With iOS 6, Apple has beefed up some popular features -- like Siri -- but it has also introduced all-new features to stay a step ahead of the competition. For example, Passbook keeps all of your tickets, coupons and loyalty cards in one place for easy retrieval. Then there's Facebook integration, which goes beyond Android by letting you post updates with your voice and "like" apps and songs within iTunes and the App Store. But the biggest news could be Maps, which finally gives iOS users turn-by-turn navigation along with jaw-dropping visuals.
Here are the top 10 features of iOS 6.
1. Siri Gets Smarter
Apple has upped the IQ of Siri by giving her the ability to answer all sorts of questions, deliver restaurant reviews (via Yelp) and book reservations (via OpenTable). Plus, you can Siri to look up movie times and answer all sorts of questions, like what movies has Scarlett Johansson starred in. Apple is even working with automakers to integrate Siri.
2. Facebook Integration and Sharing
You're no longer limited to Twitter when it comes to iOS 6. Facebook is deeply woven into the software. So you can post to the social network from several apps, including Photos and Safari. Plus, you can recommend apps within the App Store. Want to send a quick Facebook update? You can do it either right from the Notification Center window or just speak your mind to Siri.
3. All-New Maps
Huzzah! iOS finally has turn-by-turn navigation, complete with live traffic and incident reports. Yes, the voice is Siri's. Not only that, but Apple has completely redesigned its Maps app for better performance and much more compelling visuals. A great example is Flyovers, which provide photo-realistic 3D views of buildings and landmarks. Panning and zooming should be super-smooth, thanks to vector-based graphics.
Passbook is easily one of our favorite features of iOS 6 because it solves a real problem. It aggregates everything from movie tickets (Fandango) and baseball tickets to loyalty cards (Starbucks) and boarding passes (Amtrak) in a single app. The app is even smart enough to keep track of critical changes, such as gate changes for United Airlines. The interface is really slick, and it integrates with the lock screen so you don't have to hunt around to find important info.
5. Shared Photo Streams
Although its nice having Facebook integration in iOS 6, Shared Photo Streams makes it easier to share photos with a smaller group of people. You select the images and then your friends, and then they'll get a push notification to join in. From there they'll be able to see what you post and comment on the photos. Shared photo streams will also work on Macs, the Apple TV and even Windows (though just via a browser).
6. Phone Enhancements
iOS 6 makes it easier to respond to incoming calls--or ignore them. A button on the right side of the screen lets you reply with a message (it can be canned or custom) or have your phone remind you later. The reminder can be based on time or location, such as when you get to work. A new Do Not Disturb feature lets you decide which calls get through, whether it's individuals or groups you create. If someone calls multiple times within a few minutes, you can let that call through.
7. Souped-Up Safari
Apple says that Safari represents two thirds of all mobile web traffic, so it wants to make the experience even better with iCloud Tabs (syncing tabs across Macs and iOS devices) and offline reading lists (which caches stories). You can also now upload photos from within the browser for those sites that support it. Another key feature is Smart app banners, which will display a banner advertising your mobile app right at the top of the screen. It's a great tool for discovery, and if you have the app installed already it will let you pick up in the app right where you left off on the web (such as a restaurant review in Yelp). Last but not least is better landscape support in the browser.
8. Mail VIPs, Easier Photo Attachments
A new VIP feature in the Mail app makes sure you won't miss an important message from your boss or spouse or anyone else you deem worthy. Just star the person's name and you'll get notifications of incoming mail right on the lock screen. You'll also be able to look at all your VIP messages in a single folder. Mail also now lets you add photos and videos right in the compose window, so you no longer have to go into your gallery first. That's nice, but we'd like to be able to attach documents from this window, too.
9. Guided Access Keeps Kids Focused
Apple designed the Guided Access feature of iOS 6 with parents of the disabled in mind, but it's useful for anyone with a child. You can lock that iPhone or iPad to one app, so pressing the Home button won't do a thing. You can also restrict touch input to certain areas of the screen, which could be good for avoiding in-app purchases. Teachers would also find Guided Access handy because they could prevent kids from looking up answers on their iPads and focus the attention just on the quiz app they're using.
10. FaceTime Over Cellular
This feature is long overdue, but by this fall you won't be limited to making FaceTime video calls over Wi-Fi. That's because the next iPhone will likely support 4G LTE. Another perk: Because your phone number and Apple ID are one, you can accept calls on your iPad or Mac, too. Same thing goes for iMessages.