Recently I was given the honor of testing the new iOS 6, however this is based on a BETA so there will be some changes between now and the official release! This is for the iPhone, not iPad. I might do a review for iPad in the future if there is enough of a request for it! Straight off the bat, everything looks so different! There is a new display, app store and music screen. I'm going to be taking a small tour of the phone for you.
There are certain things I cannot discuss due to legal reasons so I will only be discussing official iOS 6 information that Apple have already announced.
The status bar (where you see your signal, battery and time) is now blue instead of grey. It looks fantastic, I truly hope this is not purely for the BETA. It looks more professional! When you go in to settings there are already some huge changes and additions to take note of. One of which is the "Do Not Disturb" function. You can switch this on and off to toggle all notifications. Basically, when activated, push notifications will be automatically muted and the screen won't light up. You can also set up the feature so that if a person calls you more than once, the phone will allow the call to come through, however you can toggle this for individual numbers.
The next thing is "Privacy". This is a fantastic way to allow apps into certain parts of your phone, but not everything. Best example I can think of is if you use Instagram. The first time you load up IG with the new iOS installed, it will ask you if you want to allow it access to your photos. If you wish to sync your phone to facebook, it will ask you if will allow it access to your contacts and so forth. This is a great way to keep unwanted apps out of your private files. Each sub-folder of "Privacy" will contain each app that requests permission and you can then toggle them to allow them to, or prevent them from, accessing your data.
Next up is the iTunes & App Stores and Facebook/Twitter Integration. The whole settings app has cleaned up nicely. They have now combined both stores in settings to allow you an easier time with configuration. There are still two stores, but I'll get to that later. Twitter was integrated to the iPhone last October and now Facebook has jumped on the band wagon. You can now log in once and then you can share posts, photos, locations and anything else on your phone with absolute ease. I will also demo this later in the review. Everything is so much easier to use now. Apple have really outdone themselves!
Once again we see that they have really upgraded their permissions. The Facebook settings asks you if you would like to allow certain apps to work with Facebook. I have been using them and they have been incredibly non-invasive. You can also update all your contacts information to their accounts on Facebook. It did not add new contacts for me but the contacts I had have certainly got far more details in the "Contacts" app and my calendar has never been so full of birthdays and events! At first I didn't like how much information I added but now it has grown on me. I won't forget an birthday again, that's for sure!
Mailbox has had a nice update too! You can now set certain email addresses to VIP which means they will be put in the sparkling new VIP folder so you can find them easier. I must say that I find this to make things easier. I use it mostly for KJBcast emails but it really makes business mail much easier to access. It may not be a huge change, but it's certainly one of the most useful to anyone who uses mail as religiously as I do! Also, Mail also seems to startup and load quicker now.
Now on to maps, probably one of the biggest changes to the new iOS. Apple have stepped away from Google and moved on to TomTom. A bold choice in my opinion, but it really paid off. The news maps are fantastic. I wish there were more local businesses put in to the system but overall it is really awesome. It loads much quicker than Google did and with the new inbuilt Yelp! functionality, the whole approach to maps is far superior than ever before. I promise you won't find this kind of service on any other device. The integration of Turn-By-Turn navigation makes this experience feel so futuristic.
It seems like such a small thing that will be taken for granted within the next 6 months but I find this to be incredible. I will say that it has trouble tracking sometimes, but this is a BETA and this is also Ireland so the odds were never really in my favour. The fact that Siri actually talks to you and tells you where to go actually makes this a truly hands-free experience. I like that I walk and listen to music and go somewhere I've never been without taking my phone out of my pocket to look up the directions. Plus, if I did have to, it would be easy seeing as you can see maps through the lock screen now!
Next up is the display of the iTunes store and App store. Instead of scrolling down you can now scroll sideways in each section. It makes it far easier to scroll. Updates are also far easier to use. You can now download your apps/updates and it won't close the app store, it will just download in the background. You can also read information about updates as you're updating, without opening a separate window. This makes downloading apps much smoother!
Passbooks seems to be awesome but since no apps I have come across are actually set up for Passbook it makes it hard to do a review on, but, the concept is awesome. You can store flight information, tickets, Coupons and your Store Cards all in one easy access and use application. I know from the demo at WWDC that you will also get up to date information on your flights through push notification. That really blew my mind! They also showed us that if you go near a store that your store cards work with, you will get a push notification.
There is a new feature when a person calls, you can immediate decline and set a reminder so when you leave a location or enter a location your phone will remind you, or, you can just set it to remind you in an hour or two or whenever you like. You can also decide to just send a message to the person calling you that is basically a pre-set template such as "I'll call you later" or "what's up?" and several more. It's a pretty useful feature.
Finally, we have Siri. A lot of people don't know this but Siri has been in BETA since October, so this is sort of the official release for this awesome piece of technology. Anyone who is reading this presumably knows what Siri is so I will be basing this review on that assumption. You can now get a crazy amount of sports information (which includes the Premiere League, HUZZAH!) as well as a heaping pile of American sports. Also, much more interesting to myself, Siri now has a huge database of movie information. You can ask for all sorts of information on movies, actors and more. It's basically IMDb inside Siri.
There will be subtle changes on top of the ones I discussed here. One of which is the ability to share your photostream with your friends and they can actually comment on your pictures and such, but as I don't know anyone else testing the BETA I can not actually test this feature yet. All in all, iOS 6 is going to be incredible. I really am enjoying the BETA. There is still more to discover, and more that I'm not actually able to discuss. This iOS is going to be the most impressive by far. I honestly cannot wait for the full version to be released in a few months!
- Ken Seiler