MIAMI (CNET) — iOS 6 was first previewed during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last June, revealing a few big changes, and many more minor tweaks to the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
You’ll need to update to iOS 6 before you can take advantage of the new features, so be sure you’ve done that before diving into the new features. Here are just a few of the best features and how to use them.
The latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system is now available for download to most iOS devices. Here’s a list of compatible devices and a quick guide to downloading the update over the air or through the App Store.
Read: How to install iOS 6
The Maps app in iOS 6 is arguably the biggest change in the latest OS. You can expect to find new features such as voice-guided turn-by-turn directions, Yelp integration and a new 3D mode.
Bringing back Google Maps
Unfortunately, Apple’s new Maps app has met with some harsh (and sometimes hilarious) criticism. Incorrect location data, roundabout directions, and awkward satellite images have many early adopters wishing they could get Google Maps back on their iPhone. Well, you can — though it’s not a perfect solution.
Siri gets smarter
Siri has learned a few new tricks in iOS 6, including how to launch apps, update your Facebook or Twitter status, and make restaurant reservations. Here’s how you can use them.
Do Not Disturb
Do Not Disturb is a welcome feature that allows iOS users to completely silence their device(s) on demand, or on a schedule. To be sure you don’t miss any important phone calls, you can customize which calls will get through no matter what.
Politely decline incoming calls
Instead of just sending a caller to voice mail, you can now send them a message explaining why you can’t talk, or set yourself a reminder to return the call in a few hours.
FaceTime over 3G
The Achilles’ heel of FaceTime has always been its Wi-Fi requirement. Unless you were to jailbreak your iOS device, then install a tweak to get around the 3G requirement, you could only use FaceTime when you were connected to a Wi-Fi network. With iOS 6, and depending on your carrier and device, you can now use FaceTime anywhere your iOS device has a cellular signal.
Shared Photo Stream albums
Sharing photos using your iCloud account and Photo Stream is now possible thanks to iOS 6. You can share with iOS and non-iOS users directly from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
Passbook is a new app included in iOS 6 aiming to provide one location to store membership cards, tickets, coupons, and potentially payment information on your iPhone. Passes are easy to add, manage, and use. Hopefully this feature will take off once developers begin releasing updates with Passbook integrated into their apps.
Insert photos and videos into an e-mail
There are some great new features in the Mail app on iOS 6, including VIPs, pull to refresh, and (my favorite) the ability to insert a photo or video directly into an e-mail while composing it. It’s easy to use, you just have to know it’s there.
Multiple e-mail signatures
Being limited to one e-mail signature, no matter how many accounts you have on your iOS device, is now a thing of the past. With iOS 6 you’re able to set an e-mail signature up for each account and not have to worry about managing when it’s used.
Safari goes full screen
Mobile Safari now allows you to browse in a full-screen mode, in landscape orientation, on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Upload photos in Safari
The inability to upload a photo while browsing the Internet has been annoying iOS users for years. Thankfully, Apple finally addressed it in iOS 6. You can now upload photos from your Camera Roll and Photo Stream directly to Web sites in just a few taps.
iOS 6 and Privacy Settings
You now have better control over which apps can access your personal data. It’s no longer up to the developers to request access to your calendar or contacts, iOS 6 handles it now. If you want to adjust your privacy settings, you’ll need to know where to look.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 5, it also showed us the new Panorama feature for the first time. If you have an iPhone 4S or an iPhone 5, you can now take panoramic photos directly in the native camera app.
Facebook has finally been integrated in iOS. Like the Twitter integration, Facebook is a sharing option throughout the entire operating system, and it’s easy to set up. The link below will take you to a complete rundown of Facebook on iOS 6.
Weather, Game Center, and a few other little improvements
You already know about the Maps app and Siri, but here are five interface conveniences in iOS 6 that aren’t featured in the big reviews.
Find My Friends notifications
If you use Find My Friends to help you keep track of your kids, you’ll like its new notification feature. Using the latest update to Find My Friends in iOS 6, you can now be notified when a contact in your Find My Friends app either arrives or leaves a location.