the latest generation of Apple's mobile software for iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, has finally been unveiled - and from what we've seen so far, it's going to delight an awful lot of iOS users.
From badly-kept secrets to things that have been on wishlists for what seems like forever, here are the highlights.
iOS 6 introduces Passbook:
Passbook is Apple's new e-tickets app, enabling you to carry electronic tickets for anything from sports events to plane travel, or to have a digital loyalty card. The tickets update too, so for example your airline ticket would send you a notification once your departure gate was announced or changed. Hopefully enough firms will support this one to make it work for all our everyday bits and bobs.
iOS 6 has an improved phone app:
The revised phone app offers smart reminders, so for example you can reject a call with a message saying you're busy, on your way, lost in a forest... You can also be reminded to call someone back when you leave your current location. The new Do Not Disturb mode is particularly nifty: when new messages arrive, they do so silently and without the screen lighting up. If you wish, you can also tell your iPhone not to silence calls from a list of favourite callers, or to automatically silent repeat calls from the same person.
iOS 6 has Facetime over 3G:
To tell the truth, we're amazed it took so long. If this takes off, the mobile operators will be very sad. Unless we use it abroad, in which case they'll be dancing on great big piles of our money.
iOS 6 has a brand new Safari app:
There are lots of useful improvements here: Instapaper-style offline reading, iCloud tab syncing and photo sharing website integration to make uploading less hassle. Less wonderfully, Smart App Banners enable websites to tell you about their sodding iOS apps more easily, which is just brilliant. Who among us hasn't thought, "man! I wish more websites told me about their iOS app on each visit!"?
iOS 6 Mail has VIPs and pull to refresh:
Pull to refresh is here! Yay! You can also create a list of VIPs whose messages will appear on your device's lock screen and in a dedicated, separate mailbox. Sharing photos or videos from within Mail is finally here too, as are per-account signatures.
iOS 6 photo sharing is more selective:
Instead of sharing everything with everyone, you can choose which photos should be shared with which people. We're not sure why you'd use this rather than, say, put a friends-only album on Facebook or Flickr. Anyone?
iOS 6 makes Siri more serious, and puts it in cars:
Siri is able to understand a wider range of questions than before - the demo showed it understanding questions about sports scores, statistics and trivia, booking restaurants and finding out what's worth seeing at the cinema - but as yet it's unclear which, if any, of these features will make it to the UK. Local search is being rolled out worldwide, however, and there's support for more languages.
Siri is also going mobile: the new Eyes Free feature will put a Siri button on the steering wheel of Jaguars, Land Robers, BMWs, Mercs, Toyotas, Chryslers, Hondas, Audis and GM cars. The manufacturers have promised to support the feature in the next 12 months.
iOS 6 brings Siri to the iPad:
...but only the new iPad.
iOS 6 has Facebook integration:
Apple promises "the best Facebook integration ever in a mobile device", and to our eyes it looks pretty much the same as iOS 5's Twitter integration: you can post photos, locations, URLs and so on to annoy your friends. The API is public, so non-Apple apps can share to Facebook too, and you'll be able to see your Facebook friends' App Store recommendations.
iOS 6 has guided access for children:
The new Guided Access feature enables you to disable certain parts of the screen so that children can't accidentally hit the wrong buttons. We're going to use it on the in-app purchase icons in every kid-targeted iOS game. Hahah!
iOS 6 has a new Maps app:
New York, London, Paris, Munich, everybody's talking about - iOS 6 maps! Well, maybe not, but Apple's much-rumoured mapping system finally breaks cover. It's pretty, will have traffic information, doubles as a sat-nav system with turn-by-turn navigation, can be controlled via Siri and will probably be rubbish outside major metropolitan areas in the UK. Still, the new Flyover 3D views of major cities are lovely.
iOS 6 should be adopted very quickly:
Unlike other mobile operating systems, iOS isn't dependent on mobile operators approving updates: as a result 80% of Apple's 365 million iOS customers are using the latest iOS, compared to 7% of Android users. Once iOS ships, expect a similarly speedy take-up.
iOS 6 doesn't work on everything:
iOS 6 supports iPhones from the 3GS onwards, the fourth generation iPod touch and the second and third generation iPad. Check our story for more on iOS 6 compatibility.
The iOS 6 release date is Autumn:
iOS 6 was released as a beta today, but the final version will ship in "this Fall".