Get A Taste Of The iPhone 5 With Today's iOS 6 Upgrade

The iPhone 5 will lands in many consumers' hands on Friday but not in everyone's who wants one. You can still get a taste of the iPhone 5 by upgrading your iPad or iPhone to Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 6, due out today. 

New In iOS 6

iOS 6 boasts nearly 200 updates to the iOS 5, and all of them are expected to be available in the United States at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Here are the highlights:

Maps: As is widely known, Apple ditched Google Maps (and pretty much all other Google apps) with iOS 6. It has built its own map functions that feature, like standard and satellite views, turn-by-turn navigation, directions, 3-D buildings, crowd-sourced traffic (by way of technology from a company called Waze), local search and business reviews. Early reviews of Apple’s Maps have said that it is functional but not terrific and lacks the deep understanding of location and stree- view features of Google. 

Siri: The personal-assistant app takes a big step toward being a mature feature with a plethora of new functions. It now sports Twitter and Facebook integration, local search, directions, restaurant and movie reviews and information. Apple is also touting how Siri can tap into real-time sports information. 

Safari: Many aspects of iOS 6 are informed by Apple’s personal cloud service, iCloud. Nowhere is iCloud’s presence felt more deeply than in Apple's mobile Safari browser. Safari, like Google’s Chrome browser, Mozilla’s Firefox or Opera, now enables you to sign in to the browser and see the same page you were reading on another device.

For instance, While reading ReadWriteWeb with Safari on your Mac, you can open Safari on your iPhone to find a ReadWriteWeb tab already open. Safari also can now save pages and add to a reading list even without an Internet connection. You can also upload pictures without leaving the browser. 

PassBook: This feature is completely new in iOS 6. It is a “wallet” app that holds loyalty cards, movie tickets, boarding passes and coupons so you can do away with more paper. And PassBook is aware of event times and locations, and will remind you to get to the right place at the right time.

FaceTime: Apple’s video chat now enables face-to-face calls over WiFi and cellular connections. While FaceTime service had been limited to WiFi service, Apple's implementation of 4G LTE now enables you use the feature anywhere, anytime.

Unless, of course, you are with AT&T, in which case you are forced to sign a new data plan for FaceTime over cellular. 

Facebook: Apple had integrated Twitter deeply into iOS 5. Many at the time cried foul, saying that Facebook did not get the same treatment. In iOS 6, Facebook gets tied into the iPhone, making is easier to get notifications, post status updates, like apps and songs, and access your contacts. 

Shared Photos: This is another feature where the presence of iCloud is felt. To share pictures with other iOS 6 or Mac owners using Apple’s latest Mountain Lion desktop operating system, you select pictures and send them. The pictures will be sent to the recipient's iPhoto or Photo app. 

Email: The default messaging system gets a slight redesign. Now with a VIP inbox and better photo integration.

Camera: The biggest upgrade to the iPhone 5’s camera is in hardware, with a new sapphire lens and improved image stability. Apple has also added a new 240-degree panorama function. 

Apple has also added a “find my friends” feature that shares your location with friends and receives location-based alerts. Great for tracking your friends out on the town or keeping tabs on your kids. iTunes, App Store and iBookstore have also been remodeled. 

What’s Coming Next for iOS?

It is never too early to surmise what Apple might institute next. Apple’s iOS 7 will likely be announced at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference in the middle of 2013. Here are some features that we would like to see.

Near Field Communications integration: Despite the lack of NFC in the iPhone 5, Apple has actually set itself up nicely for NFC with its PassBook application.

NFC is a smartphone (and sometimes credit-card) technology that enables you to tap a terminal instead of swiping a card or scanning a barcode.

Most new Android phones and Windows Phones have NFC and are starting to do very interesting things with it, such as:

  • Making payments
  • Activating loudspeakers or headphones
  • Approving security access
  • Interacting with advertisements

PassBook tees this up. Perhaps we'll see NFC next year.

Redesigned stores: Apple touts its new stores, but many people (including designers within Apple) do not like the look of them. It is time to get away from the faux bookshelves and reimagine basic interfaces for some of Apple’s most popular destinations. 

Ambient location: "Find my friends" is an interesting feature but only takes a small step into the always-on location capabilities of smartphones. If Apple could figure out how to do persistent background location without ruining battery life, it could fundamentally change how people interact with their environment, such as knowing where they are, what store they are near, where their friends are and more. Persistent-location is an area where most smartphone vendors could greatly improve.

A Leap in HTML5: Safari is considered one of the better mobile browsers for instituting HTML5, the new page- and app-building standard, but it could go so much further if it would put the weight of its resources behind furthering HTML5. The browser in iOS 6 saw incremental additions and iCloud integration. It is now time to push the bounds of HTML5. 

What would you like to see in iOS 7? Let us know in the comments.