The iPhone 5 launch means it's time for a new operating system and iOS 6 has now landed. We’ve been over it with a fine-tooth comb
The iPhone 5 is a sleek and beautiful machine. But it needs the best software if Apple wants to keep the iPhone as the most popular smartphone around. So the OS has had its roughly-annual upgrade, with Apple iOS 6 bringing cracking new maps, improved Siri, Facebook integration and super-neat apps like Passbook.
There are lots of improvements, and the coolest thing is you don’t even need a new gadget to make the most of them: many of the new and improved features work with the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, new iPad 3 and iPad 2.
iOS 6: Updates
Maps is one of the most strikingly changed apps, thanks to the ejection of Google’s mapping and the inclusion of eye-catching new ones. There’s lots to like here: you can turn the maps on screen to make them easier to see and text of the street names rotates so it’s always facing you.
Android phones have some of these features but the maps here are especially good-looking. You can now get turn-by-turn spoken navigation though this uses data, which is not great if you’re abroad. This Maps program doesn’t allow downloading of country maps in advance as Nokia does, allowing you to turn off data when abroad, say.
Still, it’s a great step forward. There’s also a superbly cool Flyover feature with stunning 3D renders of buildings. It’s only in 40 cities and mostly just the city centre, but it looks amazing. Flyover is on iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, the latest iPad and this year’s iPod touch
iOS 6: Siri
Siri is improved in iOS 6, too. He’s become a movie buff. Ask him who directed Monsters Inc, how old Miriam Margolyes is, or how many films David Phelan has been in, and he’ll know the answer (though actually, Siri, it’s more than you think). He’s swotted up on sports, too, so can tell you who won the World Series in 2011 or which of two baseball players is taller.
However, it doesn’t know everything: “Sorry, I don’t know about World Cup” was the feeble reply to several football enquiries. His geographical knowledge has increased and he can find restaurants near you, for instance. Improved Siri is on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and this year’s iPad and iPod touch only
iOS 6: Facetime
Another update is FaceTime, the video calling feature which was over wi-fi only but now works on 3G (or 4G) data networks, too.
Mail has had a gentle upgrade, with VIP mailboxes to keep those important senders’ messages separate and a simple pull-down-to-refresh mechanism designed with a flowing style reminiscent of the lovely iPhone game Contre Jour.
And if you thought the iPad was left out, check out the cool-looking Clock app. It does everything the Clock app on the iPhone does, like alarm, world clock, stopwatch and timer, but looks even slicker.
Apple iOS 6: Features
Among the brand new features, Passbook is a real head-turner. It’s a place for all your boarding passes, cinema tickets and loyalty cards. Which is handy, though it’ll be interesting to see how it affects airline apps like the British Airways one – one of the best apps around. It claims it’ll even update you if the gate changes post check-in, though we haven’t been able to test this yet.
Also, at last, Apple has caught up with a feature HTC has included for years: you can now reject an unwanted call with a message like “I’ll call you later”. Typically, though Apple isn’t first with this, its solution is pretty nifty.
When you download apps, as you’ll know, you need to enter your Apple ID password. Well, no longer for free apps – they just download automatically. There’s a few seconds saved. And when you download, the screen stays in the App Store: handy if you’ve more purchases.
Sharing items like photos, say, is sublimely easy. Tap the Share button and a grid of eight icons appears, including Twitter, email and message options. And now Facebook is on that list.
Another improved area is iCloud which synchronises even more, including documents in the cloud so your Pages, Keynote and Numbers documents are always up to date. It’s the same for the tabs in the web browser. So when you’re travelling home and want to check out that site you were surfing at work on the Mac, you can see what it was on your iPad during your commute. Sweet.
iOS 6: Performance
The new OS is slick and fast, managing the new features without breaking a sweat. That’s true on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4, as well as the new iPad, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
iOS 6: Verdict
Even if you feel the grid of apps that faces you is less exciting than, say, Windows Phone 8’s dynamic tile ribbon, there’s still a lot to like in the latest Apple software. There’s the neat mapping with extra and very cool features, the improved email, the more knowledgeable Siri (with vast improvements for UK users) and excellent iCloud features. The key thing remains: it all works together flawlessly, and many of the zinged up features will work with existing iDevices.
Apple iOS 6 release date: 19 September 2012
Apple iOS 6 price: Free