website links with other people via e-mail, Message, Twitter, or Facebook, for example. The process of printing web pages, adding Bookmarks, and copying web links to be pasted into other apps has also been streamlined using the Share button.
The Remodeled App Store, iTunes Store, and iBookstore Make It Easier to Shop for Content
From your iOS mobile device, when you use the App Store app to find, purchase, download, install, or update apps; use the iTunes app to shop for content; or visit iBookstore (to shop for eBooks), you'll notice the onscreen layout of Apple's online stores have been remodeled to make it faster and easier to find what you're looking for.
It's Free to Upgrade to iOS 6
The upgrade to iOS 6 is free and can be done directly from your iOS mobile device using a Wi-Fi Internet connection. Simply launch System Preferences, tap the General option, and then tap the Software Update feature. (You can also download iOS 6 to your Mac or PC via the iTunes software and then sync your device with your primary computer using the iTunes Sync process.)
iOS 6 will work with the iPhone (3GS, 4, 4S, and 5), iPod Touch (fourth and fifth generation), iPad 2, and the new iPad. The new operating system, however, is not compatible with some older iPhone or iPod touch models or the original iPad.
Once you install the iOS operating system on your mobile device, you'll most likely need to update at least several of your third-party apps as well. As always, this is done by launching the App Store app and clicking the Updates button.
The iOS 6 operating system offers hundreds of new features and enhancements that will help you become more productive while using your iOS mobile device at home, at work, or while on-the-go. Some of the new features that iOS 6 offers will leave you wondering how you ever lived without them.