I finally got an iPhone 5 (I waited in line at the Apple store from 7:30am), and I love it. I’m upgrading from an iPhone 4, so I’m seeing some real improvements over my old phone. You’ve probably heard about some of them already, but I wanted to share my favorites and mention some of the lesser-known-but-still-worth-knowing-about features iOS 6 has to offer. In no particular order, here they are:
It’s Fast. Like, Really fast. It’s 2 generations newer from my iPhone 4, so it moves like lightning by comparison. The camera in particular is much, much faster. It comes right on, and I can take a whole bunch of photos in rapid succession. If you have a 3GS or 4 or 4S, you should be jealous.
2. New Emoji!!!!!
Either you love emoji, or you think they’re stupid. Haters should probably just move on to the next item on the list. But for you emoji lovers, there are some stunningly detailed new animals, new smiley faces (including some cute smiley-face kitty cats for some reason), some nice sun, moon, and stars, and there are even emoji of gay and lesbian couples.
This page highlights all the new iOS 6 emoji:
If you weren’t using emoji on your iPhone before, but you’d like to now, go into the Settings > General > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard and choose Emoji. Now when you type a text message, there will be a little wire-mesh globe icon next to the space bar. Tap that to access the emoticon characters. Tap the globe again to return to the normal keyboard. Just a heads up: if you use emoji in your text messages, unfortunately only your iPhone-using friends will be able to see them.
3. VIP Email
The email app has a new Inbox called “VIP”. You can specify contacts on your phone whose incoming mail will be listed in your VIP box, so you’re sure never to miss another important email again.
You can configure the VIP mail settings from your list of email in-boxes. You can also set the preferred type of alert you’d like to get when you receive mail from a VIP (including setting a different alert sound for each email account) and whether you’d like the alerts to show up your lock screen.
4. Do Not Disturb
This is a much cooler feature than people give it credit for. It’s not the same as airplane mode or turning your phone off.
- Unlike with airplane mode, you can allow calls/txts through from specific groups of users (your mom, your boss, your boyfriend, etc.)
- You can schedule the feature so that “Do Not Disturb” mode becomes active at the same time every day (while you’re sleeping, for example).
- You can allow repeated calls to get through (for example, if the same number calls you 2x within 3 minutes, the assumption is that it’s an emergency)
- Your notification screen will still let you know that people called or txted, even though your phone won’t ring or vibrate.
More details on configuration at
5. Multiple signatures
Each email account can have its own signature, which is great when you’ve got your work email account and your personal account both set up on your iPhone. You might not want to put your phone number in your signature for one account, for example, while you might not want to put that funny little quote you like so much (you know the one I’m talking about) in the signature for your work account.
To configure: Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Signature and choose “Per Account” instead of “All Accounts”. Then tap in the appropriate boxes to customize your signature for each account.
6. Message Reply
Previously, when someone called you, you could answer the phone or you could decline the call to send them to your voicemail. Now you have the option to respond with a text message (like “Call You Later” or “What’s Up?” or a customized message, or you can tell your iPhone to remind you to call the person back later. When someone calls, swipe up on the little phone receiver icon right next to the green “Answer” button to reveal the “Reply with Message” and “Remind me later” options.
7. Facebook and Twitter Integration
Apple made a big deal about this, so you’ve probably already heard about it. Basically, you can now tweet things or post them to Facebook without actually needing to open the FB or Twitter apps. For example, you can tweet or FB a photo from within the iPhone photo app. Or from Safari, the share button now lets you tweet or FB the page you’re on. If you’re a social media devotee, this is for you. I’ve never been a fan of the Facebook app (it seems to take FOREVER to upload a photo or video), so I’m expecting this to save me some frustration as well.
8. View browser history
Seems like this feature shouldn’t be new, but it is. Just hold down the “back” button (except in full-screen browsing mode) to get a pop-up list of your recently-visited pages. Tap on the page you want to re-visit.
9. Copy URL
Safari’s share button now adds the “Copy” option, which will copy the URL so that you can paste it somewhere else.
10. Bigger safari screen
Finally full-screen browsing. Just turn your phone sideways and hit the double-arrow button in the lower righthand corner, et voilà, the title bar, URL bar, and navigation buttons disappear, giving you much more real estate to do your browsing within. Hit the button again or turn your phone back to portrait orientation to return to normal browsing. The screenshots below give you an idea of how much extra space you can recover.
11. Add photos from the Email app
It always annoyed me that the only way to put a photo or video into an email was from within the photo app, and not from the email app itself. But all that has changed now. Start writing an email and double-tap in a blank spot in the body of the message to bring up the select/copy/paste menu. Tap on the little arrow button in the menu to reveal the “Insert Photo or Video” option.
12. Delete all music by artist
Instead of just deleting individual music tracks or albums, you can now delete all of the music on your phone by a given artist with one swell foop. Just swipe right-to-left on an artist name in the music app to remove their content from your phone.
13. Panoramic photos!
This is one of those features Apple made a big deal of when they announced the phone, so you’ve probably already heard about it. Basically, you can slowly pan your phone from left to right in camera mode to take a long, narrow panorama of a much larger area than would normally fit on the camera screen. I take panoramas all the time with my Nikon D700 (not a paid endorser), but I have to use Adobe Photoshop to stitch them together. This feature lets it all happen inside your iPhone automatically. To be fair, there were already iPhone apps in existence that did the same thing, but this does work quite well, and it’s built into the operating system now.
Open the camera app and tap “Options”. Choose “Panorama”. Then tap the camera shutter button and follow the instructions on the screen. Hit the camera shutter button again when you’re done. Quick tip: you need to pan from left to right, not the other way around, for the iPhone to be able to work its magic. You also have to use the rear-facing camera, not the front camera, which actually makes sense when you think about it.
Here’s a panorama I did of the Vitale Digital Media Lab today:
14. Shared Photo Streams
I haven’t had too much time to play with this yet, but it seems like it has potential. You can create “photo streams” (think of them as photo albums) to share publicly, or just with certain friends, who will be able to “like” and comment on them. If the friends you’re sharing with are iCloud users, they’ll get a notification when you add photos to a photo stream they’re following. People viewing a public photo stream via the web will only be able to view the photos, not comment on or “like” them. Here’s a photo stream of my own iPhone photos that I made when I was trying to figure this feature out:
More info on using the feature at
15. Consolidated privacy settings
Apple has added a top-level menu item in Settings called Privacy which allows you to tweak access to Location Settings, Contacts, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and more (see screenshot). Tap each item to get a list of the apps that have requested access to that service. Tap the On/Off sliders to change the setting for a given app. And seriously, please consider carefully before you give an app access to one of these services. Does “Angry Birds” really need to know your physical location?
One new setting which is NOT in “Privacy” (but should be) is the Advertising setting (Settings>General>About>Advertising) which allows you to limit advertisers’ ability to track your behavior on your iPhone. Turn this ON to maximize your privacy on this front.
16. Bluetooth is now a top-level setting
If you use a bluetooth device with your iPhone (a wireless earpiece or an exercise heart monitor, for example), you’ll want to conserve your phone’s battery life by only turning your Bluetooth on when you need it. That setting used to be buried slightly deeper in the settings, but now it’s at the top level, so it takes fewer taps to get to.
See some other changes to iOS settings at
17. Musical Alarms
I started using my iPhone as an alarm clock many years ago when the power in my house went out and my clock radio didn’t wake me up in time for work. But I’ve always been stuck with the built-in alarm sounds. Now you can use a song in your iTunes library as the alarm. Don’t pick anything too pleasant, though, or you’ll just lie in bed listening to the music instead of getting up for work. I’ll be waking up tomorrow to the sound of Natacha Atlas’s “Omri Coulu Leek” from the Cheb i Sabbah benefit album. How about you?
Create an alarm (or edit an existing one) as you usually would from the Clock app. Click on “Sound”. Scroll to the top of the list of sounds and choose “Pick a song” to make a selection from your iTunes library.
18. Pull to Refresh
Apple finally caught up with the 3rd party app developers on this one. No more “reload” button. Just pull down on a screen of email messages to refresh the list.
19. Password-free Updates
You no longer need to type your password to download an update for an app you already have on your phone!
That’s all for now
There are many more features (over 200, I’m told) I haven’t touched on, so if I left our your favorite, let us know in the comments below.