Apple has already given us a brief preview of the new operating system that is set to launch this Autumn. Here's everything we know about Apple's upcoming iOS 6 update for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch owners.
When will iOS 6 launch?
Apple announced iOS 6 on Monday 1 June at WWDC and we expect iOS 6 to launch alongside the iPhone 5, which is rumoured to launch on 12 September, for an on-sale date of 21 September. Traditionally a new OS is launched at the same time that the phone is available to the public.
Can I get it earlier than that?
Apple does run a beta test of iOS to members of the Apple Developer connection (iOS app developers) so they can test out their apps and ensure they work correctly with the upcoming operating system. Apple recently release iOS 6 beta 4 to developers with several new features implemented.
Will there be anything special for iPhone 5 owners?
The iPhone 5 hasn't been launched yet, so it's possible it will have some features that aren't part of the iOS beta.
One thing we do know is that Apple's iOS 6 can be scaled for taller iPhone 5 display with 24 icons.
How much will it cost?
We expect the update to be free to all iOS device owners with supported devices. Apple hasn't charged for iOS updates since iOS 3, when it applied a small nominal charge to iPod touch owners to comply with some obscure US tax requirement.
Will my iPad/iPhone/iPod touch be updated?
iOS 6 is designed to work on all devices that Apple is currently shipping. So that's the iPhone 3Gs, 4, 4S; the iPad 2 and new iPad (third-generation); and iPod touch (fourth-generation).
One noticable exception is the first generaton of iPad, which isn't getting the iOS 6 update even though it theoretically has much more capable hardware than the iPhone 3GS. This is somewhat annoying to first-gen iPad owners.
Note that the features you get depend on which device you have. Here's a chart outlining support for devices and some of the key features.
So, what's the big flashy feature?
There's quite a lot being introduced in iOS 6, but the big marquee feature is Flyover in the new Maps app. This uses a 3D mapping system to create photographic three-dimensional satellite views of cities. Think an aerial version of Google's Street View in full 3D and you're along the right track. Not every city is included but Birmingham and Manchester are already mapped, so we imagine other major citites will follow
The Maps app also integrates with Yelp so we now get detailed business information in the UK, this also works with Siri so we can finally ask for business informatinon. There is also turn-by-turn navigation baked into Maps so you should be able to use it as an effective sat-nav.
But Apple gives and takes away, in this case iOS 6 removes the default Google Maps app from the device. This removes Street View along with Google
What's the most useful feature?
Probably the biggest, most useful feature is the expansion of iCloud, which now includes Documents In The Cloud. This integrates with apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. iOS 6 will also expand current iCloud functionality for data from calendar, contacts, and downloaded products. iOS also integrates closley with Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.
What are the other big features?
Facebook integration is a big deal in iOS 6 and you can sign in in the iOS Settings and post from various places like Safari and Notification Center. It also syncs your contacts with your Facebook account so if people change their details on Facebook it'll update automatically on your iOS devices.
It won't be new to iPhone 4S owners, but Siri now makes its way over to the new iPad and now returns information on sports and businesses.
Anything new that's phone related?
Indeed, there are two new Phone features. One is called Remind Me Later that is a quick way to skip a call but be reminded to call back. You can be reminded in an amount of time, or when you leave your current location (or when you arrive somewhere, like Home or the Office).
You can also use Facetime now over 3G, which will open the floodgates for Apple's video service. You should keep an eye on data usage though if you plan to use Facetime on 3G on a regular basis.
Anything new for Mail?
The mail app has the new VIP inbox feature from Mac OS X Mountain Lion that only displays emails from people you've highlighted (by favouriting in Mail or Contacts). It's a great way to view emails from just the people you're interested in.
What's this Passbook I've heard of?
Passbook is a completely new app from Apple that displays vouchers and receipts from companies that have designed apps to work with Passbook. A typically example is that you book a air ticket with a supporting company (say British Airways) and your ticket is sent directly to Passbook on your iPhone. Because it's location-aware it'll serve up tickets when you arrive at the airport, and the barcode displayed on the screen of the iPhone is your ticket to board the plane. It sounds great, but will depend on support from companies. It's all part of Apple's long term plan to integrate the iPhone with businesses and the retail environment.
Anything I probably haven't heard of?
You might not have heard about WiFi plus Cellular, a new option that enables apps to switch seamlessly from WiFi to a Cellular connection. If you're loading a web page, for example, in a WiFi zone and move out mid-load, it'll carry on with the mobile network. It seems an obvious feature but one that will make a big difference to how seamless the operation is.
Some features from Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion like iCloud Tabs and Offline Reading list will be brought over to iOS 6
It also takes privacy much more seriously with a system Apple is calling "data isolation privacy".
Facetime now works over over cellular data, which could be a big game changer for Apple's video conferencing service, although customers in the US on AT&T have been warned that they may have to pay extra for this service. No UK carrier has issued such a warning yet in the UK, but we'd advise you to pay close attention to your data limit.
What's Guided Access?
There's also a neat new feature called Guided Access that enables you to lock an iOS device to a single app (so the Home button doesn't work) and you can also lock off specific buttons. Principally it's designed to help autistic children, but it also looks like it'll be great for
Does it look any different?
There will also be redesigned App and Music Stores that are more similar to the way they function in Mac OS X. Apple has also introduced a new SDK for developers that will enable you to purchase iTunes Store content in other apps.
Aside from that some apps, like Weather, have had slight tweaks. But we can't see any other major interface changes from Apple's announcements so far.
Anything I'll miss?
You might miss the YouTube app, which is being removed with iOS 6. Although we think the mobile web app is better, and it has been for a while now. You might miss Google Maps and Street View (there is also a mobile Maps website, although it's not as good as the one in iOS). Then again, Apple's Maps app is sure to look better - so you might not miss it at all.
So, is it going to be any good?
Well it's a little early to tell, given that it isn't out yet. But chatter from Developers across the web seems to suggest that the features are good, if incremental. Flyover aside there is little jaw-dropping, but lots of solid advancements that have gone down well (Documents In The Cloud seems particularly well received). But we'll be sure to give it a full review when it is released. In the meantime here is our iOS 6 Preview.