Apple is ready to roll out the latest version of its iOS operating system that runs on iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch, including new features such as Facebook integration, Apple Maps and improvements to Siri.
Announced at Apple's WWDC event in June, iOS 6 will become available to download on selected Apple mobile devices via the iTunes App Store today.
Packed with more than 200 new features, iOS 6 is Apple's answer to the growing strength of Google Android, the rival mobile operating system that runs on around 68% of the world's smartphones, including the popular Samsung Galaxy S3.
It is also in response to Microsoft's new Windows 8 touch-enabled operating system and the Windows Phone 8 software, which launches next month and has already been announced for a number of premium handsets, such as the Nokia Lumia 920.
Headlining the iOS 6 upgrade is Facebook integration, a long-desired feature among Apple device users following last year's integration of Twitter.
Users of iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch are now able to sign in once and post from the Notification Centre and all Facebook-enabled apps, including Photos and Safari.
Facebook is also integrated with Siri, enabling you to post status updates with your voice, while the App Store and iTunes now support direct 'likes' of content, as well display what your friends have recommended.
The information of your Facebook friends is kept current across all your iOS devices, and is automatically updated when anything changes or new alerts are posted.
But while Facebook is more closely integrated into the new iOS, other services have been dropped, namely products from Apple's rival Google.
The sixth generation of Apple's mobile software drops YouTube as a native application, meaning it does not come pre-loaded on newer iDevices. Google has responded by rolling out a new iPhone app for YouTube, and is also working on one for iPad.
Another Google service to get the chop is Google Maps, which is replaced in iOS 6 by Apple's own Maps system as the firm bids to take more control over activity on its devices, and grab a slice of the lucrative market for local advertising.
Apple Maps features vector-based maps using graphics and text, enabling users to pan, tilt and zoom in on the locations. Turn-by-turn navigation is available, including voice support from Siri, and there are 3D 'Flyovers' of major locations, offering photo-realistic views of landmarks such as Big Ben.
Alongside real-time traffic updates and "time-saving" route suggestions, the system offers local search options for more than 100m businesses. including Yelp ratings, reviews, deals and photos.
Siri, the voice assistant that launched on the iPhone 4S last year, is to be available on the new iPad, along with the recently announced iPhone 5 and fifth generation of the iPod Touch. iOS 6 adds Siri language support for French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese.
This means that the service is optimised for use in 15 countries, enabling people to get more out of the assistant than just asking what the weather is like, or dictating text messages.
Now, Siri can offer the latest sports scores, make restaurant suggestions and reservations, and list the latest available movies, among other tasks. Alongside Facebook updates, Siri can be used to post tweets on Twitter or launch an app. A new hands-free functionality means that you can interact with your iPhone using only your voice.
With an estimated 125m users, the iCloud remote storage service expands in iOS 6 to a new Shared Photo Stream system that allows you to share certain photos instantly with friends across other iOS devices, along with Aperture, Mac and Apple TV. Friends are able to 'like' the photos in a shared album just as they would in Facebook.
Apple opted against including Near Field Communications (NFC) hardware in the iPhone 5, but it has included the Passbook app in iOS 6.
This 'digital wallet' allows you to put all your digital passes in one place, such as airline boarding passes, store cards or concert tickets. These can then be redeemed electronically with an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Passbook automatically displays the passes on the iDevice screen based on the specific time and location, meaning if you walk into your favourite coffee shop the device will display any loyalty card you have stored so you can buy a drink or check your credit balance.
The system will also alert you if there are any last minute changes to transport arrangements.
For parents, guardians or teachers, Guided Access in iOS 6 involves Apple mobile devices being locked into a single app, meaning the user at that time doesn't get distracted by other parts of the device.
Other new features in iOS 6 include improvements to the Safari mobile browser, such as iCloud tabs for offline bookmarks, along with support for the FaceTime HD video calling service over most cellular networks, in addition to WiFi.
You can now set up a VIP Mailbox to make it easier to quickly view messages from people you designate as 'VIPs', while incoming calls can be declined with a specific message, call-back reminders set and Do Not Disturb messages added.
"iOS 6 continues the rapid pace of innovation that is helping Apple reinvent the phone and create the iPad category, delivering the best mobile experience available on any device," said Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iOS Software, while announcing the update in June.
"We can't wait for hundreds of millions of iOS users to experience the incredible new features in iOS 6 including the new Maps app, expanded Siri support, deep Facebook integration, Shared Photo Streams and the innovative new Passbook app."
iOS 6 can be downloaded for free for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, the new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod touch (fourth generation), although some of its features are not available for all products.
The update will be available over-the-air, meaning you don't have to plug in your iDevice to download and install the software, as long as you are already on iOS 5. You will need iTunes 10.7 to get the update and it is advisable to back up your device before downloading the new software.
However, be aware that you may have to wait to get the update as Apple generally experiences heavy traffic when pushing out software updates due to its massive worldwide user base.
Apple's new iPhone 5, the firm's latest smartphone featuring a 4-inch screen, faster A6 processor, improved camera and new dock connector, will ship with iOS 6 when it officially launches on Friday (September 21).