Today is the day iOS 6 arrives, and it's going to make your iPhone better than it's ever been before. Why should you upgrade? There are so, so many reasons.
Maybe the best and most overdue addition. (Almost) everyone uses Facebook, so the deeper it's stuffed into the soul of iOS, the better. Now, just like Twitter, you can directly link your Facebook account with your iOS, allowing your phone to talk directly to Mark Zuckerberg's big beautiful brain. You can directly post photos from your photo album to Facebook, update your status from the notification center, and sync your contact list with each person's corresponding Facebook account. It's terrific stuff, and takes a big step into the turf of Windows Phone—the current lord of social media integration. We want to see more of this.
Easy, beautiful panoramas
There are a kazillion apps that stitch together panorama shots already, but now it's a built-in feature with your iPhone's camera—240 degrees of wide-wide-wide shooting, melded together automatically. Those should be a lot of fun to text around.
Siri: now with 400% less suck. Your iPhone GF now provides sports scores, movie times, restaurant ratings courtesy of Yelp—and will even help you book a table reservation. Now that's service worthy of Zooey's adoration. However, it still trips up on some words, (Siri often thinks I'm asking about Syria) and requires you to speak more clearly than you would to any adult human.
There's no NFC in the new iPhone, but you'll be able to use your screen as a scannable gift card/plane ticket/voucher/etc. with Passbook, which creates a virtual bundle of all those annoying cards you cram into your wallet. Here's an ideal little scenario for you: a free cup of coffee at Starbucks, because you've got a $25 credit built right into your phone. Hand it to the cashier, beep, coffee, slurp, bye.
Apple kicked Google out of its mapping party, and made its own. It's a very mixed bag, but there are some terrific changes:
Vector based vs bitmap graphics
The new maps are not bitmap-based anymore. Say goodbye to the horrible and slow tile loading. Now they are vector based, which means faster loading-it still loads sectors, but very fast based in our hands on experience-and smoother, much better graphics.
At last, Apple's Maps will provide with turn-by-turn navigation, just like any other car GPS app. It looks quite good. We have tried and it seems quite neat, with Siri driving directions and 3D view, with clear signs.
Business information card
Now every location in Maps includes a card that gives you all you need to know about it. If it's a restaurant, it will show you reviews and ratings, along with photographs.
Siri is completely integrated with Maps. You can ask for directions with your voice, it will guide you while driving and, if you ask her something like "Are we there yet?", she will answer you with the estimated time of arrival. And tell you to shut up.
This is great stuff! It's definitely faster than Google's go at it, and the 3D terrain feature is a cool novelty, if not much more. The lack of integrated public transit directions (you'll get pushed over to a 3rd party app for that) and Street View is conspicuous.
Facetime over 3G
It took a couple years, but now FaceTime is as fantastic as it could have been all along: make video calls from anywhere you have a cell signal. It'll kick your capped data plan in the shins if you have one, but the difference between cell data and Wi-Fi is minor. Video quality is decent. This is killer. Now you can pause during a hike, call your uncle, and show him the majesty of nature while he sits in his basement.
Unless you have AT&T, that is, in which case you're mostly screwed.
This one's simple: there's now a list in settings of all the apps that have requested access to your location, contacts, calendars, reminders, and photos. Turn on or off access as you see fit, or set a Do Not Disturb timer to keep your phone from ringing from all but the most important calls.
Easier, prettier sharing menu
The old one was ugly! It was just a drab list! Now, if you want to share that dong shot you just took, you're presented with a neat graphical grid of services—email, Facebook, Twitter, SMS—your pick. It's easier to scan, ergo easier to share.
A modern iPod
The Music app ditched its old skin for a darker, simpler, monochromatic getup. It functions the exact same, but steps closer to OS X in appearance. Maybe you'll like it more than the old look—if not, you'll quickly forget what the old look looked like, anyway.
Tons of new emoji
All emoji are good emoji. And the old iOS 5 set was pretty great. But just look at the artistry and detail in each of these teeny tiny animals. Notice the chicken's softly shaded feathers. The poodle's regal pose. That blow fish! Now return to your old iOS 5 emoji animals—they basically resemble balloon animal heads with beaks.
Screening your calls and generally avoiding mankind is streamlined in iOS 6. Want to ignore someone? You can reject their call with a reminder to hit them back later, or send a pre-programmed "hey sorry man I'm busy what's up" excuse text while simultaneously rejecting the call. All it takes is a quick swipe up while the call is incoming, choose your method of avoidance, and with a couple taps you've managed to dodge another call. If you want, you can customize your reply messages with all sorts of zany excuses. It's brilliant.
Remodeled iTunes/App Stores
Talk about stale! The stores on your phone were never easy to get around: too many lists, too many sections, too much scrolling. In iOS 6 they get a chic makeover, highly reminiscent of the glamorous Apple TV storefront. The new stores also add clever horizontal scrolling through lists and categories, which is less of a pain and allows for a more digestible spread of information on a non-television screen. Featured albums, apps, videos, and the like are all sorted together with big eye-easy graphics. It won't cost you any less, but you'll spend less sanity on your downloads.