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iOS 6: What you need to know

It’s been a busy start to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference: Not only was Monday’s keynote jam-packed with information, but the company continued to release products and programs throughout the day—enough to make anyone’s head reel a bit.

To combat confusion and ease your vertigo, we’ve put together answers to some of the more frequently asked questions we received in regards to one of the major announcements to come out of WWDC—the planned update to Apple’s mobile operating system. Here’s a rundown of what to expect from iOS 6.

iOS 6 basics

What’s new in iOS 6?

Plenty! Siri and Maps get the most substantial upgrades: Siri will be able to answer your questions about sports, movies, and more; Maps now uses Apple’s own cartography and includes built-in turn-by-turn directions. Other updates include systemwide Facebook integration, a new app called Passbook, and all sorts of other odds and ends.

What devices will run iOS 6?

The new OS will run on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S; the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad; and the fourth-generation iPod touch. Basically, if it’s a shipping iOS device as of this moment, it will run the new operating system.

Noticeably missing from that list is the original iPad. While it may seem surprising that a tablet that only debuted two years ago can’t run iOS 6, it’s really not—Apple hasn’t sold that version of the iPad for a while. And a growing number of newly released iPad apps require the faster processor and improved graphics of the two most recent models. From Apple’s perspective, it’s time for the original iPad to join devices like the iPhone 3G in unsupported bin.

Does every device get the same features?

Not quite. The iPhone 3GS gets left out of quite a few iOS 6 features—no flyover or turn-by-turn navigation in Maps, and it also won’t support Siri, Shared Photo Streams, FaceTime, VIP lists and flagged mailboxes in Mail, or the Offline Reading List. The iPhone 4 also misses out on flyovers, turn-by-turn navigation, and Siri. The iPad 2 remains Siri-less.

What about the new iPad?

The third-generation iPad will indeed join the iPhone 4S as the iOS devices that offer Siri support.

When does iOS 6 come out?

Apple has said only: “fall.” By our calendar, that means sometime between September 22 and December 20 of this year. For those of you who think the past is prologue, iOS 5 arrived on October 12 last year.

How much does it cost?

iOS 6 will be a free update.

Will I need to connect my iPhone to a Mac or PC to upgrade?

No. iOS 5 brought the ability for iOS devices to update their software over the air, without any PC involvement. That extends to the iOS 6 update, which will be able to be downloaded and installed directly on your device.

System features

What’s Do Not Disturb?

A nice way to keep your phone from buzzing, beeping, or otherwise annoying you when it shouldn’t. You can use Do Not Disturb to set specific hours in which you won’t get notifications or calls; that can be modified to let you receive calls from those in your Favorites or from those who call you multiple times in a preset time period, so that you don’t miss anything important.

What are the new Accessibility features?

Designed for students with disabilities (but also good for just about any young child), Guided Access lets you disable certain sections of the screen and turn off hardware buttons, touch, or motion. Apple’s VoiceOver service now supports Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom. Additionally, the company is working to create Bluetooth hearing aids for the iPhone 4S.

I heard there were new versions of the stores coming out. Is that true?

It is indeed. Not only are the App and iTunes Store apps being redesigned, but they’ll also bring forth a few features like in-app download (without booting you to the home screen), a section for viewing your preview history—all the easier to buy those music, movies, and TV shows you’ve been perusing—and integration with Facebook.

Voices, voices, everywhere

What’s new with Siri?

Siri leaves beta in iOS 6, and gains a host of new abilities. Among them are abilities to answer sports- and movie-related queries, more and better data when you ask about restaurants, and of course the ability to offer those turn-by-turn directions in Maps. You’ll be able to launch apps using Siri, too.

And as mentioned above, you’ll be able to do all this from a third-generation iPad as well as from an iPhone 4S.

Hey, I saw a Clock app on the iPad in one of Apple’s screenshots! Are we finally getting Clocks, Stocks, and Weather?

We may be! It’s still early days, but it’s likely that in order to support Siri, the third-generation iPad will receive those apps. In the current beta version of iOS 6, the third-generation iPad can provide answers related to the weather, stocks, and time, but only the Clocks app exists as a true native iPad app so far.

Can I really use FaceTime over my cellular connection?

You can in iOS 6, yes! (Assuming you’re using an iPhone 4 or iPad 2 or later.) Previously, FaceTime conversations required a Wi-Fi connection but that expands to cellular with iOS 6. Apple says that in order to bring FaceTime to cellular connections, it's tweaked the feature so that it uses less bandwidth on those connections and is a bit more robust at handling data drop-outs. If you're worried about unplanned calls eating up your cellular data plan, you can turn the feature off.

What’s new with the Phone app?

When you get a call that you can’t take, you can quickly tap a button to send a prewritten iMessage to your contact or add a reminder to call them later.

Nothing left to map

What does Apple’s new Maps have?

Let’s start with what it doesn’t have—any connection with Google. Apple has gone its separate ways from its one-time partner—and current, Android-making rival—with a revamped Maps offering that it built in-house.

The new Maps app offers all new maps, with custom cartography from Apple. Maps includes built-in, Yelp-integrated local search, with more than 100 million business listings. It integrates traffic details, with the ability to tap in to see descriptions of individual traffic incidents. And the hallmark new feature is probably turn-by-turn directions, which work in tandem with Siri, guiding you towards your destination. You can get re-routed around traffic and also ask for points of interest (like gas stations) along the way.

Also new is Flyover, a 3D model Apple has built by flying over major metropolitan areas with planes and helicopters. The maps are vector-based, so zooming in and out is quick and painless. Tap on a specific building to get an information card with more details from Yelp.

It says certain cities aren’t covered! Does that mean I can’t get directions?

Nope. This caveat only applies to the flyover view, as Apple has yet to map every city. Your regular direction-getting experience should not be affected, however.

Is Apple Maps lacking anything Google Maps has?

There’s no Street View, per se; instead, Apple is using a combination of Flyover and satellite imagery. Additionally, Apple is doing something a little different when it comes to public transit: Instead of storing its own data, Maps will integrate third-party app information, ensuring that you tap into the best database for your queries. Finally, it doesn’t look like the iPad’s terrain view has made it into Apple Maps.

So are Find My Friends and Find My iPhone getting updates, too?

They are. Find My Friends will soon feature location-based alerts, notifying you when your friends arrive or leave a location. Find My iPhone, meanwhile, gets a new Lost mode; while in it, your device will map where it’s been and you can send a message with a contact number for the finder to dial.

Mail and the Web

What Mountain Lion Mail features are coming to iOS 6?

Look for two new organization options, VIPs and Flagged messages. Users have been able to flag messages in the past, but now you can see all those messages in a folder; VIP messages are also organized into a smart folder, and you can receive different notifications about messages from those people as opposed to your other mailboxes.

You’ll also be able to add photos or video from your camera roll by tapping and holding on the body of your message.

What’s new in Safari?

Four things: iCloud tabs, which allow you to see what pages are open on your other iCloud-enabled devices; an offline version of your Safari Reading List, so you can read articles when you’re not connected to the internet; image and video upload in Web forms; and full-screen mode for websites when you’re in landscape mode.

Social and sharing

So iOS 6 will support Facebook, huh?

Looks like. Facebook has received the Twitter treatment in iOS 6: Users will be able to post status updates from Notification Center or with Siri; share photos, locations, and high scores; link contacts to their Facebook profiles; and Like apps, songs, albums, and movies from the App Store and iTunes Store apps (more or less replacing Ping, which appears destined for the boneyard).

What’s this I hear about photo sharing?

If you have an iCloud account, you can create shared Photo Streams to distribute amongst friends and family. Just select a group of pictures, tell iCloud who to share them with, and your images will be sent to their iOS 6 devices, Mountain Lion-running Macs, and the Web, where friends can download them and leave comments.

Do shared Photo Streams count against my 5GB iCloud storage limit?

Nope. Like Photo Stream itself, this feature works separately from that limit.

What’s Passbook? Why would I use it?

Passbook is a way for retailers, ticket vendors, and airlines to give you electronic tickets and loyalty cards. Companies can create Passbook files for your tickets and such, which you can add to your Passbook app; when you arrive at a concert, they get scanned or registered like a printable ticket. On top of that, tickets and loyalty cards can use your location and the time to let you know when you’re near a place or when your flight’s set to take off. If you have something like a boarding pass, it can update wirelessly if there’s a delay or gate change.


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