November 7, 2012

Does the iOS 6 impress the geeks?

Posted by

Brice Le Blévennec

It’s been just over one month since Apple launched its new operating system for mobile devices – the much-anticipated “iOS 6”. We at Emakina took the new operating system for a (long) test drive to determine whether this is a truly (digital) regime change or just a facelift of our good old Apple devices.  The answer is mixed; the new operating system brings a nice breeze of new ideas and features, but it is probably not going to revolutionise our mobile experience in the foreseeable future. Since the new system is here to stay (at least for a while), we took the time to summarise some of the main changes that you (and your clients) should be aware of!

 

Battle of the Giants [NOT on YouTube]

Let’s start with the bad news. Apple and Google are not best buddies and they are not ashamed of showing it (i.e., making us suffer). This is why the new Apple platform has removed two of the most popular applications, developed by their bitter rival: Google Maps and (the Google-owned) YouTube app. In order to fill the gap in our hearts and to help us find our way home, Apple developed its own mapping system, known as “iOS Maps”. It has some cool attributes like spoken navigation, real-time traffic and accident alerts, and a “flyover” 3D view of major cities. What iOS Maps also has plenty of is… bugs, some of which are quite amusing, one of which even created a diplomatic incident with the government of Ireland (which found it somewhat less amusing).

 

Send the big brother on hike!

We all got used to having automated crawlers follow our online activity and advertise tailor-made messages accordingly. (It is no coincidence if ads for vacuum cleaners display on your screen right after receiving an email from your mother in-law that your house is filthy). Maybe it’s an attempt to counter-balance Google’s reputation when it comes to its notorious privacy policy, and maybe it’s simply coincidence, but Apple is trying to teach us that our privacy is in our hands and in our hands only. The iOS 6 Limit Ad Tracking option is there to prevent advertisers from stalking your digital behaviour. Bloggers and privacy experts are not all convinced that this is the end of targeted ads. Time will tell if Apple is indeed sincere in changing the rules of the game for both consumers and advertisers.

 

Passbook – making your wallet thinner without turning you poorer

There have been past attempts to digitalise our small-change transactions with mobile devices but this time we might be closer than before to removing some paper and plastic out of our wallets. The “Passbook” app attempts to collect all your forms of mobile payments (coupons, gift cards, etc.), as well as loyalty cards, movie tickets, and even boarding passes – so that transactions can be made by scanning your iPhone’s screen, instead of swiping your card. Of course, being part of your smartphone, the app is also triggered by locations where a Passbook transaction is available. So instead of you looking for the best sale around, let the sale find you…

 

Do Not Disturb (unless you’re Mum)

A very cool (and highly useful) feature is the “Do Not Disturb” mode, under which your phone will not vibrate or even light up when you receive incoming calls or text messages. It is very convenient if you’re trying to get some sleep undisturbed, or get through an entire meeting undistracted. The exciting news is that you will still receive your extremely important calls as long as you have predefined the caller as ‘VIP’. So if you promised your boss that you were working from home, and decided to take a (not so) quick nap, worry not… You’ll know if she’s calling.

Following the same logic that some of your contacts are more important than others (to you at least), you can filter all incoming text messages from non-contacts to avoid spam.  Even when it comes to e-mail accounts, incoming messages will not display the same way when sent from “regular” senders as compared to (again) predefined VIPs. This selective system might change the way we make ourselves available with our mobile devices in the future.

 

More than meets the eye

Other than the above selective list of new features, Apple has also improved many of the existing ones. Siri, for example, has grown older and with age; she can now launch apps, announce sports scores, post on Twitter and Facebook, and even reserve a table in your favourite restaurant.

Speaking of Facebook, if you consider yourself a true fan(atic), you’ll be glad to hear that integration with the profile is now made simpler: Facebook events and contacts are now incorporated into the device calendar and address book, and sharing your location or photos can be done directly from the mapping app or the camera.

But wait, with the iOS 6 you don’t actually have to use social networks for sharing your personal photos. The new camera app allows selectively sharing them only with those who should really see them (without bothering with endless pages of Facebook security settings). The new app can also produce panoramic photos of up to 240 degrees with one simple motion (and without using any third-party apps).

Not necessarily so useful but still amusing is the new “Late Night Sleeping” mode, which lowers the basses in all music files to make them more soothing (so that even your favourite hard-metal hit could become your new lullaby song). Warning: this feature is only available on the very newest devices so before you cuddle up with your iPad, you will have to check your model supports this option.

Finally, Apple seems to recognise that the Cloud is where our data should really be stored. This is true not only for files but even for temporary caching. With the iOS 6 iCloud, you can thus simply switch from one device to another and easily pick up exactly from where you left off since the Safari will show the same window tabs, across all your devices.

 

In a nutshell, the iOS 6 is a good move in the right direction of making our mobile experience a more holistic one. We do hear those complaining about bugs, including crashes and slow performance. At the same time, we feel it’s still early to go too harsh on this newly-born operating system. Like any other new technology, the iOS 6 deserves a (short) grace period in which bugs can still be fixed and performance can be improved. Apple seems to recognise this as it already released its first patch for fixing bugs (iOS 6.0.1) 43 days after the original version was launched. Once all bugs are fixed, we’ll be happy to say:

The iOS 6 is good news for geeks!

 

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