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Apple iOS 6: 10 Most Interesting Features

Sep 21, 2012 (07:09 AM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240007740


The latest version of Apple's iOS 6 has arrived and is available for download. The world's second most popular mobile OS has more than 200 new features, including a few biggies, such as turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions, real-time traffic updates, and a smarter Siri that launches apps ("Siri, open Safari") and posts updates to Facebook and Twitter.

The upgrade brings new goodies to the iPad, most notably Siri (for the 3rd-generation iPad only) and a much-needed clock app. The new iPhone 5 and iPod touch (5th generation) come with iOS 6, but other Apple mobile users can upgrade right away by tapping "Settings," then "Software Update" on their devices.

Not surprisingly, all of iOS 6's new toys won't run on all iOS devices. The older your iPod, iPhone, or iPad, the less likely you'll get the cool new stuff.

Two examples: Map's new Flyover tool, which provides photo-realistic 3D views of a select group of major metropolitan areas, requires an iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2 or later, or an iPod Touch (5th generation). And Siri is limited to the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad (3rd generation), and iPod touch (5th generation). Apple's older (but not so old) mobile devices apparently lack the processing punch for these demanding video and voice apps.

Some iOS 6 features--such as spoken, turn-by-turn navigation, and the ability to capture panoramic photos--may seem like yesterday's news to many Android device owners, but that's beside the point. The question is whether iOS is a worthy upgrade for Apple customers, and it most certainly is. It's free, after all; iOS users have little to lose--except maybe an hour or so of download time--by giving it a go.

Recent posts in Apple's support forum show some user gripes about crashes and slow performance with iOS 6, many involving Wi-Fi problems on the iPhone 4S. Other upgraders are unhappy that the features they want aren't available on their devices. Panorama, for instance, is available only on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPod Touch (5th generation). Unfortunately, the majority of iPad users (2nd and 3rd generation) won't discover this fact until after they've installed iOS 6.

We've assembled a slideshow of the 10 most intriguing new features in iOS 6. Not all are perfect--and one in particular (Maps) is seriously flawed. Overall, though, iOS 6 has enough new and interesting stuff to keep the Apple faithful busy for a while.

Photo Credit: Apple




Siri is smarter in iOS 6, adding the ability to launch apps, spout sports scores, post Twitter and Facebook updates, show movie reviews and showtimes, and even make restaurant reservations. It's now available on the 3rd-generation iPad too, a savvy move that creates a wider feature gap between Apple's latest tablet and its very capable predecessor, the iPad 2. The new iPod Touch (5th generation) gets Siri as well. An enhanced Siri is good news for iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 users. The voice-control app is far from perfect, of course, but it often beats typing and tapping. And as Siri's skills and accuracy increase, voice may ultimately become the go-to interface for many phone and tablet tasks.

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Apple's iOS 6 is a better Facebook friend. In fact, it's chock full of hooks into the world's largest social net. In addition to Siri's Facebook-dictation skills, iOS 6 lets you share a photo to Facebook directly from the Camera or Photos app. Calendar now adds Facebook events automatically--a particularly convenient way to remember birthdays and anniversaries with minimal effort. Another nice touch: When your Facebook pals update their email addresses and phone numbers, iOS automatically updates the info in Contacts.

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Yes, Apple new Maps has turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions on the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, and iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (2nd and 3rd gen). It has real-time traffic information too. But its 3-D maps are a mess. Gizmodo calls Apple's new 3-D maps a "turd in a very ornate punch bowl," and that's putting it gently.

Maps' messed-up 3-D is a surreal, Dali-esque landscape of weirdly distorted roadways, bridges, and other structures. And its zoom feature is painfully slow. Surely, Apple will correct these glaring shortcomings sooner rather than later. But it's a shocker that Apple released this flawed app in the first place.

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Photo Credit: Apple




Here's a simple yet welcome upgrade that every iOS user can appreciate. When it's time to update an app that you've already installed, you don't need to enter your Apple password to start the download. A minor change, perhaps, but a good one.

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The new Guided Access feature limits an iOS device to one app by disabling the Home button, and restricting touch input to select areas of the screen. It's designed for teachers and parents to help students with certain disabilities, such as autism, to stay focused.

Some industry watchers, however, believe the app-lockdown capability may gain popularity in other markets as well. Gartner and IDC analysts, for instance, believe the feature has potential in the healthcare, retail, restaurant, and security industries as a way to restrict users to specific tasks.

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Photo Credit: Apple




The new panorama feature lets you shoot up to 240 degrees with one motion to create images with elongated fields of view. Easy now, Android fans. We know, we know: iOS 6 isn't breaking new ground with this feature; some Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, have been capturing panoramas for a while. And third-party iOS apps offer this capability too. The iOS 6 implementation does have some interesting attributes, however, such as the ability to shoot vertical--rather than only horizontal--panoramas. Sorry, iPad users, this feature doesn't come with your version of iOS 6.

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Apple has yet to embrace the up-and-coming near-field communications (NFC) technology, which enables wireless purchases and data transfers. Instead it brings us Passport, a loyally card app of sorts that acts as a digital repository for a variety of plastic and paper coupons, passes, and tickets. Passport isn't a tap-and-pay alternative to the credit card, but given the newness of NFC--most users haven't heard of it or know what it does--that's probably not a problem just yet. That said, Passport isn't exactly a killer app designed to usher in the mobile device shopping revolution. Prediction: Apple will embrace NFC next year when the iPhone 6 arrives.

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The iOS 6 version of Apple's Safari browser takes a page--well, a tab, actually--from Google Chrome's playbook. Chrome users have long been able to save and sync bookmarks, extensions, apps, themes, and other preferences to a Google account. Mozilla's Firefox Sync provides similar functionality. Safari in iOS 6 uses iCloud Tabs to track which pages you're browsing. Say, for instance, you're using Safari on an iPhone at work. When you get home, you can pick up your iPad and resume where you left off. Safari in iOS 6 also supports full-screen browsing in landscape mode, and also saves full Web pages to your Reading List.

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Sometimes it's easy to forget the iPhone started off as a cellphone with an iPod thrown in. Apple hasn't forgotten, apparently, and has added several new iPhone calling features to iOS 6. When a call comes in that you can't (or don't) want to answer, simply swipe up to reveal your options. For instance, you can reply immediately with a text message, or set a callback reminder. The Do Not Disturb feature stops all incoming calls and notifications, making it ideal for boardroom meetings and movie theaters alike.

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Apple iOS 6 makes it easier to share photos with people who use iCloud on iOS 6 devices, or on Macs running Mountain Lion. In the Photos app, you select (tap) one or more images, hit the Share button, chose your recipients, and you're done. The photos will appear in your friends' iPhoto or Photo apps. However, the photo-sharing feature isn't nearly as seamless with outsiders (i.e., those without Apple devices), who'll have to view the images on the Web.

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Photo Credit: Apple