iOS 6: The Good and the Bad

iOS 6, the most recent incarnation of Apple’s mobile operating system, was met with mixed reviews on release.

Some people lamented the fact that it seemed like a rather insignificant change, hoping for a major design overhaul to something that has looked and felt very unchanged for quite some time.

Others criticized specific features, with Apple’s new Maps app first in line for a hammering. The first iteration of Apple’s replacement for the Google’s Maps app was lambasted widely enough for reports to make the headlines of some national newspapers.

I installed iOS 6 immediately after release, and have now been using it for long enough to give my own assessment of the good and the bad. Here’s what I think:

The Good

Maps

I’ll begin controversially: Apple Maps really isn’t that bad. In fact, where I live (in Southern Portugal) the mapping is more accurate and up to date than it was from Google. Our apartment (and car) is actually visible from the satellite imagery, where Google displayed a building site dating back several years.

The turn-by-turn navigation works well too, and everyone has the option to use Google Maps and the multitude of other available mapping apps to fill in the gaps. I think people should give Apple a chance – we are, after all, talking about “version 1.”

Facebook Integration

Facebook integration was long overdue to iOS. Now it’s here, and it works well. It does a good job of explaining the implications of synchronizing contacts and works competently with Siri.

Safari

The iOS browser has always been great, and the subtle tweaks here make it even better. Full screen view makes a surprisingly significant difference to readability, and the reading list functionality is great – even though most enthusiasts probably already use something like Instapaper to save content for offline reading.

The ability to share tabs with Safari on a Mac via iCloud is a good idea too – but not good enough to tempt me away from using Chrome on my laptop.

iOS on the iPhone 5
iOS on the iPhone 5

The Bad

The App Store

I can honestly say Apple have lost revenue from me as a result of redesigning the App store. The new layout might work on an iPad but it looks cut off and a little silly on my iPhone 4S. It’s simply less fun to browse, and as a result, I buy fewer apps. Surely this wasn’t the intention?

Data Usage

I don’t know exactly why, but I used to crawl very slowly through my monthly 500MB cellular data allowance. Since iOS 6, I’m eating through it rapidly and keep incurring extra charges.

Judging by the Web forums this is a rather common occurrence. It needs sorting out.

Design Inconsistencies

I understand that Apple may have given the phone keypad and music browsing interface a white background so that things look newer, but why do these design changes not carry through once you actually select a song? The changes just don’t reflect Apple’s usual impression of quality – and seem to simply be a last-minute way to make iOS 6 look a bit different to its predecessor.

Conclusion

Overall, then, iOS 6 has proved to be inoffensive (other than the data charges) but also rather inconsequential. Though I see no reason for iOS 7 to be different for the sake of being different, I wouldn’t mind something a little more exciting.

The Most Exciting New Features in iOS 6

 

Apple fans had plenty to get excited about at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference, including new hardware announcements and additional details about OS X Mountain Lion.

An array of new, concrete information about the forthcoming iOS 6 also provided plenty to anticipate. Due in autumn 2012, iOS 6 has loads of new features – here are just some of the most significant.

New Maps

Apple’s new Maps feature will replace the Google Maps functionality currently integrated into iOS.

Maps looks typically beautiful for an Apple app and offers a 3D view as well as turn-by-turn navigation, something never before made natively available on iOS.

While some users may miss Google’s StreetView functionality, in all other respects this looks like a significant improvement on the older Maps app.

iOS6 has a Host of New Features
iOS6 has a Host of New Features

Upgraded Siri

Siri will be able to launch apps, understand more languages and integrate with various websites including Yelp and IMDB. Despite plenty of users seeing Siri as little more than a gimmick, it is clear that voice control remains part of Apple’s ongoing strategy.

Facebook Integration

Apple’s iOS 6 will finally offer proper Facebook integration, something that has seemed strangely lacking in the past and is, for many, far more useful than the long-standing Twitter integration.

Facebook integration will allow users to share photos more easily and, finally, sync calendars and contacts with the social network, something Android users have been able to do for ages.

Facetime over 3G

It remains to be seen how well it will work, but under iOS 6 it will be possible to make Facetime calls without being connected to a WiFi network.

This has been possible over Skype for some time, and often results aren’t so great – regardless, this is now supported – and Apple would be unlikely to have enabled this without confidence that it will work well.

Passbook

Passbook is a brand new app that allows users to electronically store tickets and coupons on their device. It even has advanced features such as the ability to update aircraft gate numbers in real-time on stored plane tickets.

The success of this will be determined by third-party participation. Cynical users outside the USA may remain unconvinced initially, as new things like this often begin with far more support for US users than those in other countries.

Passbook on iOS 6
Passbook on iOS 6

Upgraded Phone Features

iOS 6 adds a couple of useful phone features that users of other phone brands may have already begun to take for granted. One is the ability to reject calls and at the same time send a preset message such as “in a meeting, will call you back.”

The new mobile OS also provides users with the ability to mark certain numbers as important, so that calls from those numbers come through even when the iPhone is set to “do not disturb” mode.

New Stores

New stores for iTunes, Apps and iBooks are due with the release of iOS 6. These are not yet complete but are likely to impress – after all, Apple will want to ensure their millions of users find parting with their cash easy and enjoyable.

iOS6 appears to be a rather more exciting upgrade than the previous move from iOS4 to iOS5. Now everyone knows it’s due in the autumn, the only remaining question is whether it will come before or after the iPhone 5.