Before and After: What Apple changed with iOS 6

iOS 6, Apple's operating system for its mobile devices, emerged on 19 September 2012, and brought around 200 changes to iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. With all this change between iOS 5 and iOS6, we thought we’d round up the major differences between the two operating systems.

You may recall that iOS 5 introduced a few significant features, such as the pull-down notification menu, which didn't even exist in previous versions of iOS, and a refreshed lock screen which gave us quicker access to the camera with a double tap of the home button.

But what was new with iOS 6?

First, let's talk compatibility. iOS 6 will be available for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5 (see our hands on with the latter here). It will also be compatible with the iPad 2 and the new iPad (third generation), and the fourth and fifth generation iPod Touch.

Buy the iPhone 5 here

Now onto the changes themselves. Apple's iOS 6 included several major upgrades that go well beyond look and feel. The maps app, for starters, no longer uses Google at all, relying instead on a totally new home-grown solution from Cupertino. Another major change: iOS 6 folds Facebook right into its very being, amoeba-like, to let you share content from your phone or iPad to the social network in just a tap or two.

Keep on scrolling down for a visual examination of the major OS differences, complete with pictures of iOS 5 (and a blast from the past image of iOS 4, if you can even remember it!) alongside similar images of iOS 6. Can you spot everything that's new?

iOS 4 and iOS 5 homescreen

On the left, you can see the apps and homescreen from iOS 4. On the right is iOS 5. The move from 4 to 5 brought some changes to the apps themselves, like iPod and Music. See the iOS 6 homescreen below.

iOS 6 homescreen

In iOS 6, the Music and iTunes apps remain the same, but the change worth noting is that the iPhone 5 has a taller screen, and thus the homescreen can have five rows of apps rather than four.

iOS 5 Mail

The Mail app may be one of the most familiar ones to many iPhone users, and iOS 6 brings one neat change, shown below (pay attention to the left rail).

iOS 6 Mail

iOS 6 comes with a new sorting tool in the left rail, namely a VIP list. You can mark contacts as being very important people to automatically have their mail sorted to the designated folder, helping make sure that a significant piece of mail never gets lost in the email deluge.

iOS 5 baked-in sharing

iOS 5 brought us Twitter sharing baked right into the operating system. If you authenticate Twitter, you can tweet from many apps and features in iOS without ever launching – or even installing – the Twitter app.

iOS 6 baked-in sharing

iOS 6 adds the most popular social network to its baked-in sharing options: Facebook. Apple’s newest mobile operating system lets you share to Facebook or "like" various content that's on your phone in just a tap or two. And don't worry: Twitter will still be there, too.

iOS 5 tickets

To use mobile tickets in iOS 5, you had to rely solely on a third-party app/service, such as Eventbrite (pictured); but that could clutter your phone quickly. As you'll see in the next entry below, iOS 6 centralises ticketing with the Passbook app.

iOS 6 tickets: Passbook

Passbook is a new iOS 6 app for tickets, coupons, and other scannable papers, which centralises many of your ticketing needs. It will still rely on third-party support, but at least all that virtual paper will be in one place. Plus, Passbook comes with some very cool features, like location-based awareness, so that when you reach a venue and have an applicable ticket, it shows up on your screen automatically.

iOS 5 incoming call

Don't want to take a call with iOS 5? You can decline it and send it to voice mail. With iOS 6, however, you have a lot more options for telling callers that you're busy, as you'll see below.

iOS 6 incoming call

If you can't take an incoming call on a phone that's running iOS 6, you have a number of options at your disposal for telling the caller that you're busy. You can decline the call, reply with a message that you can customise or choose from a list, or have your iPhone remind you to call the person back later on.

iOS 5 maps

Maps in iOS 5 were pretty good, using data provided by Google Maps to give you directions and various viewing options, like the satellite view shown on the left in the above image, and the hybrid satellite-street map view shown on the right. But as you'll see below, iOS 6 takes a serious departure from these old maps.

iOS 6 maps

The new Map app in iOS 6 is totally different. It now uses Apple's own data, rather than Google's, and includes turn-by-turn directions. iOS 6 lets you see not just a satellite view, but a 3D map of urban areas, iconic architecture and all.

And that’s all for now – but watch this space for our full and detailed review of iOS 6, which will be coming soon.