Apple is rolling out the latest version of its mobile software ahead of the iPhone 5's launch on Friday, allowing iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S owners to explore iOS 6's new features. Although it isn't a radical overhaul, there's still plenty to see (keep in mind, certain features aren't available on the iPhone 3GS or 4):
Maps - Apple has replaced the iPhone's Google-powered Maps app with a new version that touts turn-by-turn navigation, integrated real-time traffic alerts, interactive 3D views of major cities, more data (such as Yelp reviews) about places on the map, and the ability to input directions vocally via Siri.
Siri - Speaking of which, iOS' voice-activated assistant is now better versed in entertainment, with the ability to report sports scores, check movie showing times and answer other sports and movie-related questions. It can also provide info about eateries and it can post directly to Facebook and Twitter.
Camera - Among other tweaks, the Camera application in iOS 6 receives a Panorama mode that lets you sweep the phone across a scene to capture a wide image. Based on reviews around the Web, this works pretty well, even in less-than-ideal conditions. Of note, it's only available for the iPhone 4S and 5.
Passbook - Apple has developed a new app that helps organize everything along the lines of movie tickets, boarding passes, retail coupons, loyalty cards and so on. It seems services haven't been enabled in Passbook yet so it's hard to draw conclusions, but some reviewers say the app seems promising.
Other - Safari has iCloud tabs, Photo Stream has more options such as the ability to share specific images with certain friends, FaceTime now works over WWAN, Facebook has been integrated, the Phone app has more controls such as Do Not Disturb and the ability to instantly reply with a text message or set a callback reminder, Mail has a new VIP list for important contacts, while it's easier to add photos and videos to your message, and Apple's YouTube app has been removed in favor of Google's offering.
The iPhone 4S looks identical to last year's model but comes in a new 64GB flavor and upgrades the camera to include an 8-megapixel sensor with improved low-light performance and 1080p video capture. In terms of performance the new iPhone is reportedly up to 2x faster and is also capable of running on faster HSPA+ networks, reaching theoretical download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps.
The Apple iPad (3rd-gen) includes a Retina Display operating at a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536. Powering the new iPad is a dual-core A5X processor with quad-core graphics, it also gets upgraded optics in the form of a 5MP backside illuminated sensor that features a 5-element lens, IR filter and ISP built into the A5X chip. Apple claims The new iPad is good for 10 hours of battery life and nine hours when using 4G LTE.
The iPad 2 improves on the original in many ways, including a significantly faster dual-core CPU, improved graphics and a thinner footprint. The iPad 2 also manages to shave off 0.2 pounds for a total weight of 1.33 pounds on the Wi-Fi only model. Apple has included two cameras on the iPad 2 – a VGA-quality front facing lens for FaceTime and a rear-facing camera capable of recording 720p video.
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