Diving into iOS 6: The subtle design changes

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Apple’s announced iOS 6 update is set to bring a lot of changes to its mobile platform, and after using the iOS 6 beta for a day, I’ve found plenty of new features Apple didn’t mention in the keynote on Monday, mostly small design changes, and even a subtle dig at Google.

Changes to iOS’s default look were something I’d hoped for, and the changes Apple made actually exceeded my expectations. Read on to see why.

Redesigned apps

Music

The music app has been completely redesigned in iOS 6, echoing the changes made to the iPad music app in iOS 5. The main browsing interface has a white theme, but the now playing interface is still black. The play/pause and skip buttons have been redesigned as well. Another change is the sliders for volume and progress, which use white and black instead of silver and blue. Also, the chrome effect for slider knobs will actually rotate as you tilt the device, which is a nice detail.

Phone

The keypad in the phone app has been changed to better match iOS’s new default theme. It uses a white color instead of the dark blue from iOS 5. The buttons have also been redesigned with lighter colors and a more three-dimensional look.

Reminders

You can now set priority for reminders and add notes to them. Notes will apear below the reminder in a smaller font. Reminders can also be reordered manually by hitting the Edit button. Last, you now have to swipe on the title of a reminder list to switch to another one instead of just anywhere on the list, and the dots to indicate which list you’re on are gone.

Game Center

Game Center can now plug into Facebook and recommend people from your friends list who also have Game Center. You can also now challenge players to beat your scores, and there’s a new challenges tab where you can see them.

Weather and Camera

The weather app has a new design with a flatter look and a subtle gradient running through it. The Camera app has a black toolbar at the bottom instead of the grey one from iOS 5.

Other changes

  • If you watched the keynote, you may have noticed that the status bar was blue in a lot of the apps Apple showed. This isn’t the new color for the status bar, however. Instead, the status bar changes color depending on the color of an app’s toolbar. Rdio’s toolbar is bright blue, so the status bar changes to reflect that. Developers can override this behavior, it seems, as Safari uses a black status bar (which is another change).
  • The share dialogue has been redesigned, and works much the same as the ones already in Garageband and iPhoto for iOS. Instead of a list, a grid of icons is shown, similar to the home screen. Also, sharing to messages, Facebook and Twitter have been added.
  • The App Store now has Genius, but it isn’t working in the current beta so I can’t tell you much about how it works. Genius, as you’ll recall, is Apple’s intelligent recommendation service built into iTunes and the music app. Bringing it to the App Store makes sense as an alternative to browsing.
  • iOS will stop correcting words not in the standard dictionary if you cancel the correction often enough. The word will instead be added to your personal dictionary and synced over iCloud.
  • Apps downloaded from the App Store will now display a “new” badge until you launch them the first time.
  • When you slide on a notification in the lock screen, the app zooms into view instead of just appearing.
  • Notification Center can now show you Amber Alerts and other emergency alerts for your area.
  • Spotlight will now tell you which folder an app is in when you search for it, which makes it easier to find.
  • The search bar in Safari simply says “Search” instead of “Google,” yet another dig at the company.

Unfortunately, only registered developers have access to the iOS 6 beta, so most of our readers won’t be able to run it and take a look at the pending changes for themselves. We’ve got you covered, though, and we will continue to write about the impending changes as Apple adds them until the new software is released this fall.

Which changes are you most excited for in iOS 6? Tell us in the comments. 

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