iOS 6: Macgasm’s First Look

| Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Yesterday, Tim Cook and co. announced iOS 6, the newest operating system for our iPhones and iPads. While it’s not available until next month sometime, those with developer accounts already have access to the beta in order to get their apps primed and ready for release. We could tell you how pretty and sleek and sexy the new OS looks, or how awesome some of these changes are… but why don’t we just show you?

Yeah? You like that? Good. Check out the screenshots after the break.

Siri

One of the features everyone has had their eyes on is Siri. She’s been a great help for some things, but utterly useless on others. With iOS 6, the improvements to Siri are great, although ones we’ve scratched our heads at wondering why they weren’t available from day 1. Sports information, for example, is available for searching. Asking Siri for things like the NBA standings, or even a specific player, will now return results. Another cool feature is the ability to search for movie times at your nearby theaters. No more scrounging crappy websites (or Google) to figure out when you need to get there in order to acquire deliciously fattening popcorn.


Yelp has also managed to get on Apple’s good side, with results being integrated right into Siri’s responses. Asking for nearby restaurants will give you not only name and location, but style of food, average price, and ratings. A quick tap jumps straight to the Yelp site, giving you more detail about the establishment. And finally, we’ve discovered that Siri responds to our app-related commands. “Siri, open Tweetbot” will be a viable command, letting you jump straight to some of your favorite apps. Using the touchscreen might be faster in some cases, but hey, being able to order someone around is pretty neat.

Maps

The new Maps app (which is powered by TomTom) has also gotten some pretty slick improvements. While we don’t have a screenshot of the pure street view (and others argue that it’s weaker than Google’s version), I actually like it. By prominently displaying main streets, it lets you find where you’re going with less clutter in the way. I’m sure that zooming in slightly will bring some of these side streets more into focus.

Yeah, we’re behind the curve… but we’ve now got turn by turn directions. You can read it from a list, or (reportedly) have it speak the directions to you turn-by-turn. Since I owned an iPhone without these features, I’ve coped, but having it will admittedly be great. Plus, the 3D flyover is awesome, especially in big cities where you can use tall buildings as reference points. No more wondering “is my turn coming up?”. Now you know “oh hey, I turn in front of that giant circular glass building”. Pretty slick.

Photo Stream

The Photo Stream aspect even received some nice updates. You’re now able to create multiple streams, give them custom names, and even share them with your friends and family. Notifications of comments left on your stream will show up on your lock screen, and you can easily jump back in and reply to them. I don’t really see myself using this feature, but now that Apple has officially abandoned Ping, they need some sort of social networking feature to hang their hats on. This looks to be it.

Other Updates

Finally, a bunch of minor UI/UX updates were made across the board, making the whole experience much nicer to look at and work with. First up is the actual phone app. We no longer have a dark and ominous looking keypad that looks out of place with the rest of the app. Now it’s bright and inviting. Tap those buttons! Make that call!

Along with that is the new answering options. When you receive a call, you’ll see that the Camera slider is replaced with a Phone slider. Swiping up will give you access to buttons to answer or decline, as well as buttons that let you ignore the call and either send a message to the caller, or a reminder to you to call them back later. I’ve seen a screenshot that included some canned “I’m busy.” texts; not certain if those will be customizable or not.

The “do not disturb” function also looks to be great. A simple toggle is located in the Settings app, with settings available to schedule when DND is active, what groups can call, and whether repeated calls can get through. This will be instantly enabled as soon as I upgrade. You can also see that some basic settings have been reorganized, with Brightness and Wallpaper being consolidated down into one menu item.

A couple simple, yet wonderful sharing buttons have been added. The first pair is within the Notification Center, allowing you to post to Twitter or Facebook without actually launching the app. Too bad there’s not a “post to both” option. There’s also an ability to to share links and photos with various apps and services, wrapped up in more eye-friendly menus. And finally, Mail now has a much easier interface for adding your photos as you create your emails.

The App Store has a more modern look as well. The all-black bars are sleek and uniform, replacing the blue and black UI we had earlier. Another nice feature: installing an app won’t kick you out of the App Store, but instead will show you the app is installing as seen below. Once installed, the button will change to “open”, allowing you to launch the app quickly and easily.

Finally, the Music (or iPod) app saw its own update. Uniform colors do wonders for making an app look great, and this is no exception. Why they didn’t go all-black or all-gray/steel across the board is a mystery to me, but I like the look of both, so I won’t complain. The player itself also has dedicated buttons for play/pause, forward and back (instead of the small targets we had previously), as well as a bigger volume slider. Again, minor cosmetic updates, but things that make Apple beloved by its fans.

No, I don’t like that song. Leave me alone.

Some other things we know about, but don’t have screenshots for, are things like VIP mailboxes, a more organized Reminders app, and my personal favorite, Passbook. Passbook is the app that will allow you to hold your boarding passes, movie tickets, and more all within your phone. I wish more than anything in the world that Passbook will allow you to enter in gift cards and special offers you receive in emails to take to the store with you. I hate loading up my wallet with cards that I use infrequently, and then I forget them when I actually go to the store. Holding them all on my phone would be tremendous, not only for me, but for consumers everywhere.

Final Thoughts

Every UI update I’ve seen to this point has been extremely sexy. The UX updates are useful and things that will be used by a whole boatload of people. Just like Ping, amirite? But seriously, iOS 6 looks great. It takes a lot in terms of visuals and minor tweaks to make an update worthwhile, and I feel that we’ve only scratched the surface of what is offered in this OS. Macworld also has a nice rundown from Lex Friedman about some of the features we may have missed at first glance. That “composing a tweet with Siri” thing is pretty slick, if I do say so myself.

A big thanks to my good friend Joey Aberle over at SPLAT! for giving me full permission to use his screenshots for this article.

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