On setting up iOS 6 it doesn’t appear as though much as changed over iOS 5, although it is worth noting that Apple’s promise of 200 new features clearly focus more on individual apps than general usability.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t take long to notice the new Clock app, the Apple-made Maps client as well as more subtle changes with photo sharing, Facebook integration, Mail and the App Store. You also soon realize that the YouTube app has been dropped from the home screen.
Some of the new iOS 6 features are however not present on the iPad. Some examples of this include the PassBook app (for the iPhone and iPod Touch), the updated Siri, the new phone calling feature for iPhone as well as the panorama photo feature for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Maps is a work in progress
Much has been made of Apple’s decision to ditch Google Maps for iOS 6, with Apple’s own version currently subject to not-so flattering reviews.
Numerous reports note problems with bumpy bridges and even missing cities, all of which could legitimately put someone off from using their iPhone or iPad as their GPS device using this current version of the software.
For the most part though, we found that the Maps client – which has been worked on by mapping vendors like TomTom and Acxiom among others, worked pretty well.
The vector-based graphics render maps quicker than Google Maps and there’s support for pinch-to-zoom, names for local attractions, while a big bonus is the addition of turn-by-turn directions.
Road signs are certainly easier to read than on Google Maps, which is perhaps not surprising given Steve Jobs fondness for excellent typography.
When on a route, the Maps app offers very easy to digest signs alongside the app and even zooms into make things clearer. You can though still hit the ‘Overview’ option if you want to view the bigger picture.
Voice-activation can guide you to your destination, while you can choose to show nearby traffic and get a map, hybrid or satellite view of your journey.
Of course, it’s not all great yet – the Map doesn’t automatically pick up where you are based on GPS (you have to calibrate by waving your iPad in a figure of 8) and the 3D flyer view only gives you a rough outline of building in major cities. And clearly there is no Google Street View.
Seamless photo sharing
Apple has tightly integrated Facebook and Twitter with iOS 6, so much so that now you can share a photo from your Photo Stream without having to separately open your Facebook or Twitter app. Simply touch on the Share button and a neat box will appear offering options to share via email, Message, or the aforementioned social networks.
This sharing extends with the new ability to share photos easily via iCloud, including friends that don't have an Apple device. You simply have to hit the Share button on Photo Stream, select the Photo Stream option then add your friend's email address to send a link to the photo via iCloud.
The process is clearly easier for those who have a Mac. These guys can get the share images delivered automatically to their Photos app or iPhoto, while Apple TV owners can also pick-up shared Photo Streams.
Tracking emails from VIPs
Apple hasn’t made wholesale changes to its native Mail client, but it has simplified a few things to make iPad emailing faster and more user friendly.
The user interface looks virtually unchanged but you can now add ‘VIP’ contacts so you never miss, for example, messages from your wife, husband or boss.
Adding a VIP contact is pretty easy, especially if you have the chosen contact already logged on your iPad (be that manually or synced across from your iPhone). In this case, you hit the Mailboxes option on Mail, click the VIP section and select your contact.
Those that use a non-iOS phone for the bulk of their contacts will need to manually update their Contact app before adding any new VIPs.
Emails from these VIPs will be displayed more prominently in their own section, while you can also set custom alerts to ensure you don’t miss that email. Some examples of these alerts include a special ringtone or the inclusion of a message box that pops up on the Lockscreen.
VIP also syncs with iCloud, so VIP contacts can appear on iOS 6 devices and on the Mail.app client on Apple's Mountain Lion OS.
Other handy new features of Mail in IOS 6 include the ability to refresh the mailbox by swiping down, while out of office/field workers will be delighted to know they can now send a photo or video just by tapping twice on the compose email screen.
Multi-device web browsing
Apple has made a play at browsing from device to device by updating Safari on iOS 6.
One of the new features across all iOS devices is the new ‘iCloud Tabs’ button which keeps track of what pages you have open on other devices, meaning you could start reading on one device and finish reading the article on another.
Safari also now promises to save web pages, rather than links, in your Reading List so you can read offline, and there are neater tools for posting videos and photos to websites without having to close the Safari app.
App Store looks smarter than before; promotes business apps
One of the more eye-catching changes on iOS 6 is how Apple has redesigned the App Store.
Previously, apps were displayed only in a vertical list, and while this style is still used for showing the best applications in certain categories, a new design has been introduced for Apple's featured apps.
This new user interface lets you scroll horizontally through featured apps, and if you click on one of these you are presented with a card-like interface that shows screenshots and a description of the app further down the page. You can also look at ‘Ratings and Reviews’ section by selecting the menu on top of the page.
Looking from a design perspective, the App Store now heavily promotes the ‘New and Noteworthy’ section over What’s Hot (which is further down the page), while Apple has also added some interesting new app sections below those for App of the Week, Gaming, Education and Newsstand.
There’s the ‘Apps Starter Kit’, which offers some popular apps to get new users up and running with their iDevice, as well as the ‘@Work apps for business’ section.
This section breaks down business apps into their own category, from creating and sharing files and collaboration, to tracking expenses, taking notes and apps for customer interaction and sales.
Apple has also improved the usability of the App Store. For starters, it now doesn't ask you for your Apple ID when upgrading previously downloaded apps, while upgrades are now carried out on a single App Store upgrade package.
On iOS 5, upgrades took you out of the App Store meaning you’d keep having to jump back in if you wanted to upgrade more apps or download new ones. This new page for upgrades also makes upgrading multiple apps at the same time a lot quicker.
Facebook integration, Lost Mode & a boost for privacy
Other subtle changes Apple has made to iOS include the new feature for updating your Facebook status from the Game Center without leaving the app, the improved Universal Search bar and the fact that FaceTime now runs over cellular as well as WiFi.
Furthermore, Apple has added a ‘Lost Mode’ to Find My iPhone, enabling you to lock your missing iDevice with a four-digit passcode and send a message with a contact number. The person with the device can then call you from the Lock screen without accessing the rest of your data.
Another feature which could be a big hit in education is ‘Guided Access’.
Primarily geared up for those with vision, hearing, learning or mobility disabilities, the feature lets parents (or teachers) disable the home screen or lock the device so that only one app can be used. For example, ‘VoiceOver’ is a pretty self-explanatory feature for the visually impaired.
Apple has also made some minor adjustments to the Settings page. There's now a Do Not Disturb button to disable alerts, a Notifications option for personalizing the Notification Center and a Privacy option to turn on/off location services (this was available on iOS 5 but not via the Privacy page), linking contacts with social networks or deciding which apps can hook into your Calendar and Reminder apps.