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printed November 27, 2014
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Review: Apple iOS 6

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

Apple has tweaked nearly every part of iOS. There are tons of nifty changes hidden throughout the operating system that may be exactly what you've been hoping Apple would get around to fixing or improving. These are the most important.

Mail

The iOS email program has always been a bit limited for power users, but it just got a little bit better thanks to some new features added by iOS 6.

First up are VIPs. You can determine who your most important contacts are and add them to the VIP list. Once that step is completed, all the emails that arrive from those contacts are automatically pushed into the VIP folder. You can, for example, give your family members VIP status so emails from them are always easily found. Even better, this setting syncs via iCloud across devices (including other iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers.)

Second, Apple has addressed a long-standing complaint of mine: You can finally insert photos or videos into an email from the email application. Before iOS 6, the only way to add photos to an email was to do so through the Photo Gallery or to copy them to the clipboard and paste them in. Now, it’s a cinch to attach existing media when composing an email. You can't take a new picture or shoot a new video from the email app; you also can't add audio clips from the email app.

Lastly, email for iOS 6 adds pull to refresh, which is more pleasing than pressing a tiny little arrow when it comes time to refresh your inbox.

These are all great new features, but mail still falls short for Gmail users, who might miss their Stars, advanced filters, and so on.

 

Mail

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Phone

You can now reject phone calls with a text message. Previously, all you could do was silence your phone and hope the person didn't call back immediately. Now you can use several preloaded rejection messages (I can't talk now, I'll call you later), or create your own rejection messages. Obviously, these messages can only be delivered to other cell phones. This is a feature that Android has had for quite some time.

 

Phone

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Photo Stream

iOS 6 takes Photo Stream to an entirely new level. The old version let you automatically upload and store photos. They could be synced to iPhoto on computers and backed up in iCloud. The new version of Photo Stream adds a social networking element to the whole thing.

With Photo Stream, iOS 6 users can create individual streams and share them with just or a few people. The idea lets a husband and wife, for example, share a stream of spontaneous photos they've taken of their kids with one another. Streams can be invite-only, or offered to the public. Those with access to the stream can comment on the photos that are stored in that stream.

I found that Photo Stream in iOS 6 was much more reliable than the previous version about syncing photos across different devices. For example, I was easily able to email a screenshot that I captured with my iPad from my iPhone because the image was synced from the iPad to the iPhone seamlessly.

You do have to be careful, though. It's all-too-easy to send the wrong photo stream to the wrong person if you're in a hurry. This could lead to awkward social situations at home, work, or with friends, so exercise caution until you get the hang of it.

 

PhotoStream

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Safari

The native iOS browser gains some speed improvements and a couple of new features that should make Apple gearheads happy.

Perhaps the most important of the new features is the ability to sync open tabs with other Apple devices. As long as you use iCloud, you can easily access all the tabs open in Safari on one device from Safari in another. This is extremely handy if you're doing some work on your laptop or desktop and need to dash out of the office or house. You can open Safari and all the same tabs will be available, so you can pick up right where you left off. This is a feature that's been available to Android via Chrome for a while, and it is a welcome addition to iOS.

Safari also offers a new "fullscreen" view of the browser when you view web pages in the landscape orientation. Essentially, this means that the address bar and controls go away so you can see more of the content on the web page.

 

Safari

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Siri

Apple's cheeky voice-activated assistant is a year older and wiser in iOS 6, and can do a whole lot more. First, Siri works faster and more consistently. This means Siri is able to translate spoken words in less time, and doesn't mess up quite so much as the first iteration of Siri did. Personally, I never exceeded a 50% success rate with the first version of Siri. The new iOS 6 version is markedly better.

Other new and useful features in Siri include the ability to launch third-party apps. For example, you can say, "Siri, open SoundCloud," and Siri will launch SoundCloud You can also have Siri play specific artists or specific songs. Now that's more like it! Siri also provides more search results, specifically movie times/info and sports scores. You can ask Siri natural language questions about which team won the game last night, and Siri will deliver detailed results, including a period-by-period breakdown, the teams' current ranking and so on. Cool. Lastly, Siri is able to book dinner reservations through OpenTable.

It's not all roses, though. Siri still can't handle some complex, two-step requests, for example. In other words, you can ask Siri to do one thing at a time. Siri also can't match some of the neat features of Google Now. Google Now, which is a feature in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, works faster and smoother even than Siri, and offers better results to queries. Google Now doesn't have half the personality that Siri does, though.

 

Siri

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Social Networking

iOS 5 added Twitter to the iPhone and iPad. iOS 6 adds Facebook. The new Facebook integration means it requires less work on the part of iPhone users to share stuff to their Facebook wall. This is particularly useful in apps such as the Photo Gallery, Browser, and even in iTunes and the App Store. See something you like? Post it to your wall with just a few taps.

iOS 6 isn't just better at sharing with Twitter and Facebook. Though it doesn't support Google+ and other social networks directly, it is easier to push files around. A new dialog box opens up that lets you send images to your social networks, and also to your Photo Stream or a printer; lets you save web pages to Read It Later, add them to bookmarks (in addition to sending them places), and more. Basically, if you want to share something, iOS 6 lets you do so via multiple avenues with new, easier tools.

Of course, Android has had these features built into the platform for some time, and in fact it easily surpases iOS if you look at compatibility with other apps. For example, I can share a photo from the Android photo gallery to at least a dozen different social networks, and not just two.

 

Social Networking

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