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iOS 6 vs Mountain Lion: what's the difference?

Comparing the new features in Apple's latest OSes

We continue our exploration of the simularities and differences shared by iOS 6 and OS X Mountain Lion by looking at iOS feautures now found in OS X.

iOS 6 vs Mountain Lion: from iOS to OS X

OS X 10.8 Mountain LionSo it's fair to say that iOS is becoming more full featured, and OS X more social and connected. The joined up social features mentioned above show that they're definitely moving closer together, but they remain distinct.

There are, of course, lots of other areas in which OS X and iOS share the same features. There's the App Store, and FaceTime video calling. LaunchPad, SpotLight, Automatic Downloads. The list is big, and increasing.

Here we'll pick out some areas in which features have been ported from iOS to OS X, and look at how they work together across both platforms.

Game Center. The Game Center on OS X Mountain Lion is pretty much the same as that on iOS 6 - it certainly offers virtually the same functionality. Apple's social gaming platform has made it to the Mac. As with the iOS flavour, you can compare your scores to your friends and play multiplayer games against friends and strangers. You can now play multiplayer games between not just iOS devices, but any combination of iPhone, iPad or Mac - providing all are running the latest version, and the game is cross platform.

Notification Center. Another aspect of the new releases that is new to OS X in Mountain Lion, but pre-existing in iOS. The Notification Center and improved notification UI both first appeared in iOS 5 last year.

The OS X Mountain Lion notification UI is simple and elegant. Notifications rotate in the top righthand corner of the screen, and slide off the to the side unless you click them to read. There's a Notification Center button in the Menu bar and a two-fingered trackpad gesture, both of which bring up your notifications.

Messages logoMessages. iMessage brought SMS-like messages over the web with 2011's iOS 5 release. Mountain Lion sees it coming to the Mac. iMessage is great because it uses only a tiny amount of data to send a message, rather than taking a text out of your mobile phone plan. It's also clever enough to work out when it is best to send an iMessage - ie: when you are messaging anothe iDevice and both devices are web connected.

The beauty of Messages on the Mac is that they synch seamlessly with iOS messages. So you can pick up a conversation on your desktop that you started on your iPhone or iPad - it's your Apple iD that is the contact, in essence, and you sign in to that to use any of Apple's online products including iTunes and iCloud. Speaking of which...

iMessage

iCloud. iCloud is much more deeply embedded into both Mountain Lion and iOS 6. As an online service you wouldn't expect it to work any differently for iOS or OS X devices, and it really doesn't. It's a critical part of both operating systems now, and is unlikely to become any less so.

Indeed, iCloud is at the centre of much of the integration between iOS and OS X. Set a reminder on your iPhone, and it will appear on your Mac virtually instantaneously, for instance.

Notes. That's right, an iOS staple that is now integrated in OS X. And if you're wondering why, join the club. Notes is a very basic note-taking app. As such it is very useful for taking, ahem, notes on an iPhone when you need to jot something down quickly. But it seems less useful on a desktop or laptop PC. Although...

Like other apps, iCloud capability means that Notes can now be shared or synched between iPhone, iPad and Mac. iOS 5 brought sharing of notes, and now iOS 6 and Mountain Lion means you can synch notes across all your iCloud-enabled Apple devices. So take notes on your iPhone, write them up on your Mac, and display them on your iPad. It's all gravy.

Dictation. Let's get one thing straight, Dictation isn't Siri. It is, however, a useful speech to text tool, previously available only on the iPad. It may be a new feature you never use on a desktop or laptop, particularly if your Mac is in a public space. But if you've ever considered buying expensive speech to text software, Mountain Lion says you don't have to.

iOS 6 vs Mountain Lion: the future    

The integration between iOS and OS X is now so great that the idea of them becoming a single entity is a side issue. Windows 8 and Windows RT look the same and play nicely together, but they are based on different code. And the same could be said of iOS and OS X. Apple is still enjoying great success with both, and as such it is unlikely to ditch a successful product. But expect the similarities between iOS and OS X to grow, and the points at which they synch to increase.

See also: How to use iMessage in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

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