The publicity blitzkrieg that Apple unleashed for iPhone 5 overshadowed another product that affects many more users -- a new operating system.
Apple introduced iOS 6 along with the new phone last month. And the hardware understandably captured most of the hubbub and fan chatter, at least on the day of the phone's announcement.
Casual fans who weren't paying close attention might have missed the fact that the new software also would be available to older phones even before the launch sale date of iPhone 5.
The new operating system has more than 200 new features, ranging from apps that may hint at Apple's future ambitions (like mobile payment enabler Passbook) to incremental improvements that ease routine annoyances (a one-touch button to copy a Web page address).
Much has been written about several prominent new features -- Apple Maps, enhancements to the voice-recognition tool Siri, panorama shots for the camera, and the cellular connection capability for video-chat app FaceTime.
But here are some obscure changes that could be overlooked by those who don't take the time to explore the new software.
- Larger Safari screen - Even if you don't buy the larger-screen iPhone 5, the browsing space on the Safari browser is now a tad bigger. Turn the phone horizontally to the landscape mode, and tap on the far-right button in the bottom menu bar. The toolbar and the URL bar then disappear.
- Browsing history - You can view your browsing history by keeping your finger pressed for a second on the back-button in Safari.
- Offline reading - The share button on Safari -- the middle button on the bottom menu bar -- offers several options for a Web page, including mail, send text, post to Facebook, etc. But you can also click "Add to Reading List" and send it to a folder for reading the page when you have no Internet connection -- an ideal tool for iPod Touch users or those who monitor monthly data limits.
- Copying URL - A handy tool for those who love to text or e-mail Web pages, the share button on Safari now has the "Copy" option for copying a URL.
- Easy updates - Many neglect to update apps because they forget their Apple ID password. IOS 6 lets you update without retyping the password. Since you've presumably entered the password at purchase, Apple assumes you are who you say you are.
- Answer calls with text - You can still answer a call during an important meeting. When a call comes in, a phone icon appears in the lower right-hand side of the locked screen. Tapping on it will reveal several options, including "Reply with Message" (for pre-typed text messages) and "Remind Me Later."
- Tweet from main screen - Twitter fans can post messages on the main screen without opening the app. Open the Notification Center by dragging your thumb from the top of the main home screen and you'll see "Tap to Tweet." You must enable the feature in Settings by drilling down on Notifications and selecting "Share Widgets."
- Important e-mail - The new VIP folder in the e-mail app filters messages you want to read immediately. Designate your wife or boss' e-mail address in the VIP list and their messages will land on the folder, saving you from having to sort through hundreds of others cluttering your inbox. You can also choose to have VIP messages show up in the Notification Center.
- Easier photo insertion - In previous iOS versions, it was easier to e-mail photos by starting in the Photos app. But now, by double-clicking on any blank part of an e-mail-compose page, you can call up an option to attach a photo or video. If you don't see the option right away, click on the right arrow.
- Private photo sharing - Wanna share photos with family members but hate Facebook? By selecting a photo and tapping the share button, you can choose to file it in a "Photo Stream" for private viewing by the individuals you designate via e-mail. The "streams" you create will be there for future use, allowing you to send more photos to the same group of individuals without having to retype e-mail addresses.
- iTunes samples - Song samples in iTunes continue to play even though you hop around in other parts of the music store, or leave it.
By Roger Yu, USA TODAY