Apple says there are 200 new features in iOS 6. Here’s an exhaustive list, grouped by category, of every one we know about so far.
1. Redesigned Stores
iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore are getting long overdue upgrades in iOS 6, complete with Cover Flow browsing and other aesthetic improvements. A new History tab has been added to each store that shows you your complete browsing history, so you can easily go back and look at a list of apps, songs, videos, and books you’ve recently looked at. The list includes a Buy button for each item, so you can download them straight from the History tab.
On the downside, most of the upgrades are purely decorative, making it easier and more intuitive for you to navigate the store, such as sideways scrolling for browsing on iPhone. As such, Chomp hasn’t yet been integrated into the App Store, so finding good apps will still be an issue until that happens. But the upgrades are hardly worthless. On individual app pages in the App Store, updates get their own dedicated section, so you can quickly scroll through a list of every update an app has had. App screen shots can now zoom in to take up the full screen, too.
Other noteworthy improvements: app updates no longer require you to enter your password; installed apps will show an “Open” button in the App Store, and pressing it opens the app immediately; and best of all, when you purchase or update an app, the App Store doesn’t kick you out to the home screen anymore. Instead, the download status bar (the blue bar that appears over a downloading or updating app’s icon) now appears on the icon that’s in the App Store. Over on the iPad, not only can you employ pop-up app listings (like when you press that tiny, encircled “i” on an icon in the iTunes App Store on your Mac), but these pop-up listings scroll, letting you browse apps from the front page in a whole new way.
Passbook represents more than Apple would have you believe. Yeah, it handily keeps your loyalty cards, coupons, movie tickets, boarding passes, and all that jazz. But Passbook’s real impact won’t be felt right away. Many analysts predict that Passbook is going to morph over time into a full-fledged wallet, keeping your credit cards and debit cards and letting you use either to pay for goods in the real world right from your phone. In the meantime, the app comes with some clever user-friendly options, such as your boarding pass popping up on your lock screen when you reach the airport, and Passbook instantly alerting you if your boarding gate changes. The boarding pass feature only works with United flights so far, but you can expect other airlines to jump on board, and fast. And it’s all wrapped up in Apple’s signature, super-slick presentation.
You’ve heard all about this one already, but just to recap: Apple is using its own proprietary map service and ditching Google Maps. Apple’s new Maps app is just as cool as you’d expect, with easy-to-understand markings (such as roads, important places, etc.), live traffic data, local business search, and some awesome-looking turn-by-turn directions. I love the street sign motif there, and the auto-rerouting feature is terrific. That’s where if you miss a turn, the app adjusts accordingly, changing your directions on the fly to get you back on track. It even analyzes traffic conditions to find you the easiest, fastest way back to your route.
Of course, we can’t talk about the new Maps app without talking about the 3D view, which is probably its marquee feature. Using software developed by C3 Technologies — which Apple acquired less than a year ago — Maps offers full 3D rendering of major cities, similar to the rendering engine that powers first-person shooter video games. It’s [far from perfect], and only 13 cities are currently available in 3D. But the visuals are astounding, particularly when you activate “Flyover,” which zooms you across the 3D cityscape for a breathtaking view.
When Siri was launched alongside the iPhone 4S, some users were bummed by its limitations. The original version of Siri was listed as a beta, which puts it just one level above an unfinished developer preview. Still, Siri can do some very cool things, and with iOS 6, Siri’s getting a significant brain boost. Search for local movie times, trailers, and stars, and Siri will retrieve them for you. She (or he, if you’re outside the U.S.) can find local restaurants and make reservations for you. With a simple question asked, Siri can pull up the latest sports scores or stats on any individual player or team.
Those are cool, but I’m more excited about Siri’s new ability to launch apps. No more scrolling through page after page of apps to find the one you’re looking for. As long as you know the app’s name, Siri can open it for you. Siri is also going social, with the ability to post your updates to Twitter and Facebook. There’s also that “Eyes Free Driving” thing, where a Siri button can be added to your car, but that’s not being implemented for a while. Oh, and iPad users will finally get to use Siri as well, thanks to iOS 6 — but only if you own the latest iPad model (the one with Retina Display).
The Phone app is getting a makeover with iOS 6, with some handy new features added in. If you get a call you can’t answer just now, instead of “slide to answer,” you can slide up to make a quick text message reply using a selection of preset messages like “I’ll call you back.” If you don’t like any of the presets, you can create your own custom quick replies. You can also have your iPhone remind you to call someone back, thanks to an integration with Reminders.
Another new feature I’ll be getting plenty of use out of is the “Do Not Disturb” setting, which does exactly what it sounds like. When activated, a tiny moon icon appears next to the clock in your status bar. Another nifty feature lets you set times that you want your iPhone to turn on and off the Do Not Disturb setting automatically. You can also set your phone to block or allow calls that are repeated within three minutes of each other.
6. FaceTime Over Cellular
FaceTime is nifty, but it’s only ever worked via WiFi connections. The problem was that wireless networks simply weren’t prepared for the heavy data transfer requirements of video calling. But now they must be, because iOS 6 brings FaceTime calling to 3G and 4G networks. To simplify matters, FaceTime will be able to call phone numbers or Apple IDs. (This unification is coming to Messages, too.) But all that bandwidth comes at a cost: FaceTime Over Cellular is only available to iPhone 4S and iPad 3 owners.
Mail has gotten a facelift to bring it more inline with the look and feel of Mail for OS X, but the updates go much further. Just like the Mac version of Mail, Apple is adding a “VIP” feature to iOS Mail, allowing you to set email from specific people as the most important messages in your Inbox. Set your VIPs once in Contacts, and from then on, they’ll get a star beside their name, as well as a special Inbox just for VIPs. You can even designate unique alerts for each VIP, so you know from the sound or the vibration when someone specific sends you an email.
A long-awaited feature lets you create different email signatures for each of your mail accounts. You can now use bold, italics, and underlining in creating your signatures, too. And Apple has finally given in to the most popular third-party gesture out there, enabling “Pull Down to Refresh” in Mail. Lastly, if you tap and hold your finger on the compose button, you get a pop-up box that lists your latest message drafts.
Twitter has been baked right into iOS for a while now, but Facebook users have been wondering when they’d get the same love. Well wonder no more. Just like Twitter, you’ll be able to share your stuff to Facebook right from inside many of your apps. You can also “Like” apps, which will announce your affections on your Facebook wall. Calendar and Game Center get some of the best use from this new integration; your Calendar will show Facebook events that you’re attending as well as important dates like birthdays, while Game Center will let you challenge Facebook friends to play.
9. Shared Photo Streams
Is Apple getting in on the Instagram action? This new feature your Photos app starts with a simple idea — grant access to your photo stream to others — and very nearly turns it into a miniature social network. The smartest part of this is that you can share anything you want with anyone you want, meaning you can select certain photos to share with specific individuals, either via their Apple device (iOS 6 or Mountain Lion only) or on the web. Viewers can “Like” your photos and leave comments, and these shared streams don’t even count against your iCloud storage. Nifty.
10. Guided Access
Users with disabilities are getting some new goodies with the arrivial iOS 6. VoiceOver is being integrated into Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom, so blind users can access those features. Apple also mentioned that they’re working with some hardware companies to bring a special line of “Made for iPhone” hearing aids to the market, but no further details were given, so there’s no telling when those will arrive or how much they’ll cost.
The big news is Guided Access, a new feature specifically designed with students in mind, particularly those with disabilities like autism. Guided Access makes it easy for grown-ups to restrict access to various iPad features, like the home button or certain apps, so kids can stay focused on the app or apps they’re meant to use. You can even restrict touch input to certain areas of the screen in specific apps.
11. Share Menu
Facing an increasing number of sharing choices with the addition of Facebook and other options, Apple had little choice but to redesign the sharing menu for iOS 6. Their solution is an elegant new menu made up of icons instead of buttons. On the iPhone, the menu takes up the entire screen when you tap the share icon, and it’s accessible via all apps. The default sharing menu allows you to share to: Mail, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, Add to Home Screen, Print, Copy, Bookmark, and Add to Reading List. But some apps will change the icons to more context-specific sharing options. For example, the menu lets you find out the URL of any video in the YouTube app.
12. Aesthetic Enhancements
Apple’s made all sorts of snazzy improvements to the iOS interface with version 6. While none of them qualify as game-changers, they show that the company’s famed attention to detail is still alive and well.
A perfect example of this is seen when you fire up the Music app and start playing some music. (The iPhone version of this app has been redesigned to look and function more like the iPad version, by the way.) The reflective properties of the sliders and switches on the music player will change as you tilt your device. It’s as if those virtual sliders are real, and affected by movement. This serves no practical purpose, but it looks wicked cool.
The Status Bar at the very top of the screen is no longer black all the time. It changes colors to complement whatever app is running. And when you download a new app, it’s identified with a diagonal “New!” banner across one corner of its icon. The first time you open the app, you’ll find that the banner has disappeared. Apple’s also added tons of new Emoji emoticons.
Other apps that got visual upgrades: the Phone app has a light-colored keypad, replacing the dark one you currently use; the Camera app has a dark-colored bar along its bottom, and the on-screen shutter is now black; the built-in Weather app got a minor makeover, updating the font used and the overall composition to something a little sleeker.
13. Find My Phone
It’s easier than ever to get your phone back if you lose it. The new “Lost Mode” locks your phone remotely, requiring a 4-digit pass code to unlock. It changes the default wallpaper to a lock icon and displays a contact number for you, the owner, along with a user-defined message (such as, “If found, please return this phone to…”). This makes it easy for the person who finds your phone to contact you, while keeping them out of the personal info stored on your phone. A button is also displayed that will call the phone number listed on the lock screen with a single tap.
The Find My Phone app is also getting some enhancements that make it easier for you to monitor your missing phone’s status. With Lost Mode enabled, your phone’s GPS is activated, so you can track your device’s current location from your Mac or iPad. The app also shows the battery charge on your phone, showing its fullness percentage. It’ll tell you that your phone is plugged in if it is, too.
How many times have you been surfing the web on your iPhone and maxed out the available number of tabs? Although there’s no definitive information yet on exactly how many, iOS 6 lets Safari have a lot more than nine tabs. And over on your iPad, a new drop-down box will show additional tabs that can’t fit on the screen.
Perhaps the headline feature of Safari is how it now syncs your open tabs through iCloud. Say you’re surfing the web in Safari on your MacBook Pro, and you’ve got five tabs open. You get an important call and have to leave the office, and you want to be able to keep reading, but you don’t want to lug your 17″ MacBook along. Now you have the option to keep reading from your iPad or iPhone. Open up Safari from any of your Apple devices, and this new iCloud Tabs feature will show you all web pages that are open in Safari on your other device(s). A handy list even shows which device a given tab originated from. Very clever.
Finally, Safari’s Reading List feature has been upgraded. Right now, you have to be connected to the Internet for Reading List to work. iOS 6 eliminates that need, so that you can peruse every page you’ve saved to Reading List while you’re offline.
15. Find My Friends
I don’t know anyone that uses Find My Friends. I mean, who wants to let friends or even family know where they are every second of every day? But I can understand its usefulness in certain situations, such as parents who want to monitor their kids (which I’m sure the kids just love). iOS 6 is bringing the option for location-based alerts to Find My Friends. So, say your kids are flying someplace for a school trip. Provided they’re carrying an Apple device, you could receive a notification when their flight lands at its destination, for example.
When you tap the Settings icon on your iDevice, you’re going to notice some welcome improvements. A new Privacy tab shows you apps that want to access personal information such as contacts, calendar, location, and photos, and lets you block the ones that you don’t want to give that information to. Another much-needed upgrade moves the Bluetooth on/off switch from a sub-menu up to the main Settings menu, so it’s quicker and easier to access.
You’ll now be able to set up an automated sleep schedule for your device from inside Settings. And the Usage tab now takes you to a page that shows how long your battery has lasted since its last full charge. This monitor counts standby time and usage time separately.
17. Under the Hood
While most of iOS 6′s advances are productive, functional additions and enhancements, Apple has also been busy tweaking a number of iOS core features as well. iOS 6 supports the new iPv6 standard with its 128-bit IP addresses, for example. Bluetooth is getting easier to use as well, since now you’ll be able to set up Bluetooth pairing from inside your apps, instead of having to exit to Settings. AutoCorrect has never been supported on external keyboards, but now every Bluetooth keyboard will get AutoCorrect support as well. And international users will be happy to hear that French, German, and Spanish dictionaries are being added. Speaking of dictionaries…
18. Personal Dictionary
You know how you can add words to your computer’s dictionary? iOS is taking this a big step further, by automatically adding new words that you use — aka, AutoCorrected words you reject — frequently to its built-in dictionary. Your own, personalized dictionary will sync between all of your devices, thanks to iCloud.
HDR photographers will find some performance improvements in iOS’ Camera app, and whenever you film video, you’ll enjoy some software-driven stabilization, to help avoid the shaky-cam effect.
Those blasted alerts can drive you nuts, but you just can’t quit ‘em. iOS 6 offers a few refinements to Notifications, most of which give you greater control over the alerts you receive and how to differentiate them. Whereas now you get alerts for messages you receive from anyone and everyone, iOS 6 will let you zero-in on the people you care about, by sending you alerts only when you receive a message from a phone number or email address stored in your Contacts. You can already customize vibrations for alerts from different people, but iOS 6 is bringing some as-yet-unknown new capabilities to this function.
As for Notification Center — the drawer that slides down from the top of your device, filled with all of your recent alerts — within it, you’ll now be able to post updates to Facebook and Twitter. No need to launch their apps, if you’re so inclined.
Just as the iPhone is currently able to provide reminders based on GPS positioning, the iPad will do the same with iOS 6. As for GPS, it’s cool but sometimes it can be a little glitchy. (Mine sometimes thinks I live in the next city over.) If you like, you’ll be able to enter locations manually instead of relying on GPS to do it for you.
22. Game Center
The three people who actually use Game Center will be thrilled to hear that they can challenge friends to beat their best score in a given game with a single tap. And as was mentioned above under Facebook, your Facebook friends will now integrate with your Game Center friends.
23. Features for China
With iOS 6, Apple continues to regularly improve its iOS experience for Chinese users. New features include a brand new Chinese dictionary, and better text input with support for more than 30,000 characters. Users will also find built-in support for popular services including Baidu, Sina Weibo, Youku, and Tudou.
iPad is finally getting a Clock app, like the one iPhone has. The iPad app includes alarms, timers, Siri support, and a world clock that comes with a map of the entire Earth. In both devices, you can use any song from your music library as your alarm.
25. Commercial Mobile Alert System
The U.S. government’s FCC operates this network for sending emergency alerts to mobile devices, and iOS 6 brings that network and its alerts to your iDevices.
When you search for an app on your iPhone or iPad, Spotlight search results will now show you the folder where an app is located, which should help you not have to search for that app the next time you want to use it.