iOS 6 brings some changes to its three on-board stores: the iOS App Store, the iTunes Store and iBookstore. These changes don’t change functionality as much as they improve navigation and usability. The result is a more pleasant shopping experience in all three.
The App Store changes are subtle but clean. When you first launch the App Store, it brings you to the main landing page—the Features page—where you see tabs along the top that help you find featured apps by category, as well as a small search bar in the upper right corner. The bottom of the App Store sports five tiles: Featured, Charts, Genius, Purchased, and Updates. These always-visible tiles are your main tools for navigating the App Store.
Under the All Categories tab of the Featured page (accessed via the Featured button at the bottom of the screen), you'll find a rotating carousel of popular apps and app collections, indicated by large tiles. These items automatically rotate smoothly to the right; tap one to learn more about it. If the item is a round-up of related apps, you’ll go to a page that shows off that collection. If it’s a stand-alone app, you’ll get a pop-up page with full details.
That page displays Details, Ratings And Reviews, and Related options. This is a change from iOS 5: tapping an app in that OS led to a separate full-screen page with the app’s information, rather than a pop-up. A Share button in the top right corner (the familiar arrow-in-a-box) lets you share a link to that app via Mail, Message, Twitter, Facebook, or Copy Link.
Underneath the carousel you'll see two other lists: a selection of New And Noteworthy apps, and a second collection that changes daily. You might see a Summer Snapshot selection of camera apps or a collection of puzzle games. Scroll from right to left to view the full list. In addition to the All Categories tab, you'll also see Books, Business, Catalogs, and More. Tap any of those to see a short list of the hot apps in that particular category.
Next up in the bottom of the main App Store window is Charts, which shows off the top-selling apps (those with the most downloads). The iPad version of iOS 6 displays three charts: Paid, Free, and Top Grossing. You can scroll through these independently to see the top 96 apps in each chart; if you’d like to see more, select See All once you reach the bottom of the list. Scrolling is seamless and smooth. Tap an app’s name or icon to learn more about it; tap the price bar to purchase and install it.
The Genius feature is still there; it's an optional feature that you have to turn on or off manually, but it can be a good way to discover new apps based on your interests. If something comes up on your list that doesn’t appeal to you, just tap Not Interested, and you shouldn’t see it again.
The final two icons, Purchased and Updates, haven’t changed since iOS 5. Purchased shows a list of all the apps purchased under your Apple ID, and Updates shows which applications have updates available to install.
After you’ve gotten acquainted with the App Store, the iBookstore should seem very familiar. It features the same landing-page layout, with a top carousel, lists of top new releases, and five navigation buttons along the bottom of the screen. You can find the iBookstore by launching iBooks and tapping Store in the upper left corner.
The first navigation button leads to your Books landing page. A rotating carousel at the top features popular titles and collections of books for you to check out. Tap any of the large tiles to find out more—if it’s a single book, iBooks directs you to a pop-up page with more information about that book, including Details, Ratings And Reviews, and Related options. If it’s a collection, iBooks takes you to a page that shows the titles it includes.
Also on the Books page are listings of what’s new in fiction and in nonfiction. Each book appears with an icon showing the cover, and underneath that the title and genre. Scroll to the right to see the whole list; tap any book to learn more about it. As with the App Store, book information appears in a pop-up window instead of in its own page; but, unlike in the App Store, when you tap an item, that expands the whole list and makes all of the book icons larger. Tap anywhere outside the info box to get back to the main Books page.
If you follow the New York Times best-seller lists, there’s a navigation button just for you. The NYTimes button lists the current top 30 best-selling fiction and nonfiction titles. Both lists can scroll independently, and if you’d like to see more than what’s listed in the top 30, select See All at the bottom of the list. To learn more about a book, tap its cover; to buy the book, tap the price bar. As in iOS 5, you can download a sample of a book before you purchase it by tapping Sample in the info box.
Next up is the Charts section, which shows the Top Paid and Top Free books in the iBookstore. Just like the NYTimes charts, these lists scroll independently, and you can see the top 96 titles in each category. To see more, tap See All at the bottom of the chart.
Finally, the Purchased icon shows a list of items you’ve purchased through the iBookstore. Titles stored both on your device and in iCloud appear here. If you’d like to open a book that’s stored in iCloud, select the iCloud icon to begin the download.
Navigating the iTunes Store is now even easier than before. It follows the same layout as the App Store and the iBookstore, and offers a few different ways to search for new tunes and other media. To get to the iTunes Store, launch the Music app and tap the Store button in the bottom left corner. (You can also open the iTunes app from your home screen.) You see a familiar array of buttons along the bottom for media types and extra features, as well as a search bar along the top.
The media buttons—Music, Movies, TV Shows, and Audiobooks—are the first four icons at the bottom of the screen. Select the medium you’d like to browse; each type has a carousel of popular titles to check out. The lists underneath the carousel differ depending on what you’re searching for. Music lists New Albums, EPs, and Pre-Orders as one list, and New Singles as a second list.
Movies lists New And Noteworthy titles, as well as a daily-changing collection of movies. For example, one recent roundup featured “Working for a Living: HD Movies Under $10.”
TV Shows also features a list of available New And Noteworthy full seasons, followed by a list of featured Latest TV Episodes.
All of these lists scroll independently from left to right. Tap any album cover, TV show icon, or movie box to see more. A pop-up box shows Ratings And Reviews, Related, and general information. You can see an album’s full track list in this info box, with the option to purchase individual tracks. You can even preview any song and then continue to browse. A movie’s info box reveals a theatrical trailer, a plot summary, and a list of cast and crew. And TV show boxes display summaries of each episode in a series, with options to purchase a whole season or individual episodes.
Each media button has its own list of genres across the top of the screen, next to the Search Store field. All Genres brings you back to the main carousel page, and the individual genres show a selection of new and popular shows, movies, or music to explore.
The remaining buttons along the bottom provide more ways to search for new content, starting with Charts. Select the Charts button, and then choose Music, Movies, or TV at the top of the screen. Music lists charts for top-selling songs, albums, and videos, with each list scrolling independently and displaying the top 96 items in each chart. The Movies chart displays one collective chart of the top 96 movies across all genres. The TV option offers two charts, one for top TV episodes and another for top TV seasons, both listing the top 96 results.
If you like using Genius recommendations in iTunes on your Mac, you can get Genius tips on your iOS device, too. Genius suggests music, movies, and TV shows based on items you’ve previously purchased through the iTunes Store. Finally, the Purchased tab displays all of your purchased music items.