iOS 6 Review

For Apple fans around the world, this week is about as close to an international holiday as a non-religious event can get. The fun starts this Wednesday, September 19, as the latest iteration of the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad operating system, iOS 6, is made available for public download. As with each previous release of the OS, iOS 6 promises many new features and one interesting omission. I have had the chance to load the Gold Master of iOS 6, which is pretty much the final version of the operating system released to developers, on my iPhone 4 and have been playing with it for the past few days, so I can give you an idea of what to expect when you pull the trigger and upgrade your iDevice in the near future.

First, the bad news…

NO SIRI FOR YOU

If you’re like me and you don’t have the iPhone 4S or, for that matter, the iPhone 5, you have not been able to take advantage of Siri. Personally, I haven’t missed it as I am pretty quick with the thumbs when it comes to typing in events, reminders, and other items of interest. What’s more, since I use many 3rd party like 2Do and Week Calendar, Siri wouldn’t even be useful since it won’t talk to any non-Apple app. With iOS 6, Siri moves beyond the iPhone and will be available on the 5th generation iPod Touch and the 3rd generation iPad. I am still on my iPhone 4 and iPad 2 so I remain Siri free (unless I choose to jailbreak).

SILENT MAPS

Much like Siri, the new Apple in-house maps functionality is limited beyond certain devices. The iPhone 5 and 4S have full turn-by-turn voice navigation and 3D maps, but the iPhone 4 and 3GS stay with the top-down view and text directions only, although the directions to update automatically as you follow your route, something Google Maps did not do on the iPhone. The iPads 2 and 3 appear to have full Maps capabilities, but the iPod Touches are up in the air. Most likely, the latest iPod Touch will utilize all of the Maps services, but the other models, especially the 4th generation, which is still sold by Apple, may not. We won’t find out until users of these devices update to iOS 6. Like Siri, I’m not missing this functionality as I use 3rd party navigation apps like MotionX GPS Drive and Waze to find my way around. The only difference for me will be the lack of Siri integration with Maps, but, again, I don’t have Siri, either.

Enough Debbie Downer. Let’s get to the good stuff.

FACEBOOK DIGS ITS TALONS INTO IOS

With iOS 5, we saw a deep integration of Twitter into our iDevices. We could tweet from within many of our apps, even 3rd party apps, without the need to go to the web browser or the Twitter app. This was a catch-up step for Apple as Android devices could already do this at the time. A glaring omission to the social media/Apple love fest, though, was Facebook. This was not long after Apple released Ping, the ill fated social music scene integrated into iTunes and denied access to Facebook. As a result, each app which had Facebook sharing capabilities needed to log into Facebook on its own. For those of us (me) who avoid simple passwords for security reasons, this got annoying fast, especially when apps would log out of Facebook after a set time period. Our long iOS nightmare is over as Facebook integration comes to Apple with iOS 6. The integration works the same as with Twitter, which makes it much easier to send things from your iDevice to Facebook. There is also now a set of buttons at the top of the Notification Tray which allow you to post to either social media service, removing the need to enter an app to do so. Also like with Twitter last year, you now have the option to download the Facebook app when you enter your FB credentials in your iDevice’s settings, skipping the need to hit the App Store.

NO MORE WAKING UP TO EVERY ALERT

My wife and I keep our iPhones on our nightstands when we sleep, charging them throughout the night. One down side to this setup is that every single notification flashes in our faces when we’re trying to get some sleep. We don’t turn our network connections off since we also have our phones sync with iTunes over wi-fi during this time so we’ve just learned to live with it…UNTIL NOW! iOS 6 brings a new Do Not Disturb feature. This feature does exactly what it says: Notifications are turned off for the time period you set. For example, I turned on the Do Not Disturb function on my iPhone and set it to activate from 10PM until 6AM. During that time period, a crescent moon icon appears next to the time at the top of the phone display to show DND is turned on. Also during that time period, my phone is completely silent. No email alerts, no tweets, no status updates. It’s a wonderful thing.

ALREADY BOUGHT THE APP? JUST UPDATE IT

I’ve already mentioned how annoying it is to have to repeatedly enter my Facebook password, especially since the password isn’t simple. The same goes for my Apple password each and every time I go in to download app updates from the App Store. Even though I’ve already bought the app (or the app is FREE TO BEGIN WITH), if I haven’t entered my Apple password in the last 15 minutes, I have to do so in order to get those updates. I can understand this functionality when it comes to buying apps as kids can easily throw down a lot of their parents’ hard earned coin on apps very quickly, but us adult types would like to update their apps with ease, thank you very much. In iOS 6, uses no longer need to enter their password if they are downloading a previously purchased app or updating already installed apps. It may not seem like much, but load a few apps on your updated and restored iDevice and you’ll quickly agree with how nice it is.

THE APP STORE MAKES SENSE

If I wanted to find a good app for my iPhone or iPad, I would not do it on the device in question but on my laptop. This is because the App Store search and sort functionality was pretty clunky and it was hard to find apps which fit what I wanted and were recommended by other users. In February, however, Apple bought an app recommendation service called Chomp, and iOS users all over got VERY excited because of how powerful Chomp’s service was compared to the App Store itself. I did not use Chomp myself but at least some of the service has been integrated into the new and improved App Store. Searches are much more accurate now and app pages are easier to find and compare. I’ve only looked at the store on the iPhone so I can only imagine how it works on the iPad, where the larger screen makes it much easier to look at multiple apps in search results.

KNOW WHAT IS NEW

I’m not sure how useful this feature is, but, if you download a lot of apps onto your iDevice, it may get a little confusing trying to find what’s new and what’s used. With iOS 6, newly installed apps now have a blue “NEW” ribbon “draped” over the top left corner of the app icon. The ribbon goes away after you open the app for the first time. It’s a fun little touch which some may find useful.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to everything which iOS 6 brings to the table. Of course, Apple will count things like the fact that sliders and buttons will change how light “reflects” off of them when you tilt your device as a new “feature, so the “over 200 new features” Apple touts may be exaggerated a little bit. One thing for sure is that the new items which can be considered true features of iOS 6 definitely keep Apple running with the big dogs in the mobile device world.

Are you getting iOS 6 when it comes out? Post which device(s) are getting the update in the comments section.

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