Love ‘Em Or Hate ‘Em, These Are The Top 5 Features Of iOS 6

iOS 6 is chock-full of new stuff, with over 200 new features. Some are minor, like Mail VIPs which probably should have been implemented a long time ago, and some are pretty intense, like a brand new Maps app complete with 3D rendering. Now, Apple only showed off ten of the new features today, but which ones will go unnoticed (like the ultimately creepy “Find My Friends” app in iOS 5) and which will pick up like a basketball game on a public court?

That’s what I’m here for, so let’s delve right in, shall we?

1. Phone

I know, I know. A Phone app can only be so exciting, right? But I honestly don’t care. The only thing most people use their iPhone for more than talking is texting, so making the app (that hasn’t changed at all since 2007) a little less 2000-and-late and a little more current is two-thumbs up from this gal.

So, what’s new? Well for one, if you swipe up during an incoming call (much like the Camera shortcut), two small banners will appear at the bottom of the screen right above the Answer and Ignore buttons. These banners will allow you to either remind yourself to call said person back, or text message them.

The feature offers options for 1 hour from now, When I leave, When I get home, or When I get to work, courtesy of that clever geo-fencing thing Apple’s all excited about these days. As far as texting goes, there are a couple quick replies like “I’ll call you later” or “What’s up?” which can be sent with the press of a button.

Apple has also added a Do Not Disturb mode, which goes against our now-natural desire to stay always connected, but that’s probably a good thing. Users will be able to block out all incoming calls and messages. Sure, the calls/texts will come through, but there will be no evidence that they’ve done so, meaning no badges, banners, alerts, noises, flashing LED lights, or even a screen light-up. Users can toggle it on manually in Settings, just above the Notifications tab, or set it to a recurring time like after 11pm on week nights.

2. Maps

Again, not as thrilling as the initial announcement of talk-to-your-iPhone-then-curse-at-your-iPhone Siri, but also not as likely to completely disappoint the way Siri’s been known to do.

Maps is Apple’s baby. After acquiring three mapping companies over the past few years, it’s about damn time that Google gets the boot and Apple keeps all its wonderful geolocation data to itself. Plus, Apple will surely offer this service much more reliably than Google.

Apple designed the whole system themselves, including the cartography, which is why you may notice a differently colored icon for Maps come iOS 6 update time. The app will offer turn-by-turn navigation and, most notably, a 3D “Flyover” mode which is straight-up gorgeous. You’ll be able to pan, tilt, zoom, and rotate inside Flyover mode. (I think I can see tears flowing from my current Google Maps iOS app.)

Turn-by-turn navigation is spoken aloud in a familiar voice (read: Siri), can be viewed in 3D mode, and will offer different routes should traffic conditions change up the ETA. Oh, speaking of traffic, Apple Maps comes complete with traffic condition information crowd-sourced anonymously from an army of iOS users. This should let you know if it’s a small delay or a major collision up ahead.

The Maps app covers the whole world, according to Apple, and has listings for over 100 million small businesses, with Yelp listings tossed in to boot.

3. Facebook

We called it way in advance, but it’s now official: Facebook is built right into iOS 6.

After signing in once with your username and password, you’ll be able to post instantly to Facebook from most corners of Apple’s new mobile operating system. In fact, if your hands are tied, you can just ask Siri to do it for you.

Photos, links, locations, Game Center content, “and more” can all be posted straight to the Social Network, and you are now able to “Like” different apps and songs. Another smart move by Apple is the added synchronization between the two platforms: bringing Facebook Events and birthdays into the Calendar app, and syncing Facebook friends into Contacts.

Apple also opened up a public Facebook iOS 6 API.

Josh Constine has a more in-depth analysis on the partnership here and here.

4. Siri

If I had my way, Siri wouldn’t appear on this list. But since Apple didn’t really offer up any jaw-dropping features in iOS 6, an expanded and more knowledgeable Siri will have to do.

The big deal is that she can open apps, which confounds me just a bit. Unless Siri can actually let me play Temple Run with my voice after opening it, or flip through Flipboard on a voice-command level, I don’t see why I’d open the apps with my voice at all. The functionality is, in a word, whatevs.

At the same time, this is a step toward Siri APIs, which will actually be cool, instead of just pretending to be cool.

Other Siri advancements include access to sports, restaurant, and movie information, with the ability to look up Yelp reviews, ratings and prices along with making reservation on Open Table.

Probably most useful is the integration of Siri into certain cars with the announcement of “Eyes-Free” mode. A Siri button will simply be built into the car’s steering wheel, and then you’re off to the connectivity-challenged races.

Finally, the personal assistant will now hit the new iPad, taking up about a quarter of the space on the interface to perform various tasks without disturbing your flow.

5. Passbook

Passbook is a new standard app developed by Apple that will allow you to store movie tickets, boarding passes, coupons, and retail loyalty cards in one place. You can scan your iPhone to check in for a flight, get in to a movie, or redeem a coupon. But the app delves deeper than just that.

You’ll be able to see the balance on your Starbucks card, check where your seats are in a concert hall, or learn that your coupons are close to expiring. Again, it goes deeper still.

If the display of your iThing is awake, pop-up notifications will appear based on time and place. So, as you arrive at the airport, your boarding pass will appear as a notification on the home screen for easy access. One more time, it goes deeper.

The Passbook app can even check to see if your flight is delayed or if your gate has changed, and alerts you immediately.

The app is pretty damn cool, but will also screw over a lot of other apps that have found a nook in the space. It’s unclear which brands are currently integrated with the app, but so far we know that Starbucks, Fandango, Target, Amtrak, United, the Apple Store,, and W Hotels are all on-board.