We Take A Look Into iOS 6 – A Review

| Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Our History of iOS last left off with the March 7th, 2012 event that announced the third generation iPad. The WWDC 2012 followed this announcement and the keynote provided a lot of information within a short time span. Apple unveiled three items: a MacBook Pro with Retina display, OS X Mountain Lion, and a preview of iOS 6. While iOS 6 was the primary focus, the MacBook Pro with Retina display received a lot of attention.

The MacBook Pro with Retina would not normally warrant a mention; however it does sport a Retina display, which we’ve seen before on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch and third generation iPad. The reappearance of the Retina display shows that Apple is dedicated to enhancing screen technology and providing the best products possible. The MacBook Pro with Retina also had a complete reworking of all of the internal components, and the end results contained no user-serviceable parts, meaning that any customizations had to be done at the factory. The MacBook Pro with Retina only available in 15.4-inch models, at least for now. It comes with 256GB of flash storage, 8GB of RAM, an Intel third generation (Ivy Bridge) Quad-Core i7 processor, two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and a MagSafe 2 power connector.

The MacBook Pro with Retina was not the only Mac to get an upgrade. The rest of the MacBook Pro line, as well as the MacBook Air, all received USB 2.0/USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt, and third generation Intel Core series (Ivy Bridge) processors. There were no other changes to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines.

At the WWDC 2012 keynote, Apple also previewed OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. While the beta had been available since February, many users had not yet seen OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion had a significant number of features that were ported from iOS to OS X. These include, Notification Center, Game Center, Messages (with iMessage Support), Voice dictation, Twitter Integration, Share Sheets, Airplay, and a new feature called GateKeeper. I won’t go into all of the features, but you can read about them in my review available in iBooks or Kindle..

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion was available in July 2012 for a 33% price reduction to $19.99. The Server version also received a price drop to $19.99. It’s a worthwhile upgrade. The star of WWDC 2012, iOS 6 is now available.

iOS 6

The last item at WWDC 2012 was the introduction of iOS 6. iOS 6 incorporates a significant number of new features and a ton of new Application Programmable Interfaces (APIs) for developers. Some of the new features include Siri upgrades, Facebook integration, Apple maps, FaceTime changes, new features for the Phone app, Photo Stream enhancement, Safari changes, significant accessibility upgrades, Mail enhancements, and many changes that will help developers make the best use of iOS 6.

Compatibility

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Most of Apple’s iOS devices are compatible with iOS 6, including: iPad 2, third generation iPad, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and fourth generation iPod touch. The two devices that no longer support iOS 6 are the third generation iPod touch and the original iPad.

Facebook Integration

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When iOS 5 was released, one of the biggest draws was the integration of Twitter. This lets you quickly post pictures, videos, and messages to Twitter without having to open a Twitter application. Instead, you can post to Twitter from any application that’s integrated with Twitter. For instance, in your Camera Roll, you can use the Share button to post a picture right to Twitter. You can also tweet from within Notification Center using the Post to Twitter button.

With iOS 6, this same functionality has arrived for Facebook. When posting to Facebook, you’ll be able to specify which Friend List you to share the item with. This is done via the icon on the lower right of the Facebook Share Sheet.

The integration with both Twitter and Facebook shows that Apple is very aware that social networks are an integral part of the overall experience for iOS users. Hopefully Apple continues to add this type of functionality, building access to all of our favorite social networks right into its operating systems.

Do Not Disturb

We all love notifications, but there are times when the constant barrage of notices can be a little bit much. Like when you’re sleeping. Or sitting in a really important meeting with your boss. To help you out in these situations, Apple has added a new setting called Do Not Disturb. When Do Not Disturb is enabled, all incoming messages, mail notifications, and push notification alerts are stopped from appearing or making noise on your iOS device.

Do Not Disturb can be enabled in the Settings application under Notifications. You can set Do Not Disturb to turn on and off according to a schedule. You can also choose to have some calls come through to you. Either allow all calls, no calls, or, from your contacts, calls from any of your favorites or groups. Finally, you can opt to allow repeated calls to come through to you, in case of emergencies. With this option, a second call placed from the same person within three minutes of the first call would come through. For iPod touches and iPads, the call options are applied to FaceTime calls instead of traditional phone calls.

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FaceTime

FaceTime was introduced in June of 2010 at Apple’s WWDC keynote, and it was later released in iOS 4 for any iOS device that had both a rear and forward-facing camera, which meant that the original iPad was excluded. One important limitation to FaceTime was that calls could only be placed over Wi-Fi, not over cellular. At a keynote in October 2010, Apple announced that FaceTime would also work on Macs with the release of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. On Macs, FaceTime required OS X 10.6.6 or later to run.

FaceTime has seen a few changes with iOS 6. You can now use FaceTime over 3G and 4G cellular connections, in addition to Wi-Fi, but only if your carrier supports the functionality.

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With iOS 6, phone numbers will be linked to Apple IDs, which means that you can reach your contacts using either their phone number or their Apple ID. Prior to iOS 6, the iPhone was the only device that could be reached using a phone number, with the other iOS devices and Macs requiring that you use an Apple ID. So if you received a call from someone who was using your Apple ID, you couldn’t answer that call on your iPhone. By unifying phone numbers and Apple IDs, you’ll now be able to answer any FaceTime call on any device that can run FaceTime. The same approach is being used in iMessages.

Phone

The Phone app on the iPhone has remained largely unchanged since the initial release of iOS in January 2007. Sure, there have been some tweaks within the application over the years, like when FaceTime was integrated, but overall it hasn’t changed much. However, iOS 6 has finally brought a few changes to Phone.

The first is a completely re-skinned dialer. The old dialer looked a lot like many original iPhone applications, consisting of black buttons and white text. Under iOS 6, the dialer has a new color scheme, with grey buttons and black text. This reversal of the color scheme gives the Phone app a nice refreshed look.

A neat new feature in the Phone app is the ability to send a quick reply to somebody instead of answering their phone call. If someone call you using a mobile device, and you don’t have the liberty to answer the call, you can select Phone Hangup at which point you will be presented with two options. Select Reply with Message to send a message to the person calling you. The message will automatically begin with “Can’t talk right now…”, and then you can select one of three standard replies, either “I’ll call you later”, “I’m on my way’, or “What’s up?”, or you can enter a custom message. Alternatively, you can select Remind Me Later and a reminder to call the person back will be created within the Reminders app.

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Photo Stream

For many, Photo Stream was a welcome new feature in iCloud, but it was always frustrating that you couldn’t share your Photo Stream with friends and family, at least not without sharing your iTunes credentials. This functionality will finally be added to Photo Stream in iOS 6. You can now create a number of different photo streams and share them with select groups or even just make them publicly available, all over iCloud.com. To create individual photo streams, enable Shared Photo Streams within preferences. On an iPhone, go to Settings -> Photos & Camera -> and enable Shared Photo Streams. On an iPad, go to iCloud -> Photo Stream -> Shared Photo Stream. You’ll then be able to create new photo streams in the Photos app in the Photo Stream tab. With each photo stream, you’ll be able to choose if you want to share it publicly or not. To add photos to your photo streams, simply go into Photos, click on the Share button and select Photo Stream. You’ll then be able to select which photo stream you want to add the photo to, or create a new one.

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Shared Photo Streams is not an entirely new feature, since a similar function was available with MobileMe through MobileMe Gallery. With MobileMe being retired, it’s good to see that Apple has implemented a new way for users to share photos with others.

Mail

Mail has seen its share of upgrades over the course of the life of iOS, and iOS 6 is no exception. Apple has added two new folders to Mail. The first of these is Flagged, for messages that you have chosen to flag. You can flag emails in Mail by clicking on the flag icon. When you flag an email, two options will appear, Flag, or if the email is already flagged, then Unflag, and Mark as Unread. And to make your life easier, emails flagged using another email client should automatically appear in this folder, and your flagged emails should show up as flagged across all of your devices.

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The second new folder is VIP. You’ll need to set up a list of email addresses as VIP, and then any emails originating from those addresses will be put in the VIP folder and you’ll also get an alert, which can be configured in Notification Center. To add an address as a VIP, open an email from them and click on the bubble in the From line. On an iPad, a popover will appear, while on an iPhone or iPod touch a navigation sheet will appear. These will feature an Add to VIP option to click on. To remove an address from the VIP list, perform the same steps, but instead of an Add to VIP option, you’ll have a Remove from VIP to select.

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Adding photos and videos inline in Mail got a lot easier with iOS 6. In order to add either a photo or video to your email, hold down on the spot that you’d like it to go, and when Insert Photo or Video pops up, click on it. If you’re on an iPod touch or iPhone, you’ll need to hit the right arrow to go to the next context menu option. If you’re on an iPad, the option to Insert Photo or Video should appear immediately.

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Also added to Mail is a new way to refresh messages. Under iOS 5.1 and prior versions, a Refresh icon was in the lower left corner. Now, you can just pull down to refresh. A refresh icon will appear above the top message or mailbox.

These simple tweaks all make the user experience in Mail that little bit better, which seems to be what Apple is all about.

Sharing Sheet

Under previous versions of iOS, clicking on the + or Share button would open up a list of options that you could use to share items, such as by email, message, tweet or by printing. This list was limited by the amount of screen real estate. With iOS 6, instead of having this list of options appear, you get a Share Sheet. Share Sheets look a lot like Home screens, showing the icons of those apps that you can use to share your item as well as icon-like images to represent other actions that aren’t linked to apps, such as printing.

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The new Share Screen allows for a maximum of nine options, as opposed to the six that were available in the list format, and it’s possible that more could be added in the future. The options available under the new Share Sheet are Mail, Message, Twitter, Facebook, Add to Home Screen, Print, Copy, Bookmark and Add to Reading List. Most of these are self-explanatory, with the possible exception of Copy, which copies the URL of the page so you can add it to a third-party application, like Instapaper.

The reconfigured Share Screen will future proof the ability for users to share items, should Apple add another social network in the future. It’s a nice change.

Safari changes

When Apple initially introduced the iPhone, it was described as an “iPod, Phone and an Internet Communicator”. One of the largest reasons for the “Internet Communicator” is the full Internet browsing functionality with mobile Safari. Safari has gradually received tweaks and new features throughout each release of iOS, and iOS 6 brings even more changes that will help users. Some of these features hinge on iCloud while others don’t. There are some big changes in Safari in iOS 6, and I’ll go over each of them below.

Smart App Banners

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In iOS 6, Smart App Banners are a way for developers to inform users that the mobile site they are visiting also has an application available for download that might provide better functionality than what the mobile site offers. If the user has the app installed, it will say “Open” next to the application. If the app isn’t installed, the price will be displayed. If you could care less about the app, just dismiss the Smart Banner and it will never reappear. Of course, you will have to do this once for each website that offers an app.

Offline Reading List

Apple added Reading List to Safari in iOS 5 to let you save items that you want to look at again later. This way you don’t have to remember a URL, or email yourself a website just to read it later. Reading List was also added to Safari in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. In iOS 6, Reading List has been updated so that it saves the entire website, not just the URL, so that you can read the website offline.

iCloud Tabs

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The last new feature of Safari under iOS 6 is iCloud Tabs. iCloud Tabs is a way to have  your open tabs synchronized across your iOS devices as well as any of your Macs running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. iCloud Tabs only synchronizes across a single Apple ID, and when signed in on multiple devices, it’ll take a bit of time for your tabs to synchronize, so be patient. But once the tabs are synchronized Safari, you’ll find them under the ‘iCloud Tabs’ button, or in the case of an iPhone or iPod touch, under the ‘Bookmark’ icon.

Accessibility

When Apple designed the iPhone, it did not forget about accessibility. With iOS 6, Apple has added even more accessibility features. One of the biggest changes to accessibility within iOS 6 is the addition of Guided Access. Guided Access locks an iOS device into a single app by disabling the Home button. It also allows you to disable parts of the app, by restricting input from areas that you select. To enable Guided Access, go to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Guided Access, and then move the slider switch to On. Next, open up the app that you’d like to lock and triple-click on the Home button, and a Guided Access setup screen will appear. Select the areas of the app that you want to disable, or don’t select any areas to leave the app fully functional. You’ll then be asked to set a four-digit passcode. Once the passcode has been set, the Guided Access session will begin. To turn off Guided Access when you’re done, triple-click the home button, and enter the passcode. However, if the passcode is entered incorrectly, you’ll have to wait before you can try again. After the first failed attempt you’ll have to wait 10 seconds, after the second attempt, 60 seconds, and after all subsequent attempts, you’ll have to wait 180 seconds between tries.

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One thing to note is that ALL hardware buttons are disabled when Guided Access is enabled. This means that the power button, volume up and down and Home button are all disabled and cannot be used. Another thing to note is that the areas of the app that you have chosen to disable will be disabled across the entire application, even if the screen changes. You can also turn off touch and motion capabilities using the Options button during Guided Access setup. This could be useful if you want to let your kids watch a movie on your iPad, but you don’t want them messing around with anything else.

There is one last tip for anyone with an iPhone 4S, even if you don’t need accessibility. You can turn on the LED Flash for Alerts option. When this is enabled, notifications, like VIP email, push notifications, SMS/iMessages or even phone calls, will make the LED flash when they arrive. This can be helpful if you have been known to miss messages because you don’t feel your phone vibrate or hear it phone make buzz and ring.

Siri

Siri was the big, new thing with the release of the iPhone 4S. With iOS 6, Apple has significantly upgraded Siri on iOS, so it can now actually do many of the things that Siri could formerly do when it was an app available on the App Store. For instance, you can now ask Siri the score of a particular baseball, football, soccer league, basketball, and even hockey game. Siri can search for scores not only for professional sports but also for college sports as well. When you search for a specific player, that information is presented in a Player Card.

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Sports scores are not the only new thing you can look up with Siri in iOS 6. You can search for available seats at restaurants, which works through integration with the Open Table app. You can also search for upcoming movies, and get a list of movies that are playing nearby. For each movie, you’ll also be presented with its Rotten Tomatoes score.

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In iOS 6, you can now use Siri to launch applications. Just tell Siri “open” and the name of the application. Siri indexes all of your installed applications. If there happens to be more than one application with the same name, for instance “Angry Birds”, Siri will list the applications and inquire which application you want to open.

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There are some issues that have come up when you try to retrieve sports information, particularly soccer. Siri will list the soccer leagues, but unless you specify “MLS” or “English Premier League”, Siri will respond with “I do not understand…” and just list the soccer leagues again. Siri can also be maddeningly frustrating to deal with when trying to pull scores for specific time periods.

Prior to iOS 6, Siri was exclusive to the iPhone 4S. With iOS 6, the third generation iPad will also be able to use Siri and not just voice dictation. Despite all the significant updates to Siri, you still need an Internet connection to use the service.

Apple Maps

One of the most anticipated additions to iOS 6 is Apple’s own maps app. Apple showed off Maps at their WWDC 2012 keynote. The app integrates parts of the Open Street Map project as well as TomTom’s data, among other sources.

When the iPhone was originally released in 2007, it included Google Maps. Apple likely went this route for a few reasons. First, at the time, Apple didn’t have a mapping solution of their own. They could have just not included one and then built their own solution, including it in a future version. But, using a maps app to navigate is probably one of the most useful features of owning a smartphone, and it’s likely that its absence in the original iPhone would have been felt. Second, why reinvent the wheel? Building a mapping platform isn’t exactly cheap. Apple probably had a bit of spare change back when it was about to launch the iPhone, but certainly no where near to the amount that currently fills its war chest. Financially, it probably made more sense just to license the product from another company.

Fast forward five years to present day. Apple is in a significantly better position with the explosive growth of its mobile devices. Apple has chosen to take some of that money and invest it in building its own mapping platform. And Apple didn’t just set out to make an app that is as good as Google’s; they hoped to make it better. Apple’s Maps provides a standard view, satellite view, and a hybrid view, and there’s also traffic overlay.

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Apple’s Maps is not just available in the U.S; it is a world-wide mapping solution. And it goes beyond just maps by integrating search functionality as well. If you need to find a local restaurant, business, or gas station, just use Apple’s maps. Apple partnered with Yelp so that reviews are associated with each of these locations as well. This makes it a lot easier to find exactly what you’re looking for, without needing to leave the Maps application.

Sometimes it can be difficult getting around, particularly you’re not familiar with the area. If you happen to come across traffic, not having a way to easily avoid the traffic and not knowing where the big accident and construction snags are can be a real pain. Apple has solved this as well with Maps. Apple is building an anonymous, crowd-sourced, real-time traffic service that alert you of possible trouble spots along your route. This will give you a heads up so you can determine whether to keep going or find an alternate route.

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Apple has also included turn-by-turn navigation in Maps. Turn this on and your iOS device will announce the next step on you route, just like a traditional GPS would. Directions are displayed in a large green box that resembles a U.S. highway road sign. If don’t follow the recommended route, Maps will display a “Recalculating” sign, but iOS will not say “Recalculating”, which can be demeaning to some users. And Siri makes an appearance here, or at least her voice does, since Apple chose to use Siri’s voice as the default for turn-by-turn navigation. The turn-by-turn navigation feature will also show you the estimated amount of time left on your journey. Traffic is continuously monitored, as is your speed, in order to continuously update the time left. And you don’t need to keep your phone unlocked to use turn-by-turn navigation, since it can be used while your iOS device is locked. Since more and more regions are choosing to make it illegal to use your phone while driving, Siri can be a big help with Maps. Just tell Siri where you want to go, and Siri will give you directions.

Another feature in Maps that Apple hopes will set it apart from the competition is Flyover, which provides you with interactive, 3D aerial views of major cities. This feature isn’t exactly new, but it is a huge improvement over what was previously offered. Flyover can be used with any of the views —Standard, Satellite or Hybrid. Of course, not all the major cities can be viewed using Flyover yet, but you can expect it soon. Apple has been hiring commercial helicopters and planes to take the 3D pictures for them. Flyover is not a movie. The 3D pictures are being rendered in real-time to provide the view so you can really feel like you’re traveling to a place that you’ve never been before, or revisiting a place you’ve already been.

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Passbook

 

Do you ever feel like every store wants you to carry their loyalty card, so that you end up with a ton of these cards or key chain tags that you have to carry around with you? Along with these cards, you have boarding passes, movie tickets, and coupons that you have to carry around too. Many people, myself included, would love to have all of these stored electronically. Well, Apple has come up with a possible solution to this called Passbook. Passbook is a digital wallet, of sorts. It keeps store loyalty cards, coupons, movie tickets, boarding passes, and just about any other type of ‘pass’ that a company can think up. Companies have to build files that you can then download. Once you click on one of these files, it will automatically be opened by Passbook and available for you to view.

Passbook can be updated on the fly, if the service supports it and/or if you choose to have the information updated automatically. You can also choose to display your passes on your lock screen for easy access. And Passbook knows when and where to display each of your passes, too. When you walk into the airport, your plane ticket will appear. Walk into a store, and your coupons for that store will appear. Or if you prefer, you can choose to turn this option off.

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Your passes are easy to manage, too. Tap on the ‘i’ in the lower right corner of the pass, and you’ll be given a few different options. You can disable automatic updates, show or hide the pass on the lock screen, or delete the pass. The first two options are done by toggling the on/off switches. Deleting the pass can be done by clicking on the trash can in the upper-left corner. A confirmation dialog will appear asking if you really want to delete the pass.

There is one last thing to note about Passbook. When you open Passbook, the brightness of the screen of your iOS device will automatically be turned up. This is done to make it easier for you to see your passes and so that any barcodes on your passes can be easily scanned. When you exit Passbook, the screen brightness will be turned back done.

Passbook is a good way to consolidate your store loyalty cards, coupons, boarding passes and movie tickets into one convenient application. But, its success is dependent on its adoption by companies, so hopefully we see lots jumping aboard.

Privacy

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There has been a lot of news lately about apps violating your privacy by collecting your contacts and other information found on your iOS device. In some cases, your Universally Unique Identifier (UDID) provided by Apple would be collected. A UDID is specifically created to be unique and non-repeatable. This identifier makes it much easier for third-parties to aggregate data across many services to create a profile of a specific user. In addition, in the last few months there have been a few high profile data leaks, the end result of which was that Apple required that the apps be altered so that they had to seek your consent before being allowed to access a specific piece of information. Location Services on iOS has now been set up so that the first time an application is launched that uses these services, your permission must be given before it can access your location information. If you don’t allow Location Services for that application, there is no way around it, and the application cannot access your location information. With the high profile data leaks, Apple has done this with a few additional apps, including Contacts, Calendar, Reminders Photo library, Bluetooth, Twitter, and Facebook. Starting now, you have to give explicit permission to these applications before they can collect any of that data.

App Stores

With iOS 6, Apple has redesigned the iOS App and iTunes Music Stores, making them much easier to navigate. Part of the redesign includes the ability to share items via a Sharing Sheet as well as like the app or album on Facebook.

The App Store and iTunes Store both have a similar look and feel. If you are using an iPad, the iPad will have an auto-changing top banner. There are also the New and Noteworthy section and a section for different categories, like Apple’s App of the Week, Editor’s Choice, Games, and Apps for College, to name a few. There is also a What’s Hot section and a seasonal section, which right now is Fall Fashion.

The biggest change is actually in how search results are displayed. On an iPad, while doing a search, the results are presented as tiles in a grid. Each tile gives a preview of an application. The information displayed on each tile includes the name of the application, its current overall rating along with the number of ratings, its cost, and a screenshot. If you’ve already purchased the app, and it’s installed on your iPad, you’ll be presented with the option to open it. The option to open is presented regardless of whether you’re logged into the App Store or not.

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When doing a search, the number of results is displayed in the upper-left corner. There is no pagination on the iPad, so the applications will continue to be retrieved as you scroll until there are no more results.

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When doing a search on an iPhone or iPod touch, the same general format is followed, but the tiles are arranged in a single row instead of a grid. On each tile, The same information is displayed as on an iPad. And again, if the application is installed on the iPhone or iPod touch the option to open the application will be available.

 

Doing searching using the iTunes Store yields is slightly different. Instead of displaying a grid of tiles, the matching TV seasons, in this example, are displayed at the top and individual episodes matching the search term are displayed underneath. Below the TV episodes, the songs, albums, books, audiobooks, podcasts, ringtones, movies, music videos and other items that match the search term are displayed.

The redesigned iTunes Store and App Store will bring a much needed refresh to the purchasing process. The addition of being able to like items on Facebook will bring some social interaction to iTunes where other ventures (ahem, Ping) have previously failed.

Developers SDK

A few additional features have changed in iOS 6 that will be of most interest to developers. If you’re a developer, and you want your app to be cutting edge, you may want to incorporate some of these new features in your app.

Collection Views

Collection Views is a way of presenting items in a grid format. With iOS 5.1, Apple used this type of view in the Podcast app. The app shows the cover of each individual podcast in a two-column grid. But Collection View doesn’t just limit you to rows and columns of square images. Think outside the box and do a collection that displays in a circle, with each item shaped as a circle. Numerous configurations are possible since Collections Views require a custom layout that is designed by the developer.

UI State Preservation

Prior to iOS 6, when an application was getting ready to be sent to the background, or terminated, it was advised that developers write out their User Interface state so that when the applications was resumed, or restarted, it could continue in the same state as when the application was exited. iOS 6 simplifies this process a bit by providing the APIs needed to save and restore state much more efficiently compared to previous versions of iOS.

Auto Layout

One of the hardest tasks to accomplish, as a developer, is tuning your application to account for variations due to localizations. Your application may look absolutely fantastic when using English, but when you change it to German, words may become much longer and your views will look all wrong. This may include having your text run over, or under, a text field. With Auto Layout, iOS 6 allows applications to be more responsive to changes like this. Auto Layout will automatically adjust text fields to remain consistent across localized text. This reduces the burden on the developer to determine the length of a particular string and adjust the text field size manually.

Another aspect to localization is the fact that some languages are read right to left. With applications that support right to left text, layouts used to be very troublesome, butAuto Layouts makes this a much simpler task by allowing UI elements to be mirrored automatically.

iAd

When Apple introduced iAds for the iPhone, and subsequently the iPad, there were only a limited number of ad sizes for devices. At first, the sizes had to be specified by the developer. Soon after, though, Apple changed iAd to only offer portrait and landscape banners. With iOS 6, there is now a third medium-sized banner, specifically for iPads.

Game Center

Game Center has been a huge success for Apple and a great boon to developers. Apple has slowly added functionality over the years, including achievements, turn-based games and auto-player matching, making Game Center even better. And now with iOS6, there are a couple of new features, specifically for developers: easier implementation of custom match-making algorithms, and the ability to submit multiple achievements at once.

Automatic matchmaking in Game Center matches you up with other players that you’ve never met. Sometimes it’s necessary for a developer to use custom matchmaking algorithms to accomplish this task, but prior to iOS 6, this was difficult. Now developers can implement their own matchmaking parameters and algorithms so they can provide an even better matchmaking experience, should one be needed.

In-App Purchases

When Apple added the ability for developers to include in-app purchases within their applications, many developers were eager to implement them. By using in-app purchases, a developer can release an app for free, but then still make money by offering premium content, virtual goods or subscriptions for sale within the app. In most cases the in-app purchase just unlocked the item purchased. But, in some cases, the item purchased actually had to be downloaded. In previous versions of iOS, such in-app purchases had to be hosted on the developers’ servers. This is no longer the case with iOS 6. Developers can now host their in-app purchases on Apple’s servers. This means that developers won’t have to run dedicated servers. Instead they can focus on what they do best, developing apps. This also means that developers will be able to provide a more consistent experience to the people who use their apps.

API Changes

There are a few API changes that developers may want to watch out for as well.

Removed Items

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There is one significant item that has been removed from iOS 6: YouTube. Apple has stated that this is because its contract with Google has ended. This is definitely a possibility, since a five-year contract would make sense.

So here’s the question: will Google create a standalone YouTube app for iOS? And, really, do they need to create one? As far as the first question goes, Google will most likely build a stand-alone YouTube app for iOS. Over the course of the last five years Apple has been the only developer of the iOS YouTube app, not Google. Now that there is not a YouTube app built-in, YouTube has the opportunity to make it a substantially better application. Imagine if you could do video recordings on the fly and have the application instantly publish them to YouTube? Better yet, what if you could do live Google Hangouts directly from within the YouTube application?

But that still leaves the second question. Does Google even need to make a standalone YouTube app? And the answer is no. One of the side-effects of Apple’s decision to not support Adobe Flash in iOS has been the transition of the web from using Adobe Flash as a wrapper for almost every video file, to the use of HTML5’s native video functionality through the use of the H.264 codec. This has minimized the dominance of Adobe Flash, in favor of a more open standard. Since YouTube videos can be watched on the YouTube website using Mobile Safari, Google really doesn’t need to develop a YouTube app for iOS.

Possible Future Ideas

Even with all of the new features found in iOS 6, there is still room for improvement. Here are some ideas of what would be great to see in future iOS versions. Some of these ideas are a bit “pie in the sky”, while others are a bit more realistic.

Multiple User Profiles

While an iPad is not an outrageously expensive item, the $399 starting price can be a bit steep for some families that have multiple children with each child wanting to have their own iPad. If you have three kids, that’s $1197, pre-tax, just to buy them each an iPad. Instead of each child needing their own iPad, if the family could buy just one iPad and have multiple user profiles, then each user could have their own Home screen layout, folders, and wallpapers.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot that needs to be thought out to bring multiple user profiles to iOS. For instance, does each user need to have their own Apple ID? Does each user get their own separate storage on the device?. It’s possible that each user could  have their own Apple ID, which would mean an increase in storage would be needed for each of those users.

For the iOS platform to truly become a replacement for PCs, this is something that will have to be included down the road.

More synchronization

We’re slowly moving to iCloud for just about all syncing and storage for our iOS devices, but there is one thing that doesn’t yet sync over iCloud: your Home screen. If you own two iOS devices, say an iPhone and an iPad, you might want to have the same Home screen layout across both of your devices. Currently, this isn’t possible with iOS. Each device has to have its own apps, wallpaper, and the layout for each device must be set manually.

There are some possible issues with syncing Home screens across iOS devices, though. The biggest one is probably just differences in storage size between devices. All of the apps that fit on your iPad may not fit on your iPhone and vice versa.

Podcast Syncing

On the topic of syncing, why is it that Apple’s own Podcast application can’t sync the last played position of a podcast across iOS devices? Moreover, why is it that podcasts in the Podcast app are not synced either? It would make it easier to continue where you last left off in a podcast if this information was synced, or even stored in iCloud.

Default Applications

There are many web browsers available for iOS. Apple’s built-in Safari, Chrome, and Dolphin are just a few. As of right now, there is no way to choose which application to open links from an email in. They all open in Safari, without exception. There are other built-in applications, like Mail, that also exhibit this same behavior. A third example would be Maps. With iOS 6, Apple is providing their own mapping solution, instead of Google’s Maps. But you might prefer to use Google Maps or one of the many Open Street Map solutions instead. But that’s just not an option. I’d love to see an option to select default apps for common functions, instead of being stuck with whatever Apple thinks we should use.

Additional voices

With the release of iOS 6, Apple has created their own mapping application. As of right now, there is only voice for turn-by-turn directions. While the Siri voice is not a bad choice, I would like to see some additional voice options. A lot of people would even be willing to pay for additional voices. It would also be nice to have additional languages. The only downside that might arise is the sheer size of the database needed by Apple. It is possible that additional voices could be done entirely synthetically, like the Siri voice, but it would be a much nicer experience to have a professional voice reading the turn-by-turn directions.

Options for Turn-by-Turn Directions

Right now within Maps, there is no option that allows you to avoid highways and toll roads. There are certain times when avoiding a highway might be advantageous and yet Maps may not be know about the traffic situation on the road. There are also users, myself included, who would prefer not to drive on the highway.

Alternatively, there are other times when you’re driving through an area and you wish to take the scenic route. Again, there is no way to tell Maps that you wish to do this. Yes, you can just drive and ignore the directions that Maps is giving you, but then you might get lost.

Better sharing between applications

With iOS 6, there is some sharing of information between apps, which is benefitted by the new Share Sheets. But, there isn’t a way to customize sharing between apps. For instance, say you’re browsing the web and you want to send a page to a service, like Instapaper, or to a specific URL. Sure, you could copy the URL, paste it, and save it to Instapaper or whatever URL you wish, but that is quite kludgey and it’s not easy to set up the bookmarks. It would be a much easier if you could just customize your Share Sheets.

Due to the sandboxing rules of iOS, as well as OS X, if a piece of information is created by an application, it can only be edited by that application. This is the rule, unless a user exports the item in some fashion, such as via email or iTunes, provided the application supports sharing via iTunes. For instance, say you write something within WriteRoom on your iPad. Then you want to use an application like Posts to put it up onto your blog. Sure, you can copy and paste the text, but this isn’t convenient. It would much easier if apps could just send data to other apps. This could be done by explicit permissions or by some sort of “Contract” system, similar to Windows Phone.

Yes, there are possible security risks with allowing one applications to open data files from other applications. It could cause issues with the application if corrupt data is presented.

TextEdit

Apple has slowly been moving its Mac apps to iOS, with iPhoto, Garageband, Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, just to name a few, already making the move. One app that I’d love to see make the move next is TextEdit. Sure, there are text-based application that have iCloud storage or syncing, but some of these are only available on iOS and not on OS X. In the case of TextEdit, the exact opposite is true. TextEdit is on OS X but not available on iOS. Personally, I use TextEdit to write just about everything, excluding code. TextEdit on OS X allows saving to iCloud. There are times that I would love to be able to add additional information to posts that I’m in the middle of writing while I’m not readily available at my iMac. It seems to be an oversight in terms of Apple applications that should be available on iOS, but are not.

Conclusion

Apple has made significant strides with iOS 6. With new features like Passbook, Apple’s own mapping application, FaceTime over 3G, and improvements to Siri all add up to a significantly better experience for all iOS users. The availability of iOS 6 on the iPhone 3G is an incredible compatibility option for users. iOS 6 brings Siri support to the 3rd Generation iPads. The upgrades to Siri alone are with upgrading to iOS 6. From the integration with Maps, to the improved functionality with sports scores, Yelp review integration and even retrieving movie times will make life a bit easier for those who need quick answer without wanting to do a search on the web. The creation of Apple’s own Map application brings a new set of features with Turn-by-Turn directions and FlyOver. Apple has gone all in with Maps, despite its shortcomings. iOS 6 brings new APIs for developers as well as improvements to existing applications, like Safari and Phone.

New Features like Shared Photo Streams and Facebook integration will make life a lot easier for those who wish to share items quickly with their friends. Meanwhile the Accessibility features, including Single-App mode, will allow parents, museums, schools and other entities to be able to use iOS devices as tour guides. Overall, iOS 6 is a solid upgrade for any compatible device. There are still somethings that remain unanswered, like the ultimate fate of the YouTube application, but there is no reason not to upgrade. Go, do it now!

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