After touting its next-generation operating system at last week's iPhone 5 event, Apple has finally launched iOS 6, bringing over 200 new features, including a completely restructured Maps application and an improved Siri, to iPhone and iPod touch users.
The latest interface from Apple boasts a new robust Maps application that moves away from Google's geographical offerings and uses data directly from Apple's servers. Additionally, the app houses more features than its predecessor, providing turn-by-turn voice-guided navigation, which supplies users with cinematic imaging as they take turns, and detailed satellite imaging, including 3D models from Apple's new Flyover mode.
Apple's voice-control system also sees a slew of improvements thanks to the upgrade, with the company showcasing Siri's new tricks at the iPhone 5 launch, asking the service for sports scores, movie times and detailed restaurant information. While Siri's knack for retrieving information with little to no lag is impressive, the biggest enhancement of iOS 6 is the ability to start applications via the voice-control system, allowing users to launch apps on the fly.
Apple also showed off its new organizational application, Passbook, at the event, offering users the ability to manage digital tickets, passes, and coupons, which are neatly stored within a user's passbook. Apple iPhone owners will be informed of any travel changes, as a change to a boarding gate, via the app, with this information appearing on the Lock screen.
With social networks quickly becoming new outlets for sharing information, Apple has fully integrated Facebook into its latest iOS, bringing developers the option of adding Facebook functionality to existing apps, so users can load images and photos directly to the popular network, while receiving real time feedback from friends (such as likes and comments). Siri is also able to help users post directly to their walls without the need of an external app.
Improvements to Safari and Other Bundled Software
Addressing a number of complaints users had with the old Safari, Apple has included a full screen mode for the web browser and the ability to upload images to web pages. Thanks to iCloud Tabs, which neatly stores a user's web history, revisiting websites is much easier. Additionally, pages that are saved in the Reading List will be cached so they can be read offline, bringing Apple up to date with a feature already available on Google's Android 4.0 operating system.
Basic phone apps also got a fine tuning with iOS 6, allowing users to decline calls with text messages, send out an automatic SMS when they cannot receive calls and even enter a "Do Not Disturb" setting, so they can sleep next to their phone without being bothered all night. Apple added a new feature to the Email app as well, giving special notifications to messages from senders specified as VIPs by the user, that even appear on the Lock screen. Messages from these people go into a special mailbox as well, making searches easier.
One of the most talked about new features comes in the form of FaceTime, as iPhone and iPad owners can finally make video calls over 3G and 4G connections, with Verizon offering customers the chance to do so under any data plan, rather than restricting the new element to subscribers of its Share Plans only, as AT&T did. Though users beware, while FaceTime over a wireless connection is certainly more convenient, users on capped data plans run a higher risk of going over their monthly limit, so chat wisely!
Not all the news is good. With Apple's growing disagreement with Google, the once-standard YouTube app has been removed. Fortunately for those who like this video service, Google has introduced its own free version.
The iOS 6 upgrade is currently available for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and it will be released with the iPhone 5, with pre-orders beginning to arrive Friday. Apple iPad 2 and third-generation iPad owners can also install the upgraded operating system, giving them full Siri support.
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