iOS 6: Plenty of New Features but Where's the Innovation?
Jun 12, 2012 10:59 AM PT
Among the highlights at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference was the presentation on Monday of a laundry list of enhancements to be found in iOS 6. The 200-plus new features and functions include Facebook integration, a Maps app that has turn-by-turn navigation and a new Flyover view. Siri also got an upgrade and can now converse in more languages.
For many users, the top change will be the Facebook integration. Apple rolled out Twitter integration in iOS 5, leaving Facebook fans bereft. iOS 6 offers tools that allow users to write status updates, and share photos and links from iOS applications.
Facebook friends' information is synced across all iOS devices, automatically updating details in Contacts when they change. Users can "Like" content directly from the App Store and iTunes and see what their friends recommend.
Those recommendations will prove to be very important for developers, Echo Interaction Group CEO Carlos Carbonell told MacNewsWorld.
"Most apps now spread via word of mouth. With this new feature, Facebook will become our new 'word of mouth,'" he said.
iOS 6 comes with a new Maps app sporting vector-based map elements. There is also turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions, and a Flyover feature that has photorealistic interactive 3D views.
This is the most impressive feature to Josh Davis, Apple boutique store manager for Abt Electronics.
"Visually it looks wonderful, and the Flyover feature is something that will wow the users," he said.
"It will definitely give Google a run for its money, although Google Maps is in the process of changing too to include similar functionality," he told MacNewsWorld.
Maps comes with real-time information on traffic, and it will guide users in finding a new route if the one they are taking suddenly slows down due to traffic conditions.
There is also a local search component that integrates with Yelp.
The Voice of Experience
Enhancements to Siri include language support for Spanish, Italian, Korean, Mandarin and Cantonese. It has been optimized to be used in 15 countries all together. Users can now ask Siri to update their status on Facebook or post to Twitter or launch an app. There is also a new Eyes Free mode, allowing users to interact with the iPhone via voice only.
"Siri now understands a little better what you are asking," said Carbonell. "It is also is more user-friendly with the Eyes Free mode and ability to launch apps."
It will take time for users to become acquainted with all 200 new features. Some of the additions fall in the category of "I didn't know I needed that until I saw it" -- such as the Passbook app.
It organizes a user's passes -- from boarding passes to movie tickets -- in one place. It also lets the user scan via the iPhone or iPod touch to use a coupon or check into a hotel.
Also new is Guided Access, which allows someone to disable hardware buttons to lock an iOS device into a single app. Apple positions this feature as useful for parents or teachers of disabled students during test taking or merely just to keep students' focus on learning and off everything else that can be found online.
iOS 6 also supports FaceTime calls over cellular networks, lets users set up a VIP Mailbox, and gives them the option to decline incoming calls with a quick message.
Nothing New to See Here
Critics point to the obvious fact that much -- although not all -- of this functionality has been available on other platforms.
"The announcement of iOS 6 felt more like a mashup of what other companies have already done instead of a groundbreaking new user experience," said Joe Burger, cofounder and CTO of Labor Sync.
"Features such as "Can't talk now," which allows a user to respond to a caller with a canned text message when unable to answer the phone, has been available on other platforms for quite a while now," he told MacNewsWorld.
"Enabling FaceTime over 3G and enabling Siri on the new iPad were not new features at all -- just a removal of artificial restrictions. Features such as "turn-by-turn" navigation and "VIP Mail" have also been around for years, and come out of the box on other platforms."
In short, Burger concluded, Apple's iOS 6 announcement left a lot to be desired from a company known for innovation.
Apple did not respond to our request for further details.