Living with Apple iOS 6 – Review

ios 6 homescreenAfter all the hullabaloo about iOS 6, both good and bad, I have managed to acquire an iPhone 5 and live with using it as my primary device for a couple of weeks. For a review of the iPhone 5, head over here. For my impressions of Apple’s latest operating system, stay right here.

Even though iOS 6 has squirted over to my trusty iPhone 4, it does not receive all the bells and whistles that the 4S and the new iPhone 5 gets. The phone used for this review was hooked up to Vodafone UK’s network.

iOS 6 could well go down as being Apple’s most controversial update since the operating system first arrived back in 2007.

Thea headlines were grabbed by Google’s apps having been given the boot, so there’s no native YouTube or Google Maps apps on the new mobile OS.

Replacing Google Maps is Apple’s own navigation and mapping app which has been made with considerable help from TomTom.

In addition to that, Siri has been improved and finally works properly in the UK; the phone app has been tweaked, Safari and Mail have been updated and FaceTime now will work over 3G.

iOS 6 is more social

ios 6 shareThe latest iOS is much more social than before. You now get shared Photo Streams and Facebook is baked right in to it, rather than being gaffer taped to it, and there’s many more improvements that makes your iOS mobile a little friendlier.

Unfortunately, that new found friendliness isn’t shown to the older Apple kit. iOS 6 works on all iPhones from the 3GS onwards, the iPad 2 and new iPad, and the fourth and fifth generation iPod touches. If you are rocking something less current then you lose out.

It’s a case of – the older the kit the less of iOS 6 you actually get.

Some of the big features such as Siri, turn-by-turn navigation, panoramic photos and FaceTime over 3G – aren’t available for the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4.

The 3GS doesn’t even get the offline reading list feature, and Siri’s not available for the iPad 2.

Saying that though, I’ve tested iOS 6 on my iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 I’ve managed to borrow for a fortnight and even when you don’t get all the new features, there are still enough improvements to make the upgrade a sound move.

iOS 6 Phone and Facetime

ios 6 do not disturbiOS’s Phone app has been handed some welcome improvements. When you receive a call you now have more options than just Answer or Decline. You can now reply with a pre-defined or custom iMessage or SMS, or set a reminder to call the person back.

Such reminders can be time-based or location-based, so for example you can set a reminder that kicks in when you get home.

My favourite new Phone app feature is Do Not Disturb. You can schedule this for specific times or just switch it on when you’re in a meeting or catching some shut-eye. Do Not Disturb enables you to silence all calls and alerts, or to ring only when specific people call, and you can also specify whether repeated attempts to call you should override the Do Not Disturb settings so that urgent or emergency calls can get through.

I would have liked the options to have been easier to find though, ie under the Do Not Disturb tag or even on the lock screen or in the notification area. For those not able to take calls on their mobiles at work and the like, location-based activation might have been a nice touch too.

FaceTime is now available over 3G, provided you have the right hardware (iPhone 4S or iPhone 5) and the right tariff – some networks wont allow FaceTime on their lesser plans.

iOS 6 Maps

ios 6 maps shardThis was the bit that I was fearing most. With the current lynch mob ready to storm Cupertino, Tim Cook had no option other than to publicly apologise for the new Apple iOS Maps app. Google are apparently close to sending their new Google Maps app to the iTunes app store bolstered by public demand. Is it really that bad? Will it be even worse in the UK?

OK, it’s not perfect, but neither was Google’s first outing if memory serves me correct – but Apple’s Maps app has some nice touches too.

The app uses data from TomTom – including free live traffic information, something you have to pay extra for in TomTom’s own iPhone app.

The UK maps are generally very good and the turn-by-turn navigation links up with Siri so you don’t have to keep looking at the screen when you’re driving or, if like me, you tend to have to walk through some ‘edgier’ areas of London and would rather not have your smartphone illuminating you with a huge ‘mug me now’ sign.

Maps includes reviews from Yelp

Apple has also integrated local search, with mixed results: while restaurant reviews from Yelp are handy if you live in a decent sized town or city – if you’re out in more rural areas then don’t expect much on the review front just yet.


ios 6 maps FlyoverThe Maps app doesn’t have Street View, but the iPhone 4S/5 and recent iPads get Flyover View’s 3D models of cities.

When they’re available they’re superb, but they’re not widely available yet: for example London’s there, but Glasgow isn’t. You can zoom in quite close and being able to rotate the view is a nice feature.

Navigating on the iPhone 5 it a very nice experience, with clear directions and fast rerouting if you miss a turn.

However, the interface isn’t wholly ideal for in-car use: Maps’ tiny interface elements mean you’ll need to take the phone out of your car cradle to adjust anything. Needless to say that this is something best left done by your co-pilot.

ios 6 maps NavigationTurn-by-turn navigation

This is something Android and Windows Phone have had for a while, but is a big addition to iOS.

This allows you to sit back and drive while Siri’s robotic voice talks you through your journey, accompanied by visual cues on your lock screen. (Those with Apple devices lacking dual-core processors, like iPhone 4 and 3GS, don’t get to enjoy the voice dictation feature or the 3D maps.)

I can just about put up with the American spellings (eg “Exhibition Center”) as it’s an app from an American company after all, but telling me that Leyton College is at the bottom of my close is way off the mark. This is where Apple loses Browny Points.

Has Apple lost its way?

I think that Google’s mapping was always going to be difficult to replace and I would have expected Apple to have at least got the city areas bang-on and then work out to the lesser populated areas but, it seems that there’s anomalies galore across the board.

There’s also a major sticking point for those of us that get around using public transport — the new Maps does not provide public transit directions. Tap the bus icon at the top, and the app prompts you to download one of a number of “Routing Apps,” like London Transport or, my favourite, Journey Pro, to fulfill those needs. Come on Apple, that’s just laziness!

After taking those points in to consideration though, I’ve used Maps walking around as well as being driven about and it hasn’t managed to get me lost when searching for addresses – I’m not ready to trust it to get me to places purely on searching for a hotel, etc just yet though.


For a hands-on review of the iPhone 5 please click here


iOS 6: Panoramic photos

ios 6 panoramic photo walthamstow village
click to enlarge

The default Camera app can now take seamless panoramic snaps. Once in the Camera app just select Panorama from the Options menu, press the shutter, and then sweep the camera from one side of the scene to the other. Once you’ve captured what you want press the “Done” button. The app works by shooting a series of stills as you sweep, then stitches them all together. The finished 28-megapixel product is impressive, and it works vertically as well as horizontally.

iOS 6: Siri

Siri has been massively improved in iOS 6, especially for UK customers: Siri can do local searches now! Wohoooo!

If you liked Siri in iOS 5 but wasn’t totally convinced due it’s limitations – the iOS 6 version is a huge improvement.

Siri can now give you driving directions, tell you what time films are on and whether they’re actually worth watching. It can find your friends, provide football scores and launch apps, and it integrates with services including Wolfram Alpha, Facebook and Twitter.

There’s also Eyes Free for integration with in-car audio and voice control systems, something Apple is currently liaising with car manufacturers about.

Apple is rather keen on Siri, not just for answering questions but also for dictating text. Computer dictation can be patchy at best but I’ve found iOS 6 to function remarkably well. At least my drunken dictated text messages will be spelt correctly :p

iOS 6: Facebook and Passbook

ios 6 passbook starbucks cardiOS already has Twitter integration, and Facebook joins it in iOS 6 with the same ability to share photos and post updates.

The contact and calendar integration is very neat with it adding Facebook events and friends’ birthdays to your Calendar (if you want it to) – what is a nice touch is that you can also tell  your FB buddies which apps and songs you’re digging.

iOS has another book: Passbook, Apple’s app for tickets, loyalty cards, boarding cards and anything else that’s currently taking up too much room in your wallet.

It’s a natty idea and for those that have wallets and purses packed with loyalty cards it may be useful. For me, this is more of a handy thing for getting my after midnight caramel macchiato by just flashing my phone when I’m carrying all my bass gear – my wallet is usually ends up at the bottom of one of my gig bags.

So, is iOS 6 any good then?

On my iPhone 4 iOS 6 is more a collection of minor improvements. On the iPhone 5 (and iPhone 4S) it does add some decent features to your Apple phone.

I might be going against the grain here but I actually do like what Apple has done with Maps. Yes, Android and Ovi Maps have had turn-by-turn navigation for a long time but credit where due – Apple has made a decent fist of making its first Maps app. It’s not perfect, yet, but it has some great features. I realise that you should be able to trust a map/navigation app 100% but we’ve seen what can happen when you hand over your judgement to GPS systems.

And there’s much, much more to Siri than just voice navigation – iOS 5’s version was just a novelty really and didn’t deliver for UK users, whereas the new version is actually useful.

Other improvements are more minor, but a better Phone app, improved Mail (including pull to refresh), Safari and I’m sure that people will find Passbook a handy addition.


Could someone tell me why turn-by-turn navigation can’t be included for iPhone 4, when the TomTom app manages to do it on the 3GS? The same goes for FaceTime over 3G for that matter.


Remember this is a software update. Don’t expect water in to wine or base metals in to gold levels of astonishment!

iOS 6 is an iterative update that brings with it a whole lot of improvements (over 200, apparently) but, as everyone knew what the bigger changes were going to be way ahead of the event, there are very few surprises to be found.

I do like the polish added to the App Store and iTunes and the refeshed styling in the music player makes it all seem more up-to-date.

I’d say that if you are rocking a dual-core iThingy — an iPhone 4S, or a second-generation iPad or newer — then upgrading to iOS 6 will hand you more functionality. Yes, there are things to be fixed which will likely be done through future updates but,  perhaps, Maps may be a bigger job and take a tad longer to remedy.

Google Maps will be made available as a standalone app and you can use Google Maps’ web interface til then if you miss the experience. But, honestly, I didn’t find iOS Maps as hideous as people have made out.

On my iPhone 4 I am missing out on Siri still and don’t get 3D Maps or that groovy Panorama camera mode). But I have to say that iOS 6 on an older iPhone seems less buggy and sluggish than the last version of iOS 5 was, so I’d recommend updating.

Loving the polish and general slickness. ‘Do Not Disturb’ and ‘Can’t Talk Right Now’ gives you more control over your calls, messages, and notifications. The tweaks to the default image processing software  has defintely improved camera performance. Ability to tweet or post to Facebook from Siri (if you have it) or Notification Center are also worthy a mention.

Not loving  the inaccuracies in Maps and the fact that the slicker features such as panorama photos and 3D maps are unavailable to iPhone 4 and 3GS users. Boo!

Have you updated to iOS 6? If not, what’s putting you off?

Enhanced by Zemanta