The iOS 6
iOS 6, the latest generation of Apple's mobile software foriPod touch, iPhone and iPad, has finally been unveiled- and from what we've seen so far, it will delight an awful lot of iOS users.
From badly kept secrets to things that have been on wishlists for what seems like forever, here are the highlights of the new operating system.
iOS 6 introduces Passbook
Passbook is Apple's new e-tickets app, enabling you to carry electronic tickets for anything from sports events to plane travel, or to have a digital loyalty card. The tickets update, too, so for example your airline ticket would send you a notification once your departure gate was announced or changed. Hopefully enough firms will support this one to make it work for all our everyday bits and bobs.
iOS 6 has an improved Phone app
The revised Phone app offers smart reminders, so for example you can reject a call with a message saying you're busy, on your way or lost in a forest... You can also be reminded to call someone back when you leave your current location.
The new Do Not Disturb mode is particularly nifty: when new messages arrive, they do so silently and without the screen lighting up. If you wish, you can also tell your iPhone not to silence calls from a list of favourite callers, or to automatically silent repeat calls from the same person.
iOS 6 has Facetime over 3G
To tell the truth, we're amazed it took so long. If this takes off, the mobile operators will be very sad. Unless we use it abroad, in which case they'll be dancing on great big piles of our money.
iOS 6 has a brand new Safari app
There are lots of useful improvements here: Instapaper-style offline reading, iCloud tab syncing and photo sharing website integration to make uploading less hassle. Less wonderfully, Smart App Banners enable websites to tell you about their sodding iOS apps more easily, which is just brilliant. Who among us hasn't thought, "man! I wish more websites told me about their iOS app on each visit!"?
iOS 6 Mail has VIPs and pull to refresh
Pull to refresh is here! Yay! You can also create a list of VIPs whose messages will appear on your device's lock screen and in a dedicated, separate mailbox. Sharing photos or videos from within Mail is finally here too, as are per-account signatures.
iOS 6 photo sharing is more selective
Instead of sharing everything with everyone, you can choose which photos should be shared with which people. We're not sure why you'd use this rather than, say, putting a friends-only album on Facebook or Flickr. Anyone?
So how do the new iOS 6 features stand up against Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich? We compare maps, browsers and voice assistants:
iOS 6 makes Siri more serious, and puts it in cars
Siri is able to understand a wider range of questions than before - the demo showed it understanding questions about sports scores, statistics and trivia, booking restaurants and finding out what's worth seeing at the cinema - but as yet it's unclear which, if any, of these features will make it to the UK. Local search is being rolled out worldwide, however, and there's support for more languages.
Siri is also going mobile: the new Eyes Free feature will put a Siri button on the steering wheel of Jaguars, Land Rovers, BMWs, Mercs, Toyotas, Chryslers, Hondas, Audis and GM cars. The car manufacturers have promised to support the feature in the next 12 months.
iOS 6 has Facebook integration
Apple promises "the best Facebook integration ever in a mobile device", and to our eyes it looks pretty much the same as iOS 5's Twitter integration: you can post photos, locations, URLs and so on to annoy your friends. The API is public, so non-Apple apps can share to Facebook too, and you'll be able to see your Facebook friends' App Store recommendations.
iOS 6 has guided access for children
The new Guided Access feature enables you to disable certain parts of the screen so that children can't accidentally hit the wrong buttons. We're going to use it on the in-app purchase icons in every kid-targeted iOS game. Hahah!
iOS 6 has a new Maps app
New York, London, Paris, Munich, everybody's talking about - iOS 6 maps! Well, maybe not, but Apple's much-rumoured mapping system finally breaks cover.
It's pretty, will have traffic information, doubles as a sat-nav system with turn-by-turn navigation, can be controlled via Siri and will probably be useless outside major metropolitan areas in the UK. Still, the new Flyover 3D views of major cities are lovely.
It's also been confirmed that Yelp, a social networking, user review, and local search service, will be integrated into Apple's mapping software - enabling you to check out restaurants, bars, clubs and cultural venues.
iOS 6 supports larger phone screens
Rumors of the iPhone 5 coming with a larger 4-inch screen have come a bit closer to reality, thanks to a discovery made with the iOS development tool kit. Using the beta version of iOS 6, TechRadar was able to stretch the screen to fit a 640 x 1136 resolution version, and everything scaled perfectly.
iOS 6 dedicated Podcast app
A report from AllThingsD suggest that Apple may be about to givePodcasts their own application within the forthcoming iOS 6 software.
iOS 6 doesn't require password for free apps
With iOS 6, you won't be asked to enter your password every time you want to download a free application.
Once you have linked your iTunes account to your iOS 6-toting iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, you won't need your login details again - unless you want to make a purchase, you know, with actual money. You also won't be asked for your password if you are re-downloading a previously purchased app.
iOS 6 has in-app purchase protection
In iOS 5.1 some naughty hackers found a loophole that enabled them to steal in-app purchases, which may have cost some developers millions in lost revenue.
Apple has said that there will be no such problem in iOS 6 though, releasing a statement saying: "iOS 6 will address this vulnerability. If your app follows the best practices described below then it is not affected by this attack."
iOS 6 could sport Bluetooth 4.0 bridge
It's claimed Apple is working on a new feature in iOS 6 that uses Bluetooth 4.0 to act as a bridge between compatible devices, which could enable a future iPod to do a variety of tasks, such as making calls via an iPhone running iOS 6.
iOS 6 beta is revealing
YouTube - Apple has removed its YouTube app from iOS 6, leaving Google to pick up the pieces and build its own version for the App Store.
Update: Google has countered Apple's decision to sever all ties with it and has launched its own YouTube app on the App Store - so you won't be without your favourite videos for long.
Dock connector - A new hardware feature has been spotted in the iOS 6 beta releases of Apple's upcoming operating system, with a line of code reading: "DeviceSupports9Pin" – possibly a reference to a new 9-pin connector dock - although there's no way to be sure at the moment.
iOS 6 should be adopted very quickly
Unlike other mobile operating systems, iOS isn't dependent on mobile operators approving updates: as a result 80% of Apple's 365 million iOS customers are using the latest operating system, compared to 7% ofAndroid users. Once iOS ships, expect a similarly speedy take-up.
iOS 6 doesn't work on everything
iOS 6 supports iPhones from the 3GS onwards, the fourth generation iPod touch and the second and third generation iPad. Check our story for more on iOS 6 compatibility.
Update: Apple has now pushed out iOS 6 Beta 2 to developers, available on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and new iPad. Why is this exciting? Because the cogs in the settings icon now spin... oh yes!
Update: Version iOS 6 Beta 3 has now been released by Apple, sporting a variety of bug fixes, improved keyboard and navigation editing capabilities.