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Apple iOS 6: Maps Mayhem and What’s New
Date: Sep 20, 2012
Author: Ray Willington
iOS 6's Best New Features
Apple's iOS 6 is now available to download, and Apple has been quick to tout some "200 new features" over iOS 5. But of those 200, only a select few are noticeable to the end user. While a ton of stuff has been tweaked under the hood to enhance or otherwise modify the OS, not all of it is apparent to the end user. There are a few features, however, that are immediately apparent; here are our favorite new features that you'd be wise to check out.

New Phone Dialer features-

We mentioned this when iOS 6 launched, but it bears repeating: the new phone-related features are excellent. The phone may be one of the most infrequently used features of the iPhone (we're all busy consuming data, right?), but these new additions make it easier to manage calls during the middle of a hectic workday.

Now, with iOS 6, there's another option besides muting a call or sliding to answer. You can hit the 'phone' icon to the right of the answer slide, and when you slide that up, you're presented with a few options. You can have your phone remind me you to ring back, or you can send a text / iMessage instead, in the event that you can't take the call.

Do Not Disturb -

Yes, this should've been in iOS a long time ago. But we shouldn't gripe about free updates to iOS, right? (Kidding, kidding!) Do Not Disturb is a great new feature where you can set your calls and notifications to mute themselves between certain hours. Finally, you can get some sleep without your iPhone buzzing at inopportune hours.

Facebook Integration -

The tight integration iOS had with Twitter is now available with Facebook. You can update your status from the drop-down Notification Center, but unfortunately, you can't do an image update from there. Hopefully, however, we'll see more innovation as Apple and Facebook's partnership grows.

Sharing Menu -

The good news? Any app that supports sharing now has a cleaner menu, complete with a "Add To Reading List" option if it's on the web. Handy! The bad news? Unless it's an Apple app, you may not see it. Sharing a tweet through Twitter, for example, uses an old-style sharing option menu.

Privacy -

Look at that -- Apple has added an entirely new option in Settings. It's one that deals solely with Privacy, which is obviously becoming a greater concern now that identity theft is blooming and more big sites and databases are being hacked.

FaceTime Over Cellular -

Yes, Facetime is now possible with iOS 6. But there are caveats. While some carriers (like Verizon) don't mind you using 3G or LTE to make FaceTime video calls, AT&T won't let you do it unless you're on a Mobile Share data plan. It's great that it's an option, but it's a shame that carriers are able to exert this level of control.

Passbook -

There's no NFC in any iPhone, but Passbook is as close as you'll get. The upside is that this is a great idea. One handy place to keep all of your gift cards, boarding passes, event tickets, etc. Replacing any paper item or physical card with a barcode, with a digital one. The downside is that you can't manually add cards with barcodes. They have to be offered by a supported partner, and for now, there aren't many.

Panorama mode -

Apple's Camera app is woefully underpowered, giving users practically no control over advanced settings, but the new Panorama mode is excellent. It allows you to hold your phone upright (way more comfortable), and it has a line on the screen that you follow so you don't get off-axis while shooting. This alone makes it easier to use than some other solutions, not to mention the great image quality from the sensor in the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
Maps Mayhem and Missed Opportunities
Of course, not everything is peaches and cream. Even Apple is prone to the occasional misstep. Here are a few of the biggest misses (and in turn, opportunities).

Maps -

Let's not beat around the bush: Maps is downgraded in iOS 6. The new Maps application is devoid of Google. Instead, Apple has prettied up information from Yelp and TomTom, and what you're stuck with is a more beautiful application that is far less intelligent and functional. The POI database is inferior to Google's, and any logic you use for searching in Google Maps (people tend to learn tricks for searching for things nearby in places they live, etc.) may not work now.

TomTom is also a poor choice for a mapping partner in our opinion. In our experience, Garmin mapping units have outperformed TomTom. Furthermore, there are no mass transit directions at all on the new Maps. None. At all. Millions of iOS 6 users live in urban city centers, and they're suddenly without the bus and train data that was so easy to find using the Google-assisted Maps in iOS 5. Apple's probably working hard on patching this up, but for now, it's a huge hole. And, on top of that, Google has no standalone Maps app for iOS to cover up Apple's omission. (That's probably on purpose.)

The only major upside? Siri can now control Maps, so you can just say "Route me to 586 Redwood Circle in Santa Cruz" and it'll pull up turn-by-turn directions. Just don't expect it to get you there on a public transit option.

Siri -

Why is this a negative? Because Siri still isn't smart enough. Yes, she knows more about movies now, and she can make you a reservation down the street at your nearby Chinese eatery, but that's just not enough. There are no API hooks to allow third-party apps to have their vital functions controlled by voice. Why not? Being able to control all apps -- not just opening them, but using them -- via voice would be groundbreaking. Also, Siri's intelligence drops significantly in nations not named U.S.A. Tsk, tsk.

Lack of customizations -

Apple has never been one to really open things up for tweaking, but it's time. iOS 6 is looking a bit dated, and there are still no options for adding third-party keyboards, changing themes or colors, or controlling extras that show up in Notification Center. Why can't we turn Airplane Mode on or turn Bluetooth off from the pulldown menu?

Camera omissions -

Why put a world-class camera into a phone, and then give users no way to truly take advantage? The iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 have great sensors and optics, but Apple failed to turn advanced options on in iOS 6. No way to adjust ISO, shutter speed or aperture? Why not? Creative professionals would be happy to show off the iPhone's capabilities, but iOS 6 limits their abilities.

No live icons -

Why does the weather app still show 73 and sunny? Why doesn't it actively show the weather where you are? Why do the notification number bubbles have to be the same color on each app? Why isn't there a way to tweak that? Plus, there aren't any widgets in iOS 6 -- a missed opportunity.

Contact / NFC -

We can't fault Apple for skipping the mobile payments bandwagon; it's a real mess at the moment, with too many players and no clear roadmap. But, why not add NFC? If anyone could make bump transfers cool, it'd be Apple. Just look at what they did for short-form messaging with iMessage. They clearly have the foresight and marketing and coding skills, but the hardware's not there. It's not so much a knock against Apple for not copying Android and including NFC; it's a disappointment.

iPad omissions -

Have a new iPad? You can get iOS 6 as well! But, don't look for everything to be there. There's no Passbook, which is exceptionally strange given that Passbook even made the leap to the iPod touch. Also, there's still no calculator app. Why not? Makes no sense. (To Apple's credit, they finally added a Clock app to the iPad.)

iOS 6 is still brand new, and Apple has plenty of time to make updates and adjustments. We don't expect the next major iOS push until WWDC 2013 next June, but hopefully we'll get a few wishes granted in point releases between now and then.

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