Fans all over the world have been bombarded with speculation about this major update to Apple’s mobile platform, and now we all have a preliminary look. Last week, Apple finally revealed the details for its iOS 6 with the low-down on over 200 new features, services and user interface upgrades.
Apple has less than three months to get iOS 6 ready for release. Here’s the low-down on one of the first reviews.
The beta release is available to developers, getting the new code into the hands of those who produce the apps in the crowded App Store. This evaluation is based on testing with the iPhone 4S, so if you have a different mobile device, your results may be different.
Two hundred tweaks may sound like a lot (and it is), but there are a few key additions, updates and changes with iOS 6 that deserve a closer look. We’ll highlight the biggest upcoming changes that could have even Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone loyalists thinking twice about Apple's iPhone.
- Siri answers sports questions that go beyond just game scores including history, stats, player bios, and records without switching over to the browser.
- Siri answers questions about movies like actors, directors, awards and movie stats, and shows status of premieres, reviews, trailers and tickets. It will bring up nearby listings and enable ticket purchases through Fandango.
- Siri understands more languages Canadian English and French, Spanish, Italian, the varieties of German, Italian and French spoken in Switzerland, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese. These are also supported in the satellite navigation app.
- Siri finds the restaurant you are looking for and filters the results based on user reviews. It provides for detailed searches based on food type, location, outdoor, pool, price range, ratings, and more. (This feature is not available in every country.)
- Nine automakers (BMW, GM, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda) have promised to integrate Siri. Hitting the voice button in your car will activate Siri if your iPhone is connected to your vehicle’s infotainment system.
- Siri launches apps by just saying their name.
Facebook integration in Siri
Twitter became integrated into iOS 5, and now Apple is doing the same with Facebook in iOS 6. Everything you can do now with Twitter, you'll be able to do with Facebook.
- Use Siri to post Facebook updates and tweets.
- With the link to Facebook you can update your contacts’ pictures, addresses, important dates, emails, phone numbers and websites. You will also get a new Facebook field with a shortcut to your contacts’ Facebook profile. It will load in the Safari browser, not the dedicated Facebook app.
- All Facebook events will appear in the Calendar.
- Facebook integration extends to the App Store and the iTunes Store. Whenever you tap on an app, song, movie, TV show, and more three tabs pop up: info, reviews and related.
- Share photos on Facebook from inside the Camera or Photo apps.
- Share addresses with a pin in Maps.
In another blow to Google, there’s no Google+ integration. Then again, there's no Google+ integration in Android either…
Google has been providing an Apple version of its Google Maps since iOS was born. But iOS 6 kicks Google Maps to the curb. While the Google version may still be available in the App Store, Apple’s iOS 6 Maps provided by TomTom will have the default position. Here are a few of the highlights:
- iOS 6 Maps uses TomTom for all mapping and traffic data.
- Siri connects to these maps, and turn-by-turn voice navigation is included for free.
- You can access crowd-sourced traffic information for (almost) real-time traffic alerts.
- 3D "Flyover" maps are available on the iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and the New iPad/iPad 3 (older models won't support the advanced graphics.). Zoom, tilt and rotate the landscape to explore 3D landmarks in real time.
- Access local search and Yelp reviews.
- Navigation even works in the lock screen mode and behind other apps. This is ideal for use in car mounts.
- Offline mapping capability should be available in the coming weeks.
Passbook is a single app that collects and intelligently displays boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, and loyalty cards.
- Any travel changes (like gate changes and fee differences) are displayed in Passbook in real-time as long as you have a data connection. This is a airline carrier partnership deal. So far the only airline to sign up is United. A lot more carriers will have to join to make this one worthwhile.
- The location-aware app makes the right coupon available in the right place and at the right time.
- The PassBook will report the balance on coupons and cards, let you check your ticket seats and can even show you relevant notifications (e.g. gate or terminal change for a flight).
The Safari browser has gotten a few minor updates:
- It’s faster than it was on the iOS 5. Its benchmark scores for SunSpider, BrowserMark and HTML5test.com show significant improvement over iOS 5.1.1.
- A full-screen view option is available from a dedicated button on the taskbar. It works only in landscape mode.
- iCloud tab syncing is enabled, along with offline reading.
- You can access to your multimedia content without exiting the browser.
Good old email got some updates too:
- Set up friends’ emails in a dedicated VIP mailbox, and it will appear highlighted in the regular inbox. Designate where you want to be notified of VIP emails (for example, put them on the lockscreen.)
- Flag important emails and they’ll be placed in a Flagged mailbox.
- Use different mail signatures for multiple email accounts.
- Insert pictures or videos in emails just by tapping and holding on an empty space and accessing them from a pop-up menu.
- The update button is now gone and there's a pull to refresh instead.
Apple is adding some much needed calling features:
- When you decline an incoming call, you can reply to it with a text message or set a callback reminder.
- Use the Do Not Disturb setting to bypass calls and texts, except those from callers on your VIP list.
- If the Repeated calls feature is activated a second call from the same contact within less than three minutes will not be silenced (it might be an emergency.)
App Store and iTunes Store
With iOS 6 Apple has updated the App Store and iTunes Store and content handling:
- Featured pages have scrollable rows rather than lists.
- The App Store won't prompt you to enter your password when you’re just updating apps.
- You can see the change log in the Updates screen without opening the info screen.
- After you buy or update apps you can continue browsing the store. You can also launch apps you've already installed from within the store.
- The Game Center gets Facebook integration and supports challenges.
FaceTime for 3G is finally here, allowing FaceTime to work over cellular networks, not just Wi-Fi.
- FaceTime now supports video chatting on data networks, but be warned; these chats run through around 3MB per minute and will chew through your LTE data plan in short order.
- The unified FaceTime/iMessages ID lets you receive calls on an iPad using your phone number.
- Other FaceTime improvements include updated Stores and system apps, new icons, and revised settings.
Guided Access and Lost Mode
Apple is working hard to bring iOS to people with disabilities through its Guided Access.
- It helps students with disabilities remain on task and focused on content.
- It allows a parent, teacher, or administrator to limit an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button as well as restrict touch input on certain areas of the screen.
- VoiceOver, a screen reader technology for blind and low-vision users, is now integrated with Maps, AssistiveTouch, and Zoom.
- Guided Access could be useful as a kid- or test- mode. Loan your Apple device to your kids without being worried that they will access inappropriate content or change your settings and apps.
Lost Mode is part of the former Find My iPhone service. If you lose your gadget, you can lock it remotely and send a message with your contact information. Lost Mode doesn’t have data wiping capability.
Right inside the Photo app is a sub-social network for pictures called Shared Photo Stream. By choosing what pictures to share and which people to share them with, those you send them to will be able to like them and post comments.
The Bluetooth toggle has more prominence with placement next to the Wi-Fi toggle.
The Camera UI is now black.
In the settings menu brightness is now in the wallpaper screen.
In the auto brightness mode, your device will be in full control of the brightness and will move the slider above the toggle to show the currently selected setting. You’ll be able to see exactly how bright the screen is, but you won’t be able to adjust it in auto-mode like you could in past iOS versions.
The Settings and Clock apps have updated icons. The Clock app now allows you to access the iPod music library and assign any song as an alarm tone.
Not all Apple iPhone and iPad generations will get the upgrade. iOS 6 is compatible with iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S; iPad 2 and 3; and the fourth-generation iPod Touch. The first iPad has been left behind.
Siri access is expanded beyond the iPhone 4S, but only as far as iPad 3. The turn-by-turn navigation and the Flyover mode in Maps is only possible with the dual-core devices - iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iPad 3.
The iOS 6 changes will make a difference for every Apple device that it’s made for.
The big deal is Maps. While much of Maps looks similar to Google Maps, it integrates 3D and voice navigation. The integration with Siri is most of what will make Apple’s Maps a winner with most users.
iOS 6 won’t inspire a mob of new customers, but we’ll see if the new iPhone 5 package makes the iOS 6 greater than the sum of its parts.