Apple iOS 6.0
By Matt Chapman, 12 Sep 2012
Apple's iOS 6.0 software was first previewed on 11 June 2012 during the company's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) and officially launched on 12 September 2012. The free upgrade works with the Apple iPhone 3GS and above, iPad 2 and above and fourth generation iPod Touch music players and above. Updates in the operating system software include:
- Apple Maps
- Siri improvements
- Additional calling features
- FaceTime over mobile networks
- Facebook integration
- Shared Photo Streams
- Updated email interface
- Offline Reading List
- Full-screen browsing
- Panorama camera feature
- Find My iPhone
- Find My Friends
One of the first things you notice about iOS6 is that the mapping feature traditionally handled by Google has been replaced with an Apple product. This has been developed in conjunction with satellite navigation expert TomTom. New features include Flyover, which offers users the ability to see selected cities and landmarks from the air, as well as turn-by-turn navigation that includes spoken directions to help users reach their destination.
UPDATE: The switch from Google Maps to Apple Maps has not turned out to be the upgrade the iPhone maker had expected. Users began complaining about problems with the service early on and many interesting errors started appearing on blogs - check out this Tumblr page for some unusual examples of where Apple Maps thinks some territories are and how it wrongly presents information. The problems became so commonly referred to in the press that Apple CEO Tim Cook had to publish a letter of apology, suggesting users switch to Bing, MapQuest, Waze, Google or Nokia maps until the issues had been fixed.
While UK users already had access to Siri's voice-activated search, it was a cut-down version compared to the wider features available in the US. Apple's iOS 6.0 has corrected that in many territories and Siri now works in more countries and understands more languages (including Canadian French, Cantonese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Spanish).
The system now includes sports team results, local restaurant details and film reviews and showtimes. Siri can also open apps if users start the spoken phrase with the word launch or open - for example, "Open Angry Birds". Facebook and Twitter even allow users to post updates by dictating them to Siri.
New calling features and FaceTime
Before iOS 6.0, when someone called an Apple phone the user only had two options: answer or decline. With the new software, instead of answering an incoming call it can be instantly replied to with a text message that has been previously set up or one that is written at that point. Users are also able to set a call-back reminder, so they are prompted to respond to the caller at a later time.
A new Do Not Disturb feature goes one step further by blocking calls from everyone except key contacts at busy times. So during an important meeting you might block calls from your brother who is phoning to talk about the match last night, but allow calls from your boss to come through.
The FaceTime video conferencing system has also been upgraded to work over mobile networks. It previously only worked when devices were connected to Wi-Fi networks.
Better Facebook integration
Twitter has already benefited from closer integration in iOS and Facebook gets the same treatment in the latest update. Users can now share photos to the social networking website straight from the camera screen or the Photos app. Facebook also pops up in other areas, allowing you to brag about that high score in Game Centre and check in at your current location while still on the Maps screen.
Facebook events now also get added to your diary and friends appear in your Contacts list - so when they change an email address or phone number online, you automatically stay up to date.
If you've got a pocket full of loyalty and payment cards, Passbook could be the answer to a streamlined wallet. It is designed to digitally store compatible cards, coupons, tickets and boarding passes. However, the service has yet to fully go live in the UK.
UPDATE: Passbook is now operational in the UK and can be used to cash in offers or make payments in Starbucks and to store tickets for Odeon Cinemas. It can similarly save boarding passes for a host of airlines, including Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Qantas, United and Virgin. Passbook can also save event booking details made through Eventbrite and provide money-off deals at restaurants such as Harvester.
Better browsing And mail
As part of an overall improvement to the mobile Safari web browser, iOS 6.0 added an Offline Reading List. This allows users to save full web pages - instead of just links to online content. Users can then catch up with those web pages even when they are sitting in a basement with no mobile reception or when their train goes through a tunnel. Turning the device to landscape and tapping the full-screen icon now also allows pages to be viewed in full size for easier reading.
Browsing in iOS 6.0 uses the online iCloud system to sync pages across multiple devices. So if a user starts reading a page on their MacBook and then leaves the house, they can carry on reading the same tab on their iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Photo and videos can also now be posted online without leaving the Safari window.
The Mail system has also been redesigned to offer a more streamlined interface, making it easier to add photos and videos to email messages. Refreshing the mailboxes is now possible with a single swipe and the ability to elevate some of your contacts to VIP status means important messages are always easily seen.
The new panorama feature for iPhone and iPod touch lets you take a number of images and stitch them together, creating a vista up to 240-degrees wide. Images are taken individually and then matched up onscreen, with the hardware and software working together to create one seamless, high-resolution panorama.
Find My Friends And My Phone
If your friends or family have allowed you to see their locations they will now appear on a map so you can see where they are and what they're up to. The same thing happens in reverse if you share your own location. This system can be used to set up alerts based around certain locations, for example when your kids leave school property to head home.
The same thing obviously allows you to know where your device is should you happen to misplace it. If it does happen to be sitting in the restaurant you had lunch in you can send a signal across the internet to lock it with a four-digit passcode. You can also send the phone a message that will display another contact number, so if someone has found it they can call you from the locked screen without accessing the rest of the information on your iPhone.
The Apple device you use defines whether this update will make much difference to your daily life. The iOS 6.0 software may be available as an upgrade for Apple products stretching back to the iPhone 3GS but only a few of the new features work with the older models. For example, the upgraded Siri features only work on the iPhone 4S/5, third generation iPad and fifth generation iPod touch.
Also, not all features are available in all regions - a full list can be found here. So while Siri might offer up restaurant information and reviews in the UK, it doesn't yet allow you to follow through on those details and book a table.
The loss of established services such as YouTube and Google Maps is a blow, although as Apple's apology over its Maps service proves they are both easily added to your device's home screen again. While it may have seemed impressive that Apple built its own new Maps service so quickly, consumer response has shown that it has some way to go. Expect major improvements as it moves forward.
The new geolocation services that know where you are can be extremely useful. For example, if the Passbook feature in iOS 6.0 realises you are walking into Starbucks, it could generate a voucher to offer you a little something extra. Shame Apple didn't also bundle Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into the iPhone 5, to enable contactless payment with the tap of the phone on a terminal. Instead the Passbook software uses existing QR codes and barcodes, although these will become more useful as retailers and other service providers sign up.
In the end, it's the little things that make the update to iOS 6.0 a must. Improvements in web browsing, the Mail app and the wider integration of Facebook are all much appreciated, even if they can't be classed as game changing.
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