iOS 6 [Review]

App Store

iOS 6 [Review]

So much of iOS 6 is about making soft refinements to existing apps, and nothing exemplifies this approach more than what Apple has done to the App Store. There’s nothing revolutionary here. It works mostly the same. But it’s undeniably more pleasant and less frustrating to use.

The most immediate change in both apps is that they have been given darker, low contrast designs. It’s a small decision, but it makes it easier on the eyes, and therefore, easier to stay in Apple’s virtual stores and keep spending money. That, in fact, seems to be the modus operandi of the update. Apple wants you to stay in the App Store and spend more money.

The modus operandi of the App Store update: Apple wants you to stay in the App Store and spend more money.

With 700,000 apps and growing, app discovery in the App Store is a very real problem for Apple. That’s why Cupertino bought Chomp last year, and the result seems to be a smarter, easier-to-navigate App Store, with rotating banners for featured apps, easier-to-read app product pages, the ability to see related apps at a glance, and more.

The most welcome change in the App Store, though, is this: Apple has finally eliminated a lot of the senseless bullshit of buying an app or updating one. Before, if you updated your apps, you needed to enter your iTunes password for no apparent reason. Now you don’t. Before, if you bought a new app, you were taken out of the App Store to your iPhone homescreen. Now you’re not.

Finally, there’s search. This is where Chomp’s heritage is most clear: if you search for an app, you now get more than a list of app names, prices and app icons, but are instead presented with an attractive carousel (complete with app screenshots) that you can scroll through to find the app you want.

Apple makes 30 cents off every dollar spent in the App Store, so they want you spending as much time in the app as possible, and make it as easy for you to find what you’re looking for as they can. iOS 6’s App Store update goes a long way towards doing just that. It’s a step up in every way.

Apple has finally eliminated a lot of the senseless nonsense of buying an app or updating one.

Safari

iOS 6 [Review]

With the release of Google Chrome on iOS, Safari’s suffered a major broadside from third-party browsers: it’s just as good of a browser when it comes to features except for one thing, which is access to the “Nitro” Javascript engine that makes Safari feel so much faster, and which Apple keeps in reserve for Safari alone. Until Apple allows third-party browsers to take advantage of Nitro and be set as iOS’s default browser, Safari is going to be the best and most practical choice for most users looking to hit the web. Which is what makes Safari in iOS 6 such a disappointment: there’s little new that matters here, even as browsers like Chrome push the bar while working under Apple’s artificial Javascript disadvantage.

Feature-wise, iCloud Tabs is the big improvement this year. Similar to Chrome’s sessions view, iCloud Tabs allows you to easily open any web pages you have open in any other instance of Safari, whether on the iPhone, iPad or Mac. It works as advertised, and it’s very useful for juggling your webpages across devices, as long as you use Safari everywhere. Chances are you don’t.

Other than iCloud Tabs, though, Safari’s new features are pretty paltry. Reading List now supports offline content, which is helpful for when you don’t have a data connection, and makes the feature a more viable alternative to scrapers like Instapaper and Pocket. There’s also a full-screen mode, which works well enough if that’s your bag, and can be useful on the iPhone especially to see as much of a webpage as possible on the tiny screen.

Safari’s a great browser, but it’s frustrating not seeing it evolve very much this year. There’s real competition on the horizon from the likes of Google Chrome. It’s strange that Mobile Safari isn’t even seeing some of the changes Apple has made in Safari for Mac this year: for example, unlike the desktop version, Safari in iOS 6 still has a superfluous search bar, which is mind-boggling considering how much space it wastes on a tiny screen. We hope for either bigger improvements in iOS 7, or for Apple to finally allow third-party browsers to be set as default.

Safari in iOS 6 is a bit of disappointment: there’s little new that matters here, even as browsers like Chrome push the bar.

Sharing, Facebook & Photo Stream

iOS 6 [Review]

Sharing is one of the major foci of iOS 6, and so Apple’s mobile operating system has received a host of new features and functionality all centered around giving you more options for sending the content you have on your iPhone or iPad to other people and other apps.

iOS 6’s focus on sharing is obvious the second you click the “Share” button in any app. Where before you got a text-only list of apps and other places you could share a file or webpage, you are now presented with an attractive grid of icons with the same information. Functionally, it doesn’t change much, but it seems much less slapdash and much easier to share, say, a photo or a web page at a glance.

Last year, Apple made Twitter a default sharing option in iOS; this year, Facebook’s getting the same treatment. It works exactly the same as Twitter did in iOS 5: as long as you have the Facebook app installed, you can set up your account in Settings, and then share things like photos and web pages using a pop-up notecard where you can enter your location and a custom message. It works just fine, and you can even post to Facebook by tapping the Facebook button in Notification Center, just like you can with Twitter.

There’s more to Facebook integration than just sharing, though. One big addition is that Facebook in iOS 6 has access to your Calendar and Contacts. That means it can automatically add Facebook events to your Calendar, or change your contacts’ photos, user names, birthdays and job titles as appropriate. Whether you should trust Facebook to muck around with your Contacts probably has more to do with how much you trust your Facebook friends to keep their information on the social network up-to-date, but for my gaggle of contacts, it worked out well, and never did anything stupid like replace a functional phone number or email with one from Facebook that didn’t work.

iOS 6 [Review]

Another new sharing feature is the ability to set up shared Photo Stream galleries. This is one of my favorite new features in iOS 6: it’s incredibly cool to be able to, say, create a shared Photo Stream gallery amongst your friends for a weekend trip, comment upon them, ‘like’ them and download them to your own device. It’s like setting up your own miniature social network, and you can even share the Photo Stream gallery on the web, if you’re so inclined.

Do Not Disturb

iOS 6 [Review]

As our devices become ever smaller, ever more advanced, ever more connected, it can be harder and harder to put them down. That’s as it should be, but being connected all the time isn’t always a good thing. Managing what’s going on in your connected life can be stressful, especially when your attention is being demanded by your device at inopportune times.

“Do Not Disturb” is Apple’s effort to help you deal with that stress, and it might just be my favorite feature of iOS 6. At any point, by going to Settings, you can flip a toggle that will turn off all incoming notifications and pipe all your calls to voice mail.

You can always tell when Do Not Disturb is on, because a sleepy little moon will show up in the status bar until you turn it off again. It’s a fantastic way to get a breather from the crush of your digital life, with some smart options that make sure that people can still reach you in an emergency. You can select individuals who can always bypass Do Not Disturb if they call you, and if someone tries to call you twice within three minutes, the call will go through, assuming it is an emergency (this is adjustable in the Settings).

The best aspect of Do Not Disturb, though, is it can be automated. You can easily set it, for example, to automatically go into Do Not Disturb mode from midnight until 7AM, making sure you’re not interrupted all night long by the incessant pinging of incoming notifications.

The biggest fault of Do Not Disturb is that it’s such a useful option, it seems silly to bury it in the Settings panel. This is a feature, like Bluetooth, that should come with a Notification Center toggle. Fingers crossed for iOS 6.

Do Not Disturb is a fantastic way to get a breather from the crush of your digital life.

The Rest

• Apple may have failed in doubling-down on secrecy with the iPhone 5, but iOS 6 doubles down on privacy, requiring all apps to ask your explicit permission the first time you run them to access photos, your location, your contacts, and more. It’s a good change that makes what apps can and can’t access on your device a lot more transparent, without adding a lot of fiddly management.

• The new option to decline incoming phone calls with politely worded pre-canned messages is fantastic.

• Wi-Fi Plus Cellular — which allows you to seamlessly switch between 3G/LTE and Wi-Fi, depending which is faster — is a great feature if you’ve got a terrible home internet connection, but be careful: mobile data is expensive, and just a few days with this setting on saw our mobule data usage go through the roof.

• Bluetooth is now toggled on the first screen of the Settings app. It’s an improvement, but this really needs to be a feature that you can adjust either in Notification Center or in the task manager. It’s just too important to be so far away.

• Messages now unifies all of your email address and phone numbers, so that you get incoming iMessages on all your devices. It’s a big improvement, mostly because you can now send a Message to someone’s phone number, and it’ll pop up on their Mac if they are using Messages on Mountain Lion. That didn’t happen before, and it was maddening. It also means that all of your possible iMessage addresses are now automatically synced using the iCloud between devices, which makes setting up a new device for Messages a lot less tedious.

• The new Clock app on the iPad is absolutely gorgeous. Now if only the iPad would get the other “missing” apps. How does the iPad still not have Weather?

• The “New” badge on apps you have recently downloaded but not opened yet is kind of ugly.

• You can now stream your music collection using iTunes Match instead of downloading it locally. That’s the way it should have worked in the first place.

• Making Panoramas with the iPhone 4S camera is super fun and easy. Here’s one I made of my study.

Conclusion

iOS is already the fastest, most advanced and most mature mobile operating system out there, and iOS 6 introduces enough improvements to keep it more than a nose ahead of the competition. But the transition from iOS 5 to iOS 6 seems like the least urgent update to the Apple’s most popular operating system to date. There are some standout new features, like turn-by-turn navigation and Do Not Disturb and changes to Siri, but the bulk of iOS 6 is made up of either small incremental improvements to existing apps or entirely new apps like Passbook or the new Maps which are promising starts, but curiously unfleshed-out right now.

Is iOS 6 bad? Hardly: it’s the best version of the best operating system out there. iOS 6 is superior in every way to what came before it, and lays important groundwork for the future. We just can’t wait to see what revolutions Apple has in store with iOS 7.

iOS 6 is superior in every way to what came before it, and lays important groundwork for the future.

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  • Edwin Torres

    Siri is a lot quicker to responses and understands me a whole lot more. But… she sounds like she got a head injury, what happen? All in all i LOVE the update to Siri.

  • Bob Forsberg

    A review of OS6 would have been nice, rather than your personal tirade of your dislike for Siri.

  • Brian Gregory May
  • EdisPG

    “Messages now unifies all of your email address and phone numbers, so that you get incoming iMessages on all your devices. It’s a big improvement, mostly because you can now send a Message to someone’s phone number, and it’ll pop up on their Mac if they are using Messages on Mountain Lion. That didn’t happen before, and it was maddening. ” – THAT wil be maddening. So when I receive iMessage it is goint go pop up on my phone, my wife phone, my 2 ipads, macbook, and, who knows in future, my apple tv
    That is something that people will not like

  • Brian Gregory May

    “Messages now unifies all of your email address and phone numbers, so that you get incoming iMessages on all your devices. It’s a big improvement, mostly because you can now send a Message to someone’s phone number, and it’ll pop up on their Mac if they are using Messages on Mountain Lion. That didn’t happen before, and it was maddening. ” – THAT wil be maddening. So when I receive iMessage it is goint go pop up on my phone, my wife phone, my 2 ipads, macbook, and, who knows in future, my apple tv
    That is something that people will not like

    It should only appear on ONE phone. And once the message is read, the Notification vanishes from the rest of the devices.

  • Tallest_Skil

    THAT wil be maddening. So when I receive iMessage it is goint go pop up on my phone, my wife phone, my 2 ipads, macbook, and, who knows in future, my apple tv
    That is something that people will not like

    That’s how it has always been, that’s how anyone would want it.

    It should only appear on ONE phone. And once the message is read, the Notification vanishes from the rest of the devices.

    Should, but it DOESN’T, which is the only annoying part.

  • Marcus Rodriguez

    I thought we were promised location based reminders on the new iPad, but they don’t work. Very frustrating.

  • TopherHengge

    All in all I like the iOS update. However, I do not like the fact that you can’t swipe left and right in Reminders any longer to view your other categories. Any reason why this is the case?

  • Brian Gregory May
    THAT wil be maddening. So when I receive iMessage it is goint go pop up on my phone, my wife phone, my 2 ipads, macbook, and, who knows in future, my apple tv
    That is something that people will not like

    That’s how it has always been, that’s how anyone would want it.

    It should only appear on ONE phone. And once the message is read, the Notification vanishes from the rest of the devices.

    Should, but it DOESN’T, which is the only annoying part.

    It works fine for me.

  • Hayden Fong

    facebook contacts not only updated my contacts photos but added every person on the facebook to my contacts list… then saved that to iCloud… now I have 800 people who I dont want to see on my phones contact list -.-

  • Timothy Williamson

    What about the Notification Center iCloud syncing? I think this is one of the best features that will save time so people don’t have to clear notifications on two (or more) devices.

  • mr_bee

    Personally, I’m not liking it at all. Everything is noticeably slower, maps is the worst POS I’ve ever seen/used, no transit directions, poor (and very hard to find) walking directions etc.

    The World clock can’t find any cities, Passbook is yet *another* “useless outside of the USA or southern California” apps, and we still can’t get rid of stocks, Notes, etc.

    Email now has a totally useless (to me) giant f*cking star at the top of the folder list that can’t be removed, yet it still doesn’t have basic spam filtering and all the rules have been completely borked since the last iCloud upstate anyway.

    iOS 6 is a useless, ugly, and just poor in general upgrade if you ask me.

  • ddevito

    Just installed iOS6 on my iPad – Damn the maps app sucks, especially flyover 3D. Awful.

  • ddevito

    iOS 6 blows. I want 5 back NOW.

  • ddevito

    Personally, I’m not liking it at all. Everything is noticeably slower, maps is the worst POS I’ve ever seen/used, no transit directions, poor (and very hard to find) walking directions etc.

    The World clock can’t find any cities, Passbook is yet *another* “useless outside of the USA or southern California” apps, and we still can’t get rid of stocks, Notes, etc.

    Email now has a totally useless (to me) giant f*cking star at the top of the folder list that can’t be removed, yet it still doesn’t have basic spam filtering and all the rules have been completely borked since the last iCloud upstate anyway.

    iOS 6 is a useless, ugly, and just poor in general upgrade if you ask me.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • ali_plus

    What I saw in iOS so far:

    1. I feel the volume of Siri was low. Before the update it was fine. (Maybe its just me…)
    2. No Map Directions for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan…? Is that how they call it “New and Improved Maps”
    3. Useless people with useless information in my contacts. Also wrong identification of people and assigned them FB names with any confirmation.

    Overall I am enjoying iOS 6. Improvements needed for Facebook integration. Maps… Well (Google please help us) :(

    I have iPhone 4S

  • SamNasri2

    like Andrew answered I am impressed that anybody can earn $8974 in a few weeks on the computer. have you seen this site(Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/nJMFU

  • Ian Campbell

    What happened to downloading individual songs from Match? & more importantly being able to delete the albums you have downloaded, that’s music on the commute to work stuffed as the minute the train I’m on hits a tunnel there goes the new fangled streaming function, and if I download albums to my iPhone I’ll run out of space pretty quick because I cant delete the older albums I don’t feel like listening to, Apple needs to get this sorted NOW!!!

  • joewaylo

    facebook contacts not only updated my contacts photos but added every person on the facebook to my contacts list… then saved that to iCloud… now I have 800 people who I dont want to see on my phones contact list -.-

    Go to Contacts, Press “Groups” then unpress “Facebook”. This hides all your 800 contacts that you haven’t added to iCloud contacts.

  • Andrew McLave

    No facetime over 3G for the facetime phone! Everything else from the ipad to ipod touch! But for us “poor” Iphone4 owners! Nada,Zip or feck all! is what we get for buying the phone which ushered in the era of Facetime, Thank You Apple! and F**K You Very Much! I will no longer trust you or your Add campaigns! I thought that the carriers were the cynical ones, and they are, but with this move you have joined their evil ranks in my estimation! Maybe im just overreacting! Maybe your rationale makes perfect sense, but how would I know as theres no explanations forthcoming, except small print telling us were not worth the hassle or whatever were supposed to infere from said small print in the real world! The cut off point should have been the 3gs obviously! as its not facetime capable in the first place!

  • Tallest_Skil

    No facetime over 3G for the facetime phone! Everything else from the ipad to ipod touch! But for us “poor” Iphone4 owners! Nada,Zip or feck all! is what we get for buying the phone which ushered in the era of Facetime, Thank You Apple! and F**K You Very Much! Maybe im just overreacting!

    You’re overreacting. It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Apple. It is the carriers that prevent it. Calm down.

  • Bobby Scruggs

    Hey does anyone have this problem? I know its not iOS but I updated my macbook pro to the newest software but after updating it still says I have a software update and I try to update it but the times to download jump everywhere from 11 minutes to almost two hours… any suggestions?

  • Steven Wang

    vTransit , a free public transit search and navigation app working seamlessly with the Maps app http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vtransit-free-public-transition/id561950845?mt=8

  • Bryan Dillon

    Already very frustrated that the youtube app was removed. Now, I can’t watch half of the videos I could previously because they’re flash based and we don’t have that….the frustrating thing was this wasn’t a problem with the youtube app.

  • MisterL30N

    I am getting so tired of particular Cult of Mac journalists always having something to complain about when Apple announces a new product or software update. Bitching about Siri? “Down-graded” maps? No use for Passbook? The hell is your problem? This software was just released this summer. Of course there aren’t going to be a shit load of Passbook tickets for you to stash in it. Of course Siri is going to have server traffic, it’s cool as shit! And as far as I’m concerned, the new maps application is a hell of a lot better than the previous one. Siri’s voice incorporated with turn-by-turn directions is a great addition. I’m so tired of being pumped up for a new product or software release and to log onto CultofMac.com to see how excited they are only to be half bummed out and pissed off because the writer who’s putting the article together clearly is using his iPhone with his eyes closed. I mean, shit. It’s time to give credit where credit is due, and this is by far the most advance operating system on the planet in a complete form. Anyone just starting out with their first iPhone is in for a big treat and a ton of great apps that were designed and created by the hard-working team at Apple. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll have to screen the articles over here at CoM before I continue reading them. What a shame that is.

  • CharilaosMulder

    I just love the retina shutdown spinner…

  • Brett DrMorph WilliamShaw

    thanks to Apple’s incompetance, this update to iOS6 has cost me OVER $99. to other people updating their iDevices to iOS6, make sure to IMMEDIATELY after the update to switch your network from cell data(apple default) to wifi. as soon as the iOS6 install and restart is completed, your phone/ipad will start updating all the apps onboard it. if you haven’t switched over to using wifi and disabled cell data for the apps update, it will cost you heavily with cell data usage. i am lucky i caught Apple’s deception in time before it cost me alot more than $99. for me there is only one good thing to come out from the incremental update(iOS6) and that is not having to enter my itunes password for each and every app update(slowly Apple is catching up to Android, and yes i use both an iphone and galaxy s3). i hope other people updating to iOS6 havent gone through the pain and expense i have suffered.

  • Wayne Bridgett

    Well, according to the BBC the new Maps are even worse than I thought:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19659736

  • Robert X
    Already very frustrated that the youtube app was removed. Now, I can’t watch half of the videos I could previously because they’re flash based and we don’t have that….the frustrating thing was this wasn’t a problem with the youtube app.

    Get the new Google version. It is very very nice.

  • techwarrior

    Passcode: Many users are getting an error in App Store. I noticed when navigating from Passcode. You might add a tip to go into Date/Time in settings, disable auto, set the year to next year and exit. Go into App Store, exit, reset Date/Time to auto and proceed.

    Once done, there are close to a dozen apps that are Passcode enabled.

    It would have been nice for Apple to add a demo mode to help users understand how to use this app. Given their MO is to provide Apps that just work, or need no documentation, this one will baffle folks until they use it a few times.

  • Andrew Smith

    It’s ridiculous that there’s no transit directions in the maps. Redirection to a third-party app? Great. Glad I can now wait for that whole circus to load while i’m on the sidewalks of NYC in the winter.

  • WaynerOscar

    just as Juanita explained I am shocked that a mom can profit $6795 in four weeks on the internet. have you read this website (Click on menu Home more information) http://goo.gl/RBfOP

  • TopherHengge

    All in all I like the iOS update. However, I do not like the fact that you can’t swipe left and right in Reminders any longer to view your other categories. Any reason why this is the case?

    Woops. I just learned you still can swipe left and right – just need to do it on the category title.

    Just in case anyone was wondering the same thing I was.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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