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First Look: iOS 6

updated 05:57 pm EDT, Wed September 19, 2012

Handful of major updates surrounded by minor tweaks

As a rule Apple likes to promote every new version of iOS as a major upgrade, but the truth, of course, is that what may take a lot of development time doesn't necessarily mean anything to the average person. iOS 6 -- released earlier today -- is said to include over 200 new features, and here we'll take a look at a few of them, how well they work, and whether they matter. For reference, testing was done mostly on a 4G iPad, with a fourth-generation iPod touch for comparison.

With the current-generation iPad, one of the main attractions has to be Siri, which was previously limited to the iPhone 4S. It works pretty much as you'd expect -- you hold down the Home button and speak a command, and it tries to interpret it with mixed degrees of accuracy. This isn't as useful on an iPad as on an iPhone, where you might be able to use a headphone mic and keep the device in your pocket, but it can save time for tasks like checking the weather or setting reminders. Also timesavers are new Siri options like checking for nearby restaurants and movie times, or launching apps, although the latter is only really useful if an app is buried in a folder or distant homescreen.

Some of the new integration options, like Facebook and Shared Photo Streams, are mostly incidental in practice. They can make it easier to push content to other people, but the chances are that you already have apps installed that have their own forms of Facebook posting and public photo sharing. Simply, in some cases, these just let you skip middleman apps.

More practical is the upgraded Mail app, which now includes a "VIP" inbox for filtering messages from your most important contacts. Photos and videos can finally be added inline with a few taps.

Safari has also seen several useful upgrades, such as iCloud Tabs, which remembers which tabs you had open on other devices. That feature is nothing new in light of Google Chrome, but people may appreciate offline reading by saving to the Reading List, or the ability to upload photos and videos to websites without leaving the browser.

Perhaps the most anticipated (or dreaded) feature of iOS 6 is the new Google-less version of Maps. It's too early to truly judge how well it works, but functionally it's not much different. Streets and labels are easier to read, and some basic searches yielded the same results you'd expect from Google. One key difference is that it pops up a turn-by-turn navigation mode for both driving and pedestrian travel, which we have yet to test, although it doesn't seem to distinguish between the two modes of transportation. People used to public transportation info will be sorely disappointed, since that's been stripped out in favor of integration with third-party apps, which are recommended for download when necessary.

The much-vaunted Flyover view isn't of much value. This renders a handful of cities in 3D, like San Francisco or Berlin. While it can give you a better lay of the land, very few areas are supported, and when you do try them some of the building graphics may be downright ugly. For that matter, maps throughout the app seem to be slow to load, even in 2D, on Wi-Fi, and on the fastest iOS device Apple sells short of the iPhone 5.

This is just a small sample of what iOS 6 has to offer. Stay tuned for a full review from MacNN in the coming days.

by MacNN Staff




  1. Yokohama3021

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-22-12

    First I need to inform I live in Japan. Yes I have always been a fan of Apple. This is the first negative total flop I think they have done. MAPS. Maybe great in USA but probably poor everywhere else. Definitely Japan. Poor to no search results. Walking directions none. It is hard to believe a company so strong would become arrogant enough to hurt their own product world wide to prove a point. I won't be surprised to see a stock slide based on this one feature. I still like my iPhone but now I can no longer use it to get any where walking, unless I want to walk a car route. I live 10 minutes walk from Yokohama station. Using the new route it is twice that long. Apple needs to hurry to recover from this blunder.

  1. mojkarma

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-13-11

    Holly Jesus! Holly mother of God! All saints!
    This Apple map is a disaster. It's probably ok for some big cities and for the US. But in the rest of the world, in Europe, this map is the hell on earth. Apple should get sued for giving as non functional products and false promises. Google map was doing its job more or less great. The place where I live no appears without a street and a road at all. WTF! I don't get it. Apple considered to exchange a function in one year which Google build a couple of years. And the result is a total mess. Nice for San Francisco and Berlin if they have 3D. Nobody needs it. But the problem is that no even the geo tagging of photos will not work correctly because Apples masterpiece sees a forrest or a desert where actually people live in cities.
    An absolute :thumbsdow

  1. StevenFR8

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-25-11

    Why do people assume that Apple killed the usage of Google in the maps application. Google is still the search engine for Safari, so they haven't just slashed and burned Google out of IOS. It has been reported on that Google was holding back turn by turn directions from IOS to give Android an advantage.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by StevenFR8View Post

    Why do people assume that Apple killed the usage of Google in the maps application. Google is still the search engine for Safari, so they haven't just slashed and burned Google out of IOS. It has been reported on that Google was holding back turn by turn directions from IOS to give Android an advantage.

    There are fixed rates paid by Google for every search query run through their engine. So Apple gives you the option of using Google, Bing, or Yahoo for Safari.

  1. daqman

    Junior Member

    Joined: 09-15-00

    I have to agree with everything written here so far. The new Map App is TERRIBLE and it was an App that I relied on each day. I am in the US, Virginia to be exact, and not out in the countryside but in a city. There are roads missing that have been built for years, the traffic reports are worse than the old Map. Routes to places are giving different suggestions than the old App. The old suggestions seemed to take into account things like the number of traffic lights etc the new one seems to just do shortest route by default. Oh, and the time to destination was out by a factor of two!

    I just had a thought and took a look. Two weeks ago I was on vacation and used the iPhone maps App to navigate to several tourist destinations. Looking at the same area on the new map none of them are marked!
    Big step backwards.

  1. c4rlob

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-21-09

    Download the Google Maps app if you don't like the Apple Maps app.
    I live in New York and the new app works fabulous for me. But I prefer Apple's approach to vector maps which allows a huge section of maps to stay in memory when I go underground or hit weak signal areas in the car. I'm glad to say goodbye to Google's ugly empty gray grids in those situations. I also never used Google Maps public transit mode to begin with because it was messy and often inaccurate so I'm glad Apple axed it. Most iPhone users I know don't use that mode either, and the ones that do were always the ones complaining they couldn't find the right subway route or time – duh. I've always used 3rd party apps for public transit, they offer way more functionality and order than Google Maps ever did.

  1. mojkarma

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 10-13-11

    Look, you live in New York. And obviously you never travel somewhere else. Fine for you. I don't want to shock you, but there is life outside of New York.
    Take a look what we had before and what we have now:

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