Today, Apple released iOS 6 for the public. Generally speaking, while we think it works pretty well, we recommend that you hold off on updating for a few days to let the crush subside, and any showstopper bugs that made it through extensive testing in Cupertino get squashed. Apple has a good “What’s New?” page, but don’t take their word for it, here’s a few of the highlights of iOS 6:
Turn by Turn Directions
One of the most glaring faults in the native iOS Maps app had been its lack of good turn-by-turn directions. While there was a vibrant third party market, nothing ever quite felt right to me in terms of the UI. The new Maps app in iOS 6 is a huge leap forward. The new Map tiles are quite attractive, and that’s all well and good, but really what I am excited about is the pervasiveness of the turn by turn directions, and the extensibility of maps.
Maps in iOS 6 can be extended for different routing instructions, for transit directions, for course running, for cycling, and we should see a fair number of expansion packs in the App Store.
Do Not Disturb
The only thing that’s ever made me miss a Blackberry was the lack of a good Do Not Disturb mode on the iPhone, and thankfully that’s been fixed in software.
Do Not Disturb mode in iOS 6 shuts out all warnings, reminders, and sounds. It can be set on a timer, so that your phone doesn’t bother you at night, or at lunch, or during your workout. Like a good assistant, though, you can tell it when it’s okay to bother you. You can specify a group of contacts in your address book that can make it through, or set it so that if you get two calls from the same number in less than three minutes, it can make it through.
Reminders from other apps
The Reminders app that debuted with iOS 5 has gotten a big boost from Apple in iOS 6, in that other apps on your phone can now add reminders to your lists. That means that third party apps will be able to set Reminders in the future, including geofencing and timing of reminders. Pretty slick.
Siri on your iPad
Yes, those of you with the most recent iPads will also have Siri starting in iOS 6. Siri has new features, also, allowing you to get directions to anyone in your Find My Friends app, as well as access to sports scores, Open Table restaurant reservations, and more.
iMessage on your iPad now gets your iMessages to your phone number
This has been one of those things so long in the process that I could’ve sworn it had happened by now, but starting with iOS 6, iMessages sent to your iPhone number can also be read at your iPad.
A Better Phone App
Not taking calls? Send someone a text message back, “Hey, I’m on the phone right now, call you in a few” or “what’s up?” or other custom messages of your choosing. You can also set a reminder from their call screen to call them back after you’re off the phone, which is pretty great.
Email isn’t all equal. Those forwards from your second cousin, and the latest sale warning from that shop you went to once on vacation in 2007 just don’t rate the same attention as your spouse, significant other, or favorite coworkers. Now, you can setup contacts as deserving of VIP status and they get their own inbox on your phone. Messages here can be read and responded to without wading into the fray of the rest of your email. Think of this like a priority inbox, but for your phone.
If you have an iPhone 4S or an iPhone 5, the camera application got a sweet new feature to create a Panorama. Start the Panorama, then just move your camera smoothly to the right. Follow the on-screen arrow, and it will generate a panorama photo right from within the app. Impressive.
Photo Streams upgrade
For those of you with iCloud accounts, you can now share parts of your Photo Stream with other users on the fly and automatically. Take a photo, add it to a shared stream, and it just arrives on the other person’s devices like magic.
Some Questions and Answers
When’s it out?
It’s out now!
What’s it cost?
It’s free. Yes, really.
How can I install it?
We’re still sussing out if it will be an over-the-air update (I don’t think it will be) or if it will be done through iTunes, but it’s a safe bet that iTunes is the easiest way. That means you’ll plugin your device, open iTunes, and handle it through iTunes. We really, really recommend doing it this way instead of over the air. If you want a very detailed guide, our friends at Macworld have written a beauty on how to do it.
Anything I should do before I install it?
Backup your phone or iPad before you do. If you use iCloud backup for your device, plug it into power, and then go to Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Back Up Now. If you sync with your computer for backup, make sure that you sync before you upgrade.
How long will it take to do the upgrade?
Leave at least an hour to do the upgrade, including the time to backup your phone or iPad before starting. Once complete, you must sync with your phone to have all the data re-transferred back to your iPad, so if you have a large iTunes database on your iPad, it may take longer to transfer.
Which devices can run iOS 6?
iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 on the handheld side, as well as the iPod touch 4th generation, and then iPad 2 and iPad 3 devices. Not all features will be available on iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 handhelds.