Six small improvements in iOS 6

Continuous improvement is a big part of why I continue to buy and advocate Apple products. So after upgrading to iOS 6 on my iPhone 4S, I was curious to see what small things had been tweaked and changed across the OS.

More aggressive auto-dim

One of the first things I noticed after the upgrade was that the lock screen was noticeably dimmer when I first pressed a button to wake the phone up. I’m usually using my phone outdoors, so I typically have my phone configured with maximum brightness. After the upgrade, however, the lock screen definitely wasn’t at maximum brightness.

It appears that iOS 6 is more aggressive with the iPhone auto-dim setting, particularly when waking from sleep. For me, this is a small but noticeable improvement, because the screen is no longer so extremely bright when I wake my phone at nighttime to check the time.

This should also make for a slight improvement in battery life. If your phone is in your bag or pocket and jostling makes it wake up from time to time, the dimmer lock screen should result in less wasted battery.

Improved battery life

My iPhone also seems to be getting much better battery life now that it is running iOS 6. I used to finish a day of work with intermittent use of my phone at around 20-30% battery remaining. After upgrading to iOS 6, I’m seeing it more often at 50-60% at the end of the day.

This is great news for people like me, who occasionally forget to charge their phone overnight, and are left struggling through a second day trying to minimise phone use so the device doesn’t die.

New emoji

For what initially seemed just a gimmick to me – the introduction of emoji in iOS 5 – these little characters have started popping up everywhere. In text messages to my friends and family. In emails. Even in nicknames on the intranet at my work.

With iOS 6, Apple has added even more emoji to the system, including many new faces, foods, and other objects. Adding a bit of colour to your text messages just became even more fun.

Songs for alarms

I was starting to get tired of waking up to the same duck quacking, guitar strumming and blues piano chords. So it was really past time for Apple to support using songs from your music library as an alarm tone – a feature that other phones have had for years.

My advice? Just make sure you and your partner choose different songs for each day so you don’t feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when “I Got You Babe” starts playing at 6:00 every morning.

Spelling correction for keyboard shortcuts

One of the nicest and least publicised features of iOS 5 was the addition of text expansions, known as “keyboard shortcuts” in Apple parlance. Found in Settings > General > Keyboard, you can configure as many shortcuts as you want. I have just one, a tweak to the one which is shipped by default: “omw” converts to “On my way” (without an exclamation mark).

In iOS 6, these shortcuts are now registered with the automatic spelling correction. So if I type “onw” by mistake, in my rush to wherever I’m going, iOS now corrects it and expands it to “On my way” correctly. Such a small change, but one which makes a big difference to me.

Panorama photos

While the last item on my list isn’t a small feature, it’s something I’ve found incredibly useful in the past week: panorama photos. There are plenty of sites that go into detail about how they work and provide stunning examples, but I’m just pleased to be able to capture a great photo of a vista while bushwalking or my surroundings in the city.

Expect to see panorama photos popping up everywhere now that Apple has put this tool into the hands of every amateur iPhone photographer.


Overall, I’m really happy with the upgrade to iOS 6. The controversial Maps update has not proved a problem to me in my usage so far, and all the little things above make using my phone a better experience.

Also: Three things about iOS 6

Portrait of Matt Ryall

About Matt

I’m a technology nerd, husband and father of four, living in beautiful Sydney, Australia.

My passion is building software products that make the world a better place. For the last 15 years, I’ve led product teams at Atlassian to create collaboration tools.

I'm also a startup advisor and investor, with an interest in advancing the Australian space industry. You can read more about my work on my LinkedIn profile.

To contact me, please send an email or reply on Twitter.