Hands on with iOS 6: Stores

iOS 6 brings some changes to its three on-board stores: the iOS App Store, the iTunes Store and iBookstore. These changes dont change functionality as much as they improve navigation and usability. The result is a more pleasant shopping experience in all three.

App Store

The App Store changes are subtle but clean. When you first launch the App Store, it brings you to the main landing pagethe Features pagewhere 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.

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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, youll go to a page that shows off that collection. If its a stand-alone app, youll 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 apps 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 youd like to see more, select See All once you reach the bottom of the list. Scrolling is seamless and smooth. Tap an apps 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 doesnt appeal to you, just tap Not Interested, and you shouldnt see it again.

The final two icons, Purchased and Updates, havent 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.

iBookstore

After youve 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 moreif its 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 its a collection, iBooks takes you to a page that shows the titles it includes.

Also on the Books page are listings of whats 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, theres 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 youd like to see more than whats 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 youve purchased through the iBookstore. Titles stored both on your device and in iCloud appear here. If youd like to open a book thats stored in iCloud, select the iCloud icon to begin the download.

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