The new iOS 6 is the most exciting rendition in a loo-oong time. The ol' girl was starting to feel stale—no longer! We've got our sweaty hands on an iOS 6 iPhone for a quick tour. Join us.
Note: we've only given the iPhone version of iOS 6 a run through so far, which is missing some of the goodies of the iPad cousin.
Facetime over 3G
It took a couple years, but now FaceTime is as fantastic as it could have been all along: make video calls from anywhere you have a cell signal. It'll kick your capped data plan in the shins if you have one, but we can report the video was solid over AT&T—the difference between cell data and Wi-Fi was slight. This is killer. Now you can pause during a hike, call your uncle, and show him the majesty of nature while he sits in his basement.
Siri: now with 400% less suck. Your iPhone GF now provides sports scores, movie times, restaurant ratings courtesy of Yelp—and will even help you book a table reservation. Now that's service worthy of Zooey's adoration. However, it still trips up on some words, (Siri often thinks I'm asking about Syria) and requires you to speak more clearly than you would to any adult human.
Screening your calls and generally avoiding mankind is streamlined in iOS 6. Want to ignore someone? You can reject their call with a reminder to hit them back later, or send a pre-programmed "hey sorry man I'm busy what's up" excuse text while simultaneously rejecting the call. All it takes is a quick swipe up while the call is incoming, choose your method of avoidance, and with a couple taps you've managed to dodge another call. If you want, you can customize your reply messages with all sorts of zany excuses. It's brilliant.
Maybe the best and most overdue addition. (Almost) everyone uses Facebook, so the deeper it's stuffed into the soul of iOS, the better. Now, just like Twitter, you can directly link your Facebook account with your iOS, allowing your phone to talk directly to Mark Zuckerberg's big beautiful brain. You can directly post photos from your photo album to Facebook, update your status from the notification center, and sync your contact list with each person's corresponding Facebook account. It's terrific stuff, and takes a big step into the turf of Windows Phone—the current lord of social media integration. We want to see more of this.
Apple kicked Google out of its mapping party, and made its own. How is it? Mixed. As we told you earlier,
Vector based vs bitmap graphics
The new maps are not bitmap-based anymore. Say goodbye to the horrible and slow tile loading. Now they are vector based, which means faster loading-it still loads sectors, but very fast based in our hands on experience-and smoother, much better graphics.
At last, Apple's Maps will provide with turn-by-turn navigation, just like any other car GPS app. It looks quite good. We have tried and it seems quite neat, with Siri driving directions and 3D view, with clear signs.
Business information card
Now every location in Maps includes a card that gives you all you need to know about it. If it's a restaurant, it will show you reviews and ratings, along with photographs.
Siri is completely integrated with Maps. You can ask for directions with your voice, it will guide you while driving and, if you ask her something like "Are we there yet?", she will answer you with the estimated time of arrival. And tell you to shut up.
This is great stuff! It's definitely faster than Google's go at it. But the pants-wetting 3D stuff? We couldn't get 3D buildings to show up anywhere in New York. Bummer. Street View is also very sorely missed, as is native public transit directions.
Redesigned Music App
The music app has also been given a design overhaul, making a departure from that old iPod (touch) look to something that more closely resembles the OS X aesthetic. That said, the only changes here seem to be cosmetic, as the performance is the exact same.
And the rest...
The email VIP list works as advertised, the Safari Reading List requires only a couple of taps to queue up offline reading, and turn-by-turn navigation was smooth and terrifically graphical.
iOS 6 feels smooth and sturdy all across—and this is just a beta. There were a few inexplicable crashes, but almost every feature works as we expected it to, and, we can say with confidence, instantly makes your phone more useful to live with. And isn't that what it's for? Yes, that is what it's for. We're excited to see what devs (and Apple) do with the rest of it.