This review will go over numerous new features of iOS 6.
A New Maps App
iOS 6 comes with a new and redesigned Maps application that Apple built themselves. It doesn’t use Google Maps anymore. Maps now uses Apple’s own mapping technology that is backed by TomTom. It surpasses the old Maps application by supporting features such as turn-by-turn navigation, flyover view, and even a beautiful new map interface.
Turn-by-turn navigation works just the way you would expect it to. Enter an address and iOS takes over from there – routing you to where you need to go from your current location. Your iPhone will speak the directions aloud to you as you move along the intended path, so you will always know what to do even when the road has your attention. Using technology from TomTom, the Maps application will help re-route you when traffic conditions change, this way you’ll never end up late to where you need to be.
What's great about this feature is being able to simply sit back and let the phone do everything for you. Back in the Google Maps days, you had to be constantly looking at the Google Maps image, distinguishing road names for yourself and spending more time looking at the screen instead of the road. It is certainly a much-needed feature for iOS, being requested for so long. Unfortunately it took a while to get here, but it's finally here and it's great!
The iOS 6 Maps application is also smart enough to show you where potentially hazardous road problems may slow you down. Indicators right on the map interface point to accident zones, special alerts, and even construction sites. Since all of these minor details can slow down your road trip, it’s important to have this information while navigating. Don’t worry – iOS 6 has you covered to get to your destination on time.
With Apple’s new flyover view, you will be able to view popular cities in a three-dimensional augmented reality image. In this mode, you can use your fingers to twist, turn, and pan across landscapes in three dimensions. The detail is amazing – you can see almost every little window on a massive skyscraper, or even the shadows casted by buildings in the sunlight. Certainly intended for fun, the flyover feature can also be useful because you can get a better understanding of a large city before you take that trip out into the unknown and get lost.
Siri Becomes Smarter
You remember Siri; she debuted with the iPhone 4S in 2011. She never made it to any of the other iOS devices, but with iOS 6, Siri comes to the new iPad. The iPhone 5 and iPod touch 5G will also support Siri. The iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPod touch 4G, and iPad 2 are still unfortunately left out of the fun.
Siri becomes much smarter, being able to offer answers to questions she has never been able to before. You can also launch applications with Siri, saying something like, "Launch ModMyi" to launch the ModMyi application. Siri can also be used with the integrated Twitter and Facebook support (further down) to send Tweets or post to Facebook for you.
Siri now understands Sports. If you’re a sports fan and you can’t get to the T.V., but you want to know how your favorite team is doing, you can just pick up the phone and ask Siri about the game and she will give you the scores. It doesn’t matter who your favorite team is, Siri will not have a conniption if she disagrees with your choice in teams.
If you’ve ever been in a predicament where you needed to find a good movie to see with your boyfriend or girlfriend, Siri has you covered in this respect too. Just pick up your iPhone and ask Siri what’s playing around you and Siri will intelligently use your location to find out what’s playing near you. The statistics she provides are more than helpful – offering you playing times, as well as rotten tomato scores to help you decide what to see.
Once again you’ve found yourself asking yourself the question of, “What should I get to eat?” Well, Siri can help you here too. iOS 6 brings support for restaurants to Siri. You can do things such as set reservations, check prices, and even look at the restaurant ratings. All of these factors packed into a virtual voice assistant – wow, we must be approaching a new level in the Information Age.
iOS is no longer limited to Twitter, but Twitter is still around – iOS 6 brings Facebook into the picture as well. It works exactly like you would expect it to; Facebook sharing options appear under every sharing option in iOS in the same places where Twitter was introduced to in iOS 5. iOS 6 even comes with a brand new sharing interface that shows the application icons of the sharing apps you are capable of sharing with.
Facebook information is shared among all of your applications, such as Contacts. All of your friends on Facebook can be imported into your Contacts application including their phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and addresses all with the tap of a button. Notification Center gets a new widget that supports both Twitter and Facebook – tap on either one to post to Facebook or Tweet using Twitter:
Facebook is now also integrated into the App Store and iTunes. You can like applications, music, movies, books, or any other kind of media so that your friends on Facebook know what you’re using on your iPhone. Facebook in the App Store and iTunes appears to be Apple’s replacement for Ping, which they appear to have finally pulled the plug on after an unsuccessful launch.
Shared Photo Streams
Apple brought Photo Stream to iOS in iOS 5, but now you can share your Photo Stream with any amount of friends that you would like to in iOS 6. Friends will be notified when you take photos and they are uploaded to the shared Photo Stream and they will be able to view, comment on, and like any of the photos that you share in the Photo Stream. Comments on photos in your shared Photo Stream appear in a feed-like style in a transparent interface layered just above the photo:
All of your shared Photo Stream photographs are visible from the iCloud Web site in any Web browser on any computer. This kind of flexibility means that even Windows users without applications like iPhoto will be able to take advantage of Photo Stream.
Passbook is a new application in iOS 6 that holds all of your digital boarding passes, coupons, and any other redeemable item all in the palm of your hand. Having this information on your iPhone is much more convenient than having a fat wallet or holding pieces of paper that are so easy to lose.
What’s wonderful about the application is that you can tap on any of your passes or coupons to look at them at any time and to reveal the barcode, which someone can just scan with a barcode scanner to redeem whatever kind of pass or coupon you may have in your handy Passcode application. Some people may not use this application as much as others, but for those that are abroad a lot, this will certainly be a useful piece of modern technology.
Passbook is not only useful abroad, but it’s intelligent. You can receive alerts when you come near a location where one of your Passbook entries is redeemable. You can also set time-based alerts that will remind you to use your Passbook entries at a specific time of the day.
FaceTime Over Cellular
No longer are you limited to Wi-Fi networks, you can now use FaceTime over cellular networks. FaceTime is a video calling service among iOS devices and Macs that rivals Skype, Tango, and others. Although Apple has enabled this feature for cellular networks in iOS 6, it is ultimately up the carrier whether or not you get to use it. Sprint and Verizon will be letting all users with iOS 6 use the feature to their hearts content, while AT&T will be limiting the feature to shared family data plans only.
A Re-thought Phone Interface
The Phone application on the iPhone simply needed a re-haul, so that’s what it got. Now instead of the screen simply saying, "slide to answer" when an incoming call comes in, the user can slide up on a camera grabber-like phone tab that opens a prompt of options. The slide to answer bar transforms into an answer and a decline button and the user can select from two other buttons that say, "remind me later" and "reply with message."
When you use the reply with message feature, iOS will automatically send an iMessage or SMS message of your choice to the person that just called you. iOS comes with some built-in messages you can select from, but you can also add custom messages. Tapping the button of the message you want to send to the caller will fire off the message without any more work on your part.
When you tap on the remind me later button, iOS will then ask you when you want to be reminded. iOS can remind you in one hour, when you leave your current location, when you get home, or when you get to work. For the location-based features, iOS 6 will use a feature called geo-fencing, which basically makes an imaginary fence around your location and when you cross the fence, iOS will detect it and push the notification to you.
Do Not Disturb
Tired of getting notifications all through the night that keep waking you up? iOS 6 comes with a new feature called Do Not Disturb. The feature is built into the Settings application and allows you to set a time period to not be disturbed. The feature can also be toggled on and off at random times of the day, so if you’re just not in the mood to deal with people, you can just flip this feature on and you’re all set.
Do Not Disturb also comes with the ability to allow calls from your favorite contacts, which you can filter from the Contacts application in iOS 6. This means that anyone on that favorite contacts list that calls you can bypass the Do Not Disturb feature, but anyone else that tries calling you at late night hours is out of luck until you’re ready to wake up in the morning.
You can also toggle an option from the Do Not Disturb preferences pane so if someone calls you more than twice in a row, it will override the Do Not Disturb feature. If you’re a parent and you have a child out late at night, this feature may just save their lives when you have your iPhone in Do Not Disturb mode.
What’s great about Do Not Disturb is that even though you won’t hear any of the notifications as they come in and even though the lock screen won’t light up on your night stand while you’re sleeping, the notifications will continue to stack in the background so you can get to all of them when you wake up in the morning.
A Better Mail App
The Mail application in iOS 6 is introduced with many new features that are simply useful and much needed. The Mail application used to be pretty bare bones, but now we finally get the ability insert photographs and videos right from an e-mail sheet instead of having to compose an e-mail from the Camera Roll as we have had to do in the past. This makes it a whole lot easier to send pictures and videos in bulk from your iOS device.
Another great new feature is pull to refresh. No matter which inbox you’re in, the Mail application now supports pulling downward on the screen to refresh the e-mails in your inbox. The pull to refresh gesture even comes with a neat little animation.
Mail in iOS 6 also supports VIP contacts. The application actually has a separate mailbox that is labeled VIP. You get to set your favorite e-mail contacts and any of them that send you e-mails will end up in that VIP folder. This is great for work or for filtering close friends from acquaintances because no longer will spam and less-important e-mails drown important e-mails out. VIPs are synced over iCloud, so if you make someone a VIP on one device, they will become a VIP on all of your devices.
Safari Has Been Improved
Do you remember all those jailbreak tweaks that brought full-screen browsing to Mobile Safari? Well iOS 6 finally brings that feature to iOS – natively. It only works in landscape mode, but you will find a new button that allows you to toggle it on and off whenever you like. The only buttons that are visible in full-screen mode are the forward and back buttons along with the button to exit out of full-screen mode.
iOS 6 also introduces offline reading lists to Mobile Safari. This feature allows you to save Web pages for reading later when you might not have an Internet connection. This is particularly useful if you think you are going somewhere that doesn’t have good cellular coverage and you know there won’t be any Wi-Fi around.
Additionally, iOS 6 adds iCloud tabs to Mobile Safari. If you begin reading something on one device, you will be able to pick it up (along with all the rest of your open tabs) on another device. It’s basically synchronizing your open Web pages between your devices so you can seamlessly put one down and use another to get the same job done.
iOS 6 adds a feature that is very helpful for anyone in the education field or parenting field called Guided Access. With this feature, which is easily toggled from anywhere, the owner of the device can restrict access to certain areas of the screen and even use of the hardware buttons. Why would this be great for an educational environment? – because students wouldn’t be pressing the home button on a classroom-issued iPad to exit the educational application and start having fun by browsing Mobile Safari or downloading and playing games.
Guided Access would be useful for parents, as it would allow them to let their children play with the iOS device without having to worry about the child getting into personal information like contacts, browsing history, and other important data locations and wreaking massive amounts of havoc.
Panorama Camera Function
iOS 6 also improves the functionality of the Camera application on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPod touch 5G by adding a new panorama feature to the application. With this feature, you can take multiple photographs and stitch them together to create a massive, high-resolution photograph of whatever you would like to. Panoramas are a great way to get a lot of coverage in one photograph when all the beauty just cannot be captured in a small screen all at once. The software supports both horizontal and vertical panoramas and allows you to shoot pictures with up to 240º of coverage.
The Camera application in iOS 6 also gets a new black-colored skin, as opposed to the old and aging silver skin:
Several Miscellaneous Features/Changes
The music application in iOS 6 gets a facelift. It now has a nice white and silver interface, while the actual music player carries a black interface with a metallic volume knob that actually has rotating light reflections as you rotate the iOS device any number of degrees in your hand. This small, but noticeable detail was put in just to give the illusion of true light reflection and it sure is convincing with those physics!
The Weather application also gets a facelift, now with darker coloring and a less Mac OS X-like look to it. It actually looks a lot nicer now with those new fonts.
The Phone application’s keypad gets a whole new look, now with more realistic graphics. The change is merely aesthetic, but certainly looks better than the iOS 5 version.
The App Store, iTunes, iBooks, and Newsstand all get a new appearance as you browse through Apple’s available downloads. There is a lot of horizontal scrolling now, drastically reducing the amount of vertical scrolling a user needs to do to see content. The loading speeds are faster on newer devices, but noticeably slower on older devices like the iPhone 4. The black interface certainly looks a lot better than the old interface.
App Store updates no longer require the user to enter a password to download, as they are always free. Free application downloads will still require a password, as do paid applications. When downloading applications, iOS no longer exits the App Store, and instead you will be able to continue browsing the App Store and see the download status of downloading applications right from the App Store. For downloaded applications, an “open” button will appear where it should say “installed” like it did in iOS 5, offering a shortcut to launch the application.
In all, many features of the App Store in iOS 6 have been necessary for a long time and it's great to finally see them. It was always a pain entering your password for updates, being that you would never be charged for them and it was always a pain having to re-open the App Store to get back into it after initiating a download.
YouTube is no longer a part of iOS 6, as Apple has removed the application in an attempt to wipe dependencies on services by Google from the operating system. Instead, you can download Google’s new YouTube application for free from the App Store. The free download from the App Store is amazing and outdoes Apple’s old YouTube application by a long shot, so Apple’s YouTube application probably won’t even be missed.
When visiting Web sites in Mobile Safari that have App Store applications, iOS 6 will alert you and prompt you to download the application from the App Store. If you have the application installed already, it will ask you to open the application instead of using the Web-based version. In the event that you do launch the application version of the Web site instead, the application will pick up where you left off on the Web site, so no time is lost.
When you tap on a share or action button in iOS 6, you will be prompted with a share menu with a totally new style than what we are used to in iOS 5. The new style shows application icons for each function a looks a lot cleaner and less cluttered.
The Status Bar in iOS 6 will now change colors to match the surrounding interface. This versatile colorization is a great new feature for iOS because it makes things less bland. The silver status bar from iOS 5 is totally gone. All Status Bars from this point on will be transparent. The lock screen status bar no longer has the little lock icon on it either.
Images used in this review are Copyright © 2012 Apple Inc.