The iPhone 5 itself might be getting most of the attention, but Apple is allowing users of older iPhones to share many of the changes via iOS 6.
The new mobile operating system came out Wednesday for all iPhones back to the 3GS, and after two days of playing with it on my iPhone 4 I've come away with some mixed impressions.
The biggest change in iOS 6 is the new maps app, built from the ground up by Apple Inc. thanks to the company's loudly publicized divorce from Google Inc.
This move finally brings turn-by-turn navigation to the iPhone. Large direction signs scroll by telling you what to do, and Siri will rattle off the directions if you have an iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S.
You can also get a satellite view and overlay useful traffic conditions, road closures and construction reports. Newer iPhones can also get nifty 3D views of some cities, although Tulsa isn't supported just yet.
It all functions well, but there's a few things missing, starting with landmarks - maybe one out of every five downtown Tulsa restaurants are listed. Hopefully Apple will fill in the gaps as time goes by, but for now, it's not very helpful. Google's handy street view is also gone.
I was most excited to try out the new Passbook feature, which will put store cards, event tickets, coupons and even airline tickets in one place for easy scanning, along with the ability to have the correct item pop up when you enter the corresponding place. It works as advertised - but getting there is an ordeal.
To bring up coupons for Target, for example, I had to find and download the Target app, fill out a bunch of information and finally give the app permission to use Passbook. That's far too much work involved for a feature aimed at saving time. Couldn't all that be integrated into Passbook itself?
Finally, Siri's gotten an upgrade, and can now look up sports scores, locate movie showings and make restaurant reservations. That also worked, but she still occasionally misunderstands what I'm saying.
So, the big items aren't that great overall. But what I found myself most surprised by was how much I liked a bunch of the tweaks.
For example, there's a "do not disturb" setting that will mute all calls and alerts after your bedtime, other than calls from your most important contacts. You can also automatically respond to a call with a custom text message, something along the lines of "I'm busy right now," with the push of a button. Finally, the basic act of making phone calls has gotten some attention.
Apple has promised that its new software is capable of producing better color in pictures, even on older iPhones. It may not be a huge change, but I did notice a difference. Web pages also seem to load up much faster in Safari.
Facebook is now integrated into contacts and other apps. You can send out challenges for friends to beat your score in Game Center. You can have specific emails go to a VIP folder, no matter which of your accounts they arrive in. There's support to attach multiple photos or other documents in email. You can now create public streams of your photos to share with friends.
Even the App Store has gotten a nice upgrade, with search results now including more information and featuring easy side-to-side scrolling.
Yes, some of the major new features stumble or disappoint. But Apple has put a lot of thought into nearly every existing aspect of the operating system and made changes that make the whole experience better.
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