On Monday, Apple announced many new features that will be coming to the iPhone in the fall of this year with iOS 6. Even though there are a lot of new features to look at, I’d like to delve into some of the notable differences in this recent alteration of Apple’s mobile operating system. After the break, I’ll take a deep look into new features like navigation, Passbook, the beautiful UI changes throughout the OS, a few of the bugs that you should watch out for when testing the beta and more.
One of the biggest changes in iOS 6 is the complete change in the Maps app. Apple is no longer using Google’s mapping service to tell you where to go or where you are right now. Instead, they’ve partnered with TomTom and OpenStreetMap to create a beautiful 3D Maps app that also includes voice navigation (finally!).
Things seem to work well so far, but I’ve noticed they load a bit slow on my 1.5 Mbps connection. This could be because a lot of people out there are trying the new service and the servers aren’t built up to handle so much traffic just yet — I’m not really sure what the issue is though. In any case, the navigation actually works smoothly with a few little glitches here and there – I’d expect this on a beta, to be honest.
There’s a traffic function in Maps for iOS 6 and it actually worked well in my testing. You’ll see a little red car icon if there has been an accident and there’ll be some red dots on that road if the traffic is bad. The traffic is all real-time and crowd-sourced, according to Apple. Right now, it’s kind of hard to tell how well this is going to work since there aren’t many users. I’ve been looking at San Francisco and Oakland for examples because there are a bunch of developers over there this week, but other major cities also have traffic reports; take Los Angeles or Seattle, for instance.
One nice thing about the traffic report is that Maps will reroute you if there’s a lot of traffic ahead because it keeps up on exactly how long it’ll take you to reach your destination, no matter the obstacles ahead. I, for one, am very excited to try this out next time I travel to the city. It should be fun to see how well Apple’s version of GPS navigation — with pieces of TomTom, OpenStreetMap, and other services in it — will work out. I’m sure all the little bugs that currently exist will be smoked out by this fall and hopefully they’ll get a lot of users to provide traffic info by then as well.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have all your theatre tickets, boarding passes, coupons, gift cards and other essentials in one place instead of all over your house? Apple thought so too, so they made Passbook: the all-in-one holder for everything I just mentioned and more. It’s going to give you the opportunity to lose that bag full of all your cards and just bring your iPhone with you to the airport or train station as a boarding pass. All the barcodes will be scannable and there’s really nothing else to it.
If your flight’s gate should change, you’ll be alerted on your phone so that you can still make it there in time. Oh, and while you’re sitting around in the terminal, why not grab a cup of coffee with that Starbucks card that’s in your Passbook? It’s as simple as that, and I see it being really helpful to travelers and regular folks alike.
More Sharing and Facebook
Even though I personally am not a user of Facebook, it’s nice to see that Apple has added support for the social network all throughout their next version of iOS. You can now share that photo you just took with a few taps instead of going to the Facebook app to do it. If you want to post a status update, you can swipe down to get Notification Center or just ask Siri to do it for you — yes, she can post updates to both Facebook and Twitter now.
As with Twitter, Facebook can also sync your contacts, making sure that all the info is current and correct. One other fun thing is that you can sync your calendar with Facebook to insure you aren’t missing anyone’s birthday — it’ll come in handy somewhere, I’m sure.
Lastly, when you’re looking at an app in the App Store and like it, you can now actually Like it if your Facebook account is connected in Settings. An alternative for those of you who are like me and use Twitter would be to tap the share button and then tap “Twitter” to Tweet about the great new app you’ve just found. I think it’s nice to finally have some sharing features within Apple’s content stores.
Phone Gets New Answering Options, Slight Redesign
You know that moment when someone’s calling you and you just don’t want to talk to them right then? Well, Apple has added a few new options for this kind of situation into their Phone app. You can now reply with a preset message that’s available by swiping the little phone icon up just like you’d do with the camera on the lock screen. Once you’re there, you can have your iPhone remind you to call that person later or just send them one of three preset messages saying you’ll call them later, you’re on your way, or asking “what’s up?” It’s a good way to keep working without becoming distracted, especially in the car.
The dialer in iOS 6’s Phone app has gotten a bit of a facelift with a more 3D scheme. You can see what I mean by looking at the picture above. I actually like the new design, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the user interface all that well, so I’m hoping they’ll do something about it.
Siri Launches Apps; Checks Sports, Showtimes and Restaurants
Since its release in October of last year, Siri has matured quite a bit. There have been some speed bumps and whatnot, but overall, Apple has been working to make her smarter by the day. At the WWDC keynote this year, they introduced some new abilities for the assistant. She can now launch apps, check up on sports, find out movie showtimes and look up restaurants that you may be interested in going to based on the Yelp ratings.
All you have to do in iOS 6 is ask her when the next game a certain team is playing or when a film you want to see is showing at the local theatres. Within a matter of seconds, she’ll return the query with the answer you were looking for. It’s stuff like this that shows just how much Siri is going to mean to people in the coming days.
You know what pull to refresh is, right? It was first implemented by Tweetie developer Loren Brichter back in the day before Twitter bought the app and made it their official client for all platforms. The idea is that you pull down the list of data — whatever it is, from Tweets to emails — and let go to refresh the content. In iOS 6, Apple added this function to their Mail app giving you a fun way to check for new emails.
It works a bit differently than standard pull to refresh should, though. Instead of pulling down and letting go to refresh, Mail just lets you pull down and it’ll bounce back up to start checking for emails. In any case, the little animation is kind of interesting — it reminds me of World of Goo somewhat.
Redesigned Share Sheets
Do you remember the sharing functions that were in many of the stock apps in iOS 5? Well, Apple has given them a bit more presence in their sixth revision of the mobile OS. Instead of having them appear in a list format, Apple instead added some icons to the text to create a grid; it now looks a bit like the home screen.
Sadly, it’s rather ugly and altogether too big for the screen. As you can clearly see in the picture above, it takes up every bit of screen real estate. Sure, you could argue that this isn’t a bad thing since you’re not going to be using that portion of the screen for anything else, but I think it’s a waste of space and effort to put all those icons there — it looks cluttered.
Redesigned Media Stores
There were many rumors these past few months claiming that Apple would be giving all of their digital content stores a facelift. In iOS 6, they did just that with the App Store, iTunes and the iBookstore. The new user interface in these is just beautiful. Instead of the lighter theme, it has more of a Apple Trailers look to it, using a black theme with blue highlights instead of red.
Redesigned Music App
The last major redesign in iOS 6 is that of the Music app. They’ve completely changed the whole thing with a nice — I say this because it’s not really beautiful — grey theme. I’m not sure how much I like it, to be honest. It looks a lot like the Mac’s app menu bars all throughout and if anything, it’s rather bland. There’s literally no color, just a bit of contrast, and smaller album art than before. I think it’s a step backwards, in some ways.
In the music player itself, everything has gone dark with a bit of a chrome feel to it. I actually like this part of the interface and I think it looks pretty nice, though that’s still up to you to decide. You can swipe to the right when in the player to get back to the previous screen.
I really like what Apple has done with iOS 6 and I’m sure it’s going to get a lot better with time. The greyscale theming can get a bit irritating, but hopefully they’ll change it up a bit in the future. There should be four to six betas in the coming months and Apple’s going to be experimenting with a lot of stuff during that time, so hopefully they work out all the kinks and release a beautiful, stable OS. At this time, it’s on the right track, but it has a ways to go before it’s fully usable.