iOS 6: Our complete coverage

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How to install iOS 6

iOS 6 arrives today, and eager users everywhere are getting ready to upgrade their devices. If you’re concerned about the upgrade process, or simply want to know all your setup options before making the big switch, let us help you upgrade your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to iOS 6 with this step-by-step guide.

What devices will run iOS 6?

Before we get into the upgrade process itself, you’ll want to make sure you actually have a compatible device. Since iOS 6 packs a few major new features that require heavy processing power, Apple has limited the operating system to the following models:

  • iPhone Models: iPhone 3GS and later
  • iPad Models: second generation and later
  • iPod touch Models: fourth generation and later

If you have an earlier model of any of these products, you’ll have to stick with your current version of iOS.

Missing iOS 6 Features

Certain older devices that can run iOS 6 may not be able to use all of the features available in the new OS on a new iPhone or iPad.

  • Flyover and turn-by-turn navigation features of the new Maps app are available on only the iPhone 4S or later, fifth-generation iPod touch, and the iPad 2 or later
  • FaceTime over cellular networks and Siri are available on only the iPhone 4S or later and the third-generation or later iPad
  • Siri is available for the iPhone 4S or later, fifth-generation iPod touch, and the third-generation iPad
  • Panoramic mode only works on the iPhone 4S or later and the fifth-generation iPod touch
  • Safari’s offline Reading List feature is available on only the iPhone 4 or later and the iPad 2 or later

Prepare to install

Once you’ve double-checked that your device is capable of running iOS 6, here’s what you need to have available for the upgrade:

  • Your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad;
  • If you’re installing wirelessly, a valid Wi-Fi connection;
  • If you’re installing via iTunes, your computer and the latest version of iTunes (which you can download from Apple’s website).

We also suggest that you make a backup of your device before proceeding: If you’re doing a straight update, a backup prevents you from losing any data in case something goes wonky down the line; if you’re doing a full restore of your device before you install iOS 6, you’ll need a recent backup to recover your information.

Before updating, you can force a backup of your device in iTunes.

To make a backup using your computer, connect your device to your computer using a USB–to–dock-connector cable, open iTunes, select your device on the left, and then press the Sync button to the right. This should automatically update your iTunes backup. If your device is already plugged into your computer, you can just Control-click (or right-click) the device in the iTunes source list on the left and choose Back Up from the subsequent pop-up menu.

You can force an iCloud backup in the Storage & Backup screen of iCloud settings on your device.

If your device is configured to back up to iCloud (in the iCloud screen of the Settings app), you can force a backup by going to the iCloud screen, tapping Storage & Backup (near the bottom of the screen), and then tapping Back Up Now (again, near the bottom of the screen).

Upgrade to iOS 6

There are two ways to update your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch to iOS 6: over the air (meaning over a local Wi-Fi network) or from your computer. Over-the-air updates are easier—assuming you have a reliable Wi-Fi network—but tethered updates are faster.

Install an update over the air: If you’ve used an iOS device before, you’re probably fairly familiar with the process of downloading app updates from the App Store app: When a little red badge appears in the upper right corner of the App Store icon, you open the App Store, navigate to the Updates tab, and download your app updates all at once or one by one. The update process for iOS 6 is similar, although instead of going to the App Store, you use the Settings app.

Go to Settings -> General -> Software Update to check for the iOS 6 update.

As with the App Store, iOS devices running iOS 5 or later periodically check for new iOS updates. When one is available, a red badge appears on the Settings app; to download the update, open Settings and navigate to General -> Software Update. There, you see some brief information about the update and a button to install it. (If you know an update is available, but your device isn’t yet showing it, you can force iOS to check for an update by navigating to the Software Update screen.)

You don’t want your device to shut down before installation is complete, so make sure that it has 50 percent or more of its battery charge remaining, or is connected to a power source, before you start to install an update over the air.

These OS updates are called delta updates, because they contain only the parts of the operating system that have changed between the new version and the one your device is currently running. This means delta updates are much smaller than full updates, so you can download them just about anywhere you have a decent Wi-Fi connection—you don’t have to worry about having to wait an hour while a 500MB file downloads.

Your device proceeds to download the update, then restarts and installs it before greeting you with a customary Welcome screen.

The setup screen asks you a few questions pertaining to Location Services, Siri, and more. (Jump to “Set Up Your iOS Device” to continue.)

Install your update from your computer: If you’re not that adventurous, you may prefer to install software updates the old-fashioned way. No problem: Just connect your device to your computer using the standard USB–to–dock-connector cable, and then check for an iOS update using iTunes.

When installing using iTunes on your computer, clicking Check For Update forces iTunes to see if a new version of iOS is available.

In theory, the first time you open iTunes with an iOS 6–compatible device connected to your computer, iTunes will prompt you to download iOS 6. In practice, this may not happen automatically—for example, your computer may not have been notified of the update’s availability, because Apple rolls out updates gradually. You can force iTunes to check for an update: Just click the Check For Update button in the Summary screen for your device. Assuming that everything is working properly, iTunes should begin downloading iOS 6 from Apple’s server.

You can do other tasks while waiting for the download to finish; once it does, your device restarts and begins installing the software. When the update is complete, you’ll see a message that your device has been updated and is restarting. The process should preserve all your data and apps—you’ll simply have a shiny new version of iOS once your device restarts. (Jump to “Set Up Your iOS Device” to continue.)

Restore vs update

If you’d like to restore your device—that is, do a fresh install of iOS 6 and then, optionally, restore your apps, settings, and other data—you can do so from iTunes. Click the Restore button instead of Check For Update in the Summary screen for your device. This makes iTunes download iOS 6, as described above, but instead of performing an in-place update, iTunes erases your entire device and installs the new OS with factory-default settings. At the end of the process, you can set it up as a new device, restore it from an iTunes backup, or restore it from an iCloud backup.

Restore your device using your computer: If you don’t have much time to restore your device, it’s best to do it directly in iTunes, as it’s much faster to restore via USB than it is over the air via iCloud. So, if you keep your iOS device connected to iTunes after restoring, you’ll see a screen asking if you want to set it up as a new device or restore it from a local backup. (You can’t restore from an iCloud backup within iTunes, unfortunately.)

After a restore installation of iOS 6, you can use iTunes to restore your data from a local backup.

If you want to restore from a backup, choose Restore From The Backup Of, and then use the pop-up menu to choose the desired backup. Click Continue, and iTunes restores that data and syncs with your device. If you truly want to start from scratch, instead choose Set Up As A New typeofdevice. You’ll be asked to give your device a name and then choose whether to automatically sync songs and videos, photos, and/or apps to your device. Make your selections and click Done, and then iTunes performs its first sync. Once it’s complete, the setup process continues—on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch—just as if you’d performed an update without restoring. (See “Set Up Your iOS Device” later in this chapter to continue the setup process.)

Restore using your device: If you choose to restore wirelessly, your device will take a little longer to restore your apps and data from the server, but you don’t have to sit tethered to a desk for the entire process.

Disconnect your device from iTunes after restoring, and you’ll perform the rest of the setup procedure on the device itself. It greets you with a welcome screen displaying the message “Slide to set up” in a variety of different languages. (If you need quick access to your device’s IMEI or ICCID number without setting up the phone—useful for developers and business customers—tap the information button located directly above the slider.)

Slide the switch to the right, and the device asks you to pick your language and country, as well as choose whether to enable Location Services. This allows Apple apps (and third-party apps) to access your location via Wi-Fi networks and your GPS (Global Positioning System) location. (You can configure this in more detail from the Settings app at any point.)

Your device checks for any Wi-Fi networks in the area that it can connect to; choose a Wi-Fi network, or set up your device using 3G (if it has a 3G card) by tapping the Next button. From here, you have three choices: You can set it up as a new device, restore it from an iCloud backup, or restore it from an iTunes backup.

If you want to start from scratch after upgrading to iOS 6—maybe you’re giving this device to a family member, or you’ve received it as a gift—you need to set up your device from scratch. To do so, the first thing you need to decide is whether to supply an Apple ID (or create one, if you don’t have one). You use your Apple ID to buy music, apps, and books from the iBookstore, and you can associate it with iCloud if you want to.

If you have an iTunes backup and disconnected your device from your computer after you restored it, select this option and reconnect to your computer. iTunes then takes you through steps similar to those outlined in “Restore your device using your computer” up above.

If you have an iCloud account and you’ve previously backed up your device to iCloud, Restore from iCloud lets you restore that data directly to your device without having to connect to a computer. Choose Restore From iCloud Backup, tap Next, and enter your iCloud Apple ID and password. Agree to the iCloud terms and conditions by tapping Agree (twice), and your device displays all compatible iCloud-hosted backups. Be sure to pick the correct backup here, as the list may include backups for other devices you own.

Choose the desired backup and tap Restore, and then wait—the process can take anywhere from a few minutes to many hours, depending on how many apps you’d installed and how much data you had stored in those apps. (Restoring from an iTunes backup is much faster than restoring from iCloud, which is why many people back up to iTunes periodically even if they normally back up to iCloud.)

When the restore is finished, your device restarts, and you see a screen explaining that you have a few more steps to follow—but it’s generally only one: Tap Continue and reenter your Apple ID password; you see a message that your iCloud settings are being updated, and then a screen with a Start Using device button. After that, your purchased apps and media restore over the Wi-Fi connection.

Set up your iOS device

It’s astoundingly simple to set up your device on iOS 6: You just answer a few questions.

You’ll see a screen like this once the update process is complete and your device has restarted.

Depending on whether you updated your device to iOS 6 from iOS 5 or restored it from scratch, there are a few screens to page through. You may be asked if you want to enable Location Services: This allows apps (from both Apple and third-party developers) to access your location via Wi-Fi networks, cellular-data towers, and your GPS (Global Positioning System) location. (Note that even if you enable this option, you’ll be able to control access to your location for each of your apps.)

Following that, your device may check for any Wi-Fi networks in the area that your device can connect to; if there aren’t any, or if you’re on an iPhone or a 3G-enabled iPad and would rather use your cellular service, just tap the Next button. You’ll then be asked to associate an Apple ID.

As part of the setup process, you’ll be asked to enter your Apple ID for iCloud, iMessage, and FaceTime.

Associate an Apple ID: If you’ve ever purchased something from the iTunes Store, you’ve signed up for an Apple ID—it’s usually your primary email address. Your login information for Apple’s MobileMe or iCloud service should also work for signing in.

If you already have an Apple ID, tap the Sign In With An Apple ID button and enter your username (usually your email address) and password. Apple then spends a few moments linking your device to your Apple ID. If you don’t have an Apple ID, it’s easy enough to create one by tapping the Create A Free Apple ID button. You then enter your birthday, name, and email address (or you can create a new iCloud email address), as well as a password, a security question (in case you forget your password), and whether you’d like to receive email updates from Apple.

And if you’d rather not set up an Apple ID, you can tap the Skip This Step button in the lower right corner. You can always add or create an ID from the Settings app later, but note that you won’t be able to buy anything on the iTunes Store or set up iCloud until you do.

Set up iCloud: If you’ve chosen to set up or register an Apple ID, you can also enable iCloud on your device. iCloud is an umbrella term for Apple’s collection of sync services, which allow you to sync your photos, apps, contacts, calendars, and mail across multiple devices.

Choose to set up iCloud, and you’ll first be asked whether you’d like to enable iCloud backups for your device. If you do so, you can have your device back up all essential settings to your iCloud account; if you ever need to restore, you can do so over Wi-Fi without needing a computer. (Of course, if you’d rather back up to your computer, you can always elect to have iTunes back up your device.)

Once all the setup steps finish, you see this screen.

Additionally, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to opt in to iCloud’s Find My iPhone service. This enables location monitoring for your device, allowing you to find it using your Apple ID and the Find My iPhone app should it go missing.

If you have a device that can use Siri, Apple’s new personal voice assistant, you’ll also be asked if you want to use it. You can toggle Siri on or off from this initial setup screen, but you can always change your preferences from the Settings app at a later date.

Once you finish the setup process, you see a screen asking if your device can automatically send diagnostic and usage information to Apple to “help Apple improve its products and services.” Choose Automatically Send or Don’t Send, and then tap Next, and you see the aforementioned Start Using device screen. Congratulations! You’re ready to begin using iOS 6.

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