01.Apple iOS 6
You might not want to pay to upgrade to the new “stretch limo” iPhone 5 released this week, but if you already have an older iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch you can still get in on the excitement with the release of iOS 6 - and it’s free.
This major update brings with it a slew of new features — Apple claims more than 200 of them — and most work with iOS devices dating back to the iPhone 3GS, release three years ago.
But it "loses" a couple of things too - Apple’s YouTube app has gone, so for the iPhone you’ll need to download Google’s version free from the App Store or like iPad users just view YouTube in the Safari web browser (youtube.com.au). From Safari's "share" menu you can "Add to Home Screen" to create an shortcut icon for quicker access.
As you’d expect, Apple’s standard apps get a makeover, with the Maps app being the most noticeable — and the most controversial. Apple has dumped Google’s maps for its own, giving the Maps app a new look and feel which has been widely criticised not only for lacking the detail of the Google maps but for inaccuracies and graphical glitches.
Viewing Maps in Standard view now shows information, such as direction indicators and priority road emphasis, while the satellite imagery doesn’t zoom in as close and has far less graphical detail. Eagle-eyed iOS 6 users around the world have also reported inaccuracies and imaging glitches in Apple’s maps, with one user going so far as to set up a blog to showcase the problems, The Amazing iOS 6 Maps. And Apple’s maps don’t have an equivalent to Google’s ground-level Street View picture system.
Of course, while it’s new territory for Apple, Google has been in the mapping business for years and has a tried and proven product. Apple will have to work fast to bring its map software up to scratch but eventually it is expected to be a worthy competitor to Google Maps. It offers its own unique features such as map rotation and 3D “flyover”, but Australian users are yet to get turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic data.
Meanwhile, Google is reportedly working on a Google Maps app for iOS but there is no release date available yet so if you want the original Google maps back on your iOS device you will have to content yourself with the web browser version at maps.google.com.au.
iPhone screengrabs of Luna park in 2D mode and 3D Flyover mode.
But maps aside, there’s many good reasons to update to iOS 6. There’s an update for the voice-driven personal assistant, Siri which makes it smarter and integrated better with other apps and common phone functions and includes searchability for Australian businesses, at last.
You can now tell Siri to open apps and even perform certain actions. For example, say “go to choice.com.au” will open the Safari web browser app and take you to the CHOICE website. For a query such as “where can I go for lunch” Siri now taps into GPS data and displays a list of nearby restaurants. Likewise, you can simply ask “where’s the nearest post office?” to get a list of local post offices, with a map of the closest one tagged on the end.
These are just a few examples of how Siri is suddenly a lot more useful for Australians. Many who tried Siri when it first came out found it had some novelty value but wasn’t compellingly useful. The iOS 6 version of Siri could make it far more of an “everyday” feature, though we found that it still won’t supply local sports scores or movie times. If you have the third generation iPad you get Siri with the iOS 6 update, but older iPads miss out.
Siri now finds Australian businesses
What’s on the cards?
The iPhone 5 didn’t come with support for the fledgling NFC (near-field communication) technology as many predicted. This could have given it the ability to make short-range wireless payments for goods at point of sale, effectively turning the iPhone into a “digital wallet”. Instead, iOS 6 comes with Apple’s new Passbook app, which doesn’t quite do the same thing, but is heading in the “digital wallet” direction.
Passbook lets you store electronic versions of tickets, boarding passes, merchant loyalty cards, coupons and gift cards. This should cut down wallet/purse clutter and provide greater convenience for shoppers, event-goers and travellers in particular.
It’s early days for Passbook, and so far relatively few Australian retailers and services have announced support for it, with the most notable being Virgin Australia, for boarding passes, while Qantas is reportedly looking to follow suit. There’s also the Apple retail store chain, of course.
Passbook’s convenience potential is huge, thanks to its time-and-location awareness. It can pop up relevant information at the right time and place, such as when you enter the airport. Apple says it can also automatically notify you of flight change information and alert you to go to a different gate, if necessary.
It will take time for Australian businesses to get on board with Passbook. You’ll be able to buy vouchers for it via Apple’s App Store and opportunities to use it will start to crop up when browsing with the Safari app.
Apple integrated social media into iOS 5 apps across-the-board with Twitter, and with iOS 6 it does a similar job with Facebook. Now you can post information and pictures to your Facebook account directly from various apps, without having to use the Facebook app. Safari now lets you link to Facebook friends using a Share button and you can even post updates using Siri and “Like” items in the App Store. The integration extends to posting photos, contacts and calendars also.
Smartphones do so much that you sometimes have to remind yourself they also make phone calls, and iOS 6 brings a couple of nifty new features to make that easier. When the phone rings, a swipe up on the new phone icon reveals buttons with options to reply with a set message such as “I’ll call you later”. You can also create your own, or you can opt to be reminded of the call later. There’s also a new “Do Not Disturb” feature, which you can turn on or off in Settings, and customise in the Notifications area. You can set it to not interrupt you on demand or at a predetermined time. You can even allow only calls from your contacts to come through.
Mail, FaceTime, photos and more
Other notables in the long list of new iOS 6 features is the Mail app’s ability to insert photos (yes, multiples) or videos into an email message while you’re composing it. To do this, tap the message body to get the popup prompt for Select/Select All/Paste and select the right-arrow to “Insert Photo or Video”. Another right-press on the arrow lets you increase/decrease the Quote level for your text. Likewise, Safari now lets you upload a photo while browsing.
You can now use FaceTime video chat over a 3G network, where it previously required Wi-Fi. You can also share pictures with iOS and non-iOS users using Photostream, directly from your i-devices. There’s also tighter privacy controls for your apps.
Doing the update
Updating to iOS 6 can take a while, so be sure to do it when you can afford the time to be without your device for a while. You can do it two ways — either directly on your device via Settings -> General -> Software update, or via iTunes on your computer.
Allow an hour or so all-up, to be safe. On a mobile device the download could take half an hour or more, depending on your Wi-Fi connection, then there’s the actual update and reboot. Once installed, it feels almost like setting the device up from new and requires you to step through a few screens and supply your Apple ID to bring together all your settings in the new environment.
You can get to work from this point, but you can expect to soon see a whole list of app updates waiting for the okay, including all the big Apple apps — Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband and so on. And when we say big, we mean several hundred megabytes in some cases, so allow plenty of time for that too. Many apps have been changed simply to support the iPhone 5’s larger (4-inch) screen.
If you hit the “Update all” button and you’re short of free space on your iDevice, you might get a message saying you don’t have enough room to do so. Downloading large apps uses up a lot of temporary space on the device that gets freed up again once the app is installed. Try doing the big ones individually.
If you’re still out of room, you’ll need to delete something. Go to Settings -> General -> Usage and under the Storage heading you’ll see a list of apps and the space they use, listed by size. Try the Video app first, it lets you delete individual items without actually deleting the app. Dumping a TV show or movie could be all the space you need. You can always re-download it later using iCloud.
Lots of apps will want an update
The iOS 6 upgrade is available for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPad 2, new iPad, iPod touch 4th generation, and the new iPod touch. If you’re not sure, the easy way to find out is to go to Settings -> General -> Software Update on your device.
If you have a recent model i-device then upgrading to iOS 6 pretty much a no-brainer, though users of 3GS-vintage devices might want to think carefully first as iOS 6 is a big update and has the potential to slow down older devices (though we haven’t done any comparison time-testing yet).
For iPhone 4S users the additional features of iOS 6 will help stave off the annoyance of now being stuck with a shorter phone for another 12 months till the contract runs out.
For more information about mobile phones, see Phones and mobile devices.