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printed April 21, 2014
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Review: Apple iOS 6

Core What's New Major Changes Tweaks Wrap-Up Comments  31  

According to Apple, iOS 6 adds more than 200 new features. Some are more prominent than others. We're not going to look at all of them, as many are downright miniscule.

Apple Maps

By now, you've probably heard that Apple Maps stinks. With iOS 6, Apple has kicked Google Maps off of the iPhone and replaced it with its own mapping and navigation product. It is true that Apple Maps offers fewer features and less accuracy than Google Maps did, but that doesn't mean it's all bad.

In my tests, I found the navigation and routing to be spot on and inline with what would have been offered by Google Maps. I didn't have any problems getting from Point A to Point B with Apple Maps. It is slower, though. Google Maps rebuilds maps faster than Apple Maps. This means you may or may not have a good view of the streets on the screen if you're driving quickly.

The 3D effect is really, really cool. I took a virtual tour around Manhattan, and most of the buildings are visible in 3D. It's awesome to be able to "fly" down Broadway with the software. It almost makes you feel like you're Superman taking a spin through town. The detail on the buildings is amazing in some places. Zooming out from NYC, though, 3D maps are very limited. You’ll have to wait for Apple to add more than the current handful of cities.

I don't care all that much for the color palette picked by Apple for the Maps app. It doesn't have the same look or feel that Google Maps does, and feels cheaper (if such a thing can be said of software). The lack of detail in more rural regions is also pretty obvious. There are areas that have missing streets (some users in Europe noticed missing towns!) and the satellite imagery is old. It's older than Google's, probably by a year or two based on the appearance of my own house. Toss in the lack of mass transit directions, Street View, and other features, and Apple Maps feels inferior to Google Maps in every way.

Apple says it is working to upgrade Apple Maps. In the meantime, there are third-party transit apps in the App Store that can hook into Apple Maps to fill in some of the blanks for now. Alternately, try using Google Maps via the iPhone's browser.

 

Maps

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Do Not Disturb

As the name implies, the Do Not Disturb feature is a tool for silencing the iPhone so you can get some down time. It is essentially a master control for the notification center. You can pick and choose which alerts are allowed to interrupt you when the device is in Do Not Disturb mode. For example, you can set it so that your spouse's cell phone will always ring you no matter what, even at 3 in the morning. On the flip side, you can set it so that if your boss calls between 11PM and 7AM, he or she will get your voicemail. It allows for granular actions, and can interact with every app that sends push alerts/notifications.

There are some safety features, too. For example, let's say you've set the phone to be completely silent no matter what between midnight and 6AM. The Pope could call, and the phone won't bug you. If the same number calls you twice within three minutes, however, it will ring the second time. Obviously, if someone calls you twice within three minutes in the middle of the night, it could be a real emergency (that, or your ex is stalking you again.)

Of course, if you truly don't want to be bothered by your phone, you can always just turn it off.

 

Disturb

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Passbook

Passbook is Apple's first real attempt to replace paper - such as tickets, loyalty cards, and coupons - with your iPhone. The application itself requires that partner apps be installed. For example, if I want to use a Target coupon with Passbook on the iPhone, I have to download the Target app and set the two up so that they talk to one another. The same goes for concert tickets (TicketMaster) or airline tickets (United). I found the process of setting these apps up and getting them to talk to one another a bit of a pain. At launch, the number of partner apps that work with Passbook is limited to about a dozen. The idea is to get scan-able tickets and coupons out of your wallet or purse and on the display of the device. It sounds great in theory.

I am attending a concert later this year, and decided to see if I could get the ticket ported to my device (Ticketmaster already printed and mailed a real ticket to me). I downloaded the Ticketmaster app, signed into my account, and was pleased to see my upcoming events show up in the app's calendar. The app, however, told me that the tickets to my event were not available. It didn't give a reason. I was unable to add them to Passbook. At this point, it's hard to say if this is because I have a real ticket already, or if it is because Passbook isn't fully integrated with Ticketmaster, or what.

The idea behind Passbook has merit, but the experience isn't quite there yet. It's also not meant to stand in for mobile payments. It can not be used to actually make purchases and replace cash or your MasterCard.

 

Passbook

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

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