iOS 6 features: everything you need to know

iOS – previously known as iPhone OS – is Apple’s operating system for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV. It doesn’t run the same applications as OS X on the Mac but is built on the same codebase.

The manifestation that appears on these devices is only one half of the equation, with the second half being the software development kit (SDK) that Apple makes available to paying developers so that they can write applications for the devices that run it.

To this end, iOS is now one of the best supported operating systems on any platform – not just on smartphones – with over half a million applications produced to date. These can be downloaded directly from the iOS App Store application on the iPhone, or through iTunes on a regular Mac or PC.

iOS also hooks in to iCloud, Apple’s online backup and synchronisation service, which copies iWorks documents between your mobile device and a Mac, and automatically transfers photos taken on your iPhone to either iPhoto or Aperture on the Mac, or a dedicated folder on a PC, at the same time syncing apps and media downloads.

iOS 6 Software Update

It has a built-in Software Update tool that makes it easy to check that you’re running the most up-to-date version of the operating system, and a built-in app store that lets you buy new applications directly without reverting to your Mac or PC. This separately keeps track of any updates to your purchases over time and lets you download free upgrades.

The Notification Center, which was introduced in iOS 5, centralises all of the messages and alerts spawned by your applications into one easy to find location so you don’t have to cancel them all individually. Swipe down from the clock above any app to open it.

iOS 6

iOS 6, as its name suggests, is the sixth iteration of the operating system. It was finally made available to the general public in late summer 2012 after several months of testing among the developer community. It is a free update for users of later iPhones and iPads, but as with its predecessors it won’t work on the earliest iPhone models, some early iPod touches, or the iPhone 3G as they don’t have the necessary hardware to support it. Such obsolescence is also a good way for Apple to encourage us to upgrade.

How does it differ from iOS 5?

If you were just to look at the home screen of an iPhone running iOS 6 you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed in the move from iOS 5. All of the familiar icons and folders remain in place, Spotlight stays where it always was and your most commonly-used applications can still be organied on a short Dock that appears on each of the Home Screens.

This is misleading, though, as beneath the surface there are many fundamental changes that make the operating system both more robust and more flexible.

iOS 6 introduces a number of brand new applications, including Passbook, which works in much the same way as the Newsstand app that first appeared in iOS 5.

Where Newsstand provided a single unified folder to contain digital magazine and newspaper downloads, Passbook does the same for loyalty cards, tickets, membership cards and vouchers.

This should mean that you can do away with many of the bespoke loyalty applications you have downloaded from coffee shops and other retailers, and free up space on your home screens.

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