iOS 6 Initial Review: Sweet New Features, Same Old Look

During the 2012 WWDC we got a preview of iOS 6 which had a number of cool new add-ons, but the OS itself still has not changed much. In short, they really just added upon functionality that was already there and added an app or two. Nice to have, but kind of disappointing. despite the fact that the OS hasn’t changed much the new features are exciting.

with iOS 6, Siri gets a whole bunch of new capabilities that were both novel and useful. Among other things Apple has added a lot of intelligence to Siri when it comes to sports, restaurants and movies.

In the WWDC keynote speech Scott Forstall asked various questions about sports such as “What was the score for the last Giants game” in which Siri responded “The Giants were downed by the rangers yesterday, the final score was 5 to 0” and then showed a game summary with innings. He also followed up by asking “Who’s taller, Lebron or Kobe” in which Siri responded that Lebron appeared taller and brought up a stat sheet for both players.

The Movies and restuarants capabilities were much more nice features accross the board. Apple has partnered with Yelp, Open table and Rotten Tomatoes to make the experience all the better. In terms of restuarants, a user can ask for a close restuarant, pull up the reviews and contacts via Yelp, and Reserve a table directly from Open Table. The Same kind of integration is possible with Movies. Scott Forstall also demos Siri by asking what movies are playing at a theater nearby where Siri Responds with a listing and shows the ratings with the option to watch the trailer.

Another added capability that really stood out is the “Do Not Disturb” mode which can be enabled from the settings menu. The “Do Not Disturb” mode allows the user to disable all alerts while in this mode with exception of configurable contact groups. I thought it was especially clever how they allow emergency phone calls to be recognized and received if the caller calls more than once in a short period of time. A mode like this would be really handy for playing games or reading online articles.

The last piece of functionality that really stood out was the improvement on sharing both in photos and the added integration of Facebook. The Photo Stream Sharing seems to take on a bit of the functionality of Facebook’s photo but with exclusivity to Apple product users. With Photo Stream Sharing it is possible to mark photos to be shared over iCloud to other Apple Devices.

Facebook Integration was an added feature the seemed like more of a functionality fix than an improvement. Yes the new Feature set Does work well, but it should have been there from the beginning. Why Apple chose to exclude it in the beginning is just bananas. Either way, it is nice to have it now.

The Coolest things that were added were Apps not OS improvements. With iOS 6 we will get two new killer Apps: Maps and Passbook.The new Maps Application completely removes Google Maps from the phone in favor of Apple’s new in-house solution. From the WWDC keynote demonstration, the new Maps application looks like it will make a lot of users happy. Passbook is an inclusive solution to store boarding passes, coupons, and loyalty cards all in one place.

In the Keynote Demonstration, Scott Forstall shows of some of the new features of the Apple Maps app. From the demonstration it looks as though Apple has done a really good job at creating a very clean and attractive interface. Scott also made it a point to include all of their work in getting good business search listings. Siri and Yelp integration are also included with the new maps.

The Most impressive feature of the new Maps application is the fly by feature of Maps. From the Fly by view users are presented with a very nice and clean 3d rendering of an area which seemed very quick and responsive. While I don’t see how useful this feature really would be to most users, I can definitely see how we would all play with it excessively.

Another long awaited feature for Maps is the addition of the desperately needed turn-by-turn navigation. It also Appeared as though Apple did a really good job in making this feature a great user experience. The Caviat however is that it probably won’t be available for iPhone 4 and earlier. For those counting, iPhone 4 users won’t have Siri or Turn-by-turn. Leave it to Apple to facilitate the obsoletion of their devices after only two years.

Overall I am very happy with the new features but along with countless others I was hoping for a fresh new look and a change to the UI. The Added Apps are great and Siri’s improvements look like a good second step toward something really great. There are still some possible changes to the UI upon it’s release this fall but I wouldn’t hold your breath. The Maps inclusion and Siri upgrades will be the biggest winners for iOS 6. I am a bit concerned that the Maps will not have nearly the extensive search capabilities as Google maps did.

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