Impressions on iOS 6

Oct 3rd update — The apple maps app is clearly a major embarrassment for Apple and it’s a lot worse than I first thought.  Most of the initial commentary about the app revolved around the visuals, satellite images, 3D, etc.  If the maps are accurate, the visual issues are more of a perception issue, rather than a hard real issue.  However, it turns out that the maps and more importantly the turn-by-turn directions are frequently wrong.   Interestingly, I experienced this when I was attempting to find a store north of Tampa.  I used Siri to find the store, which led to an address for the store which I then used maps to take me to.  Fortunately, I knew roughly were the store was, because it tried to take me a couple miles to the SE of the store.  The  problem is that I don’t know if the issue was caused by the search function giving the wrong address or maps.

For a quick-and-easy description of the problem, TechCrunch’s Jordan Crook provides Maps Fiasco Explained in 3 Minutes that’s worth having a look at.  Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has addressed the problem directly, doing something that Steve Jobs would never have done, issue an unqualified apology and an invitation (with instructions) to use their competitor’s offerings.

Finally, the Web being the Web, you knew that someone would put up a site dedicated to displaying some of mapping issues.  Check out The Amazing iOS 6 Maps.

=== Original Post ===

A quick note on my impressions on the upgrade for iPhone and iPad (and iPod Touch): iOS 6.

I’m currently running an iPhone 4S and iPad 1.  iOS 6 is a legit upgrade for the 4S (as well as the 3s), but not the original iPad.  I’ve upgraded my iPhone and I thought I’d document some of my impressions to date.

First-and-foremost, the upgrade and on-going use has been pretty normal, with the exception of some of the notes below, it could have been a maintenance release.

Eiffel Tower from iPhone with new Mapping app

I’m Lost …

Yeah, Apple has a real problem on their hands.  The bottom-line is that the new Maps app is deficit.  It has some interesting visual deficiencies, like a flat Eiffel Tower or a major highway with a drop off that would be terrifying even on a roller-coaster.   There are several issues with the app, as well as some positives including maps that appear to be more recent than Google.

I do like the turn-by-turn directions, though I’ve only used them a couple times.  It’s nice to have that functionality for free.

The fact is that Google and Bing are the leaders in on-line maps, with sophisticated functionality (e.g., street views, birds-eye views) and  reasonably accurate maps (though Google seems to be behind Bing in map updates) and years of user experience.   The Apple solution is an amalgam of mapping technologies, using a mapping base from the same maker of Tom-Tom systems.  As an app, the source code that underlies the functionality hasn’t had many user “miles” to thrash out the problems (known in the industry as being “green” ) and it lacks some functionality that was in the Google solution.  It’s probably in a similar place as the original Siri feature was at when it released with the iPhone 4S, which had the advantage that it was both new and understood by users to be a beta (or software that’s not quite ready, but being released to get user experience and feedback).

However, when a device maker replaces a very popular and mature app with another, especially when there isn’t a way to choose between the new or old, the new app had better at least as good as the original, with some intriguing new capabilities.  Though I don’t think it’s as bad as the current perception, Maps does fail on both counts.  Unlike the original Siri, this isn’t a place for an app that’s not ready for primetime.

Other  iOS 6 thoughts

The upgrade was normal, without any issues.  I’m really amazed how sophisticated installations, upgrades and backups are with the Apple device ecosystem.  I’ve not ever had an issue, though I’ve heard of a few complaints about iTunes by folks running it on Windows.

Speaking of Siri, the lass has been improved in the latest version, with better integration with various apps.   Until the upgrade, I’ve not found Siri to be terribly helpful, but now it’s more interesting.  I particularly like the integration with MapsContacts, and Calendar.  I’m starting to see the promise of this functionality.  By the way, Siri is now working on the latest iPad, but not on iPhone 3S.

There is a new app Passbook, which is very green technology.  There are several apps semi-integrated with it, like Fandango (for movie tickets) and the Ticketmaster TM app.  The idea is that you buy something, then at the point-of-sale (or at the ticket taker), use Passbook to complete the transaction by displaying a barcode on the device for the POS device to scan.  I’m anxious to see how this evolves.

There are some new apps like Find Friends, and Podcasts.  The latter really isn’t new, it just is split from the Music app.  The former appears to be similar to the app HeyWay, which allows users to send their location to family and friends.  I use HeyWay periodically, but you have to be careful about who you’re giving your location information to.

One final comment.  I went into an Apple store and played with the new iPhone 5 and was impressed.  The larger screen was nice, both in the increased information that can be displayed, as well as the visual acuity.  I especially liked the fact it was very light, though there have been some complaints that it’s too light, causing folks to drop it.   If you’re still on a 3S, it’s probably a good time to upgrade.

3 Comments

  1. Joe

    Greg, thanks for sharing your insights. I haven’t upgraded yet, and am uninspired to do so, feeling that if it isn’t broken (my I phone 4s) why should I fix it (I.e. down load the upgrade).
    Are there compelling reasons to do so that I’m missing?

  2. Typically, the reasons to upgrade fall into 2 broad categories:

    First is whether there are new features or improvements on existing features that are useful. I think with this particular upgrade, it’s a tradeoff between some of the new/improved features (which are already weak) vs. the downgrade of losing Google Maps. IMO: The net result is not compelling at all. Couple that with reports of shorter battery life (including my 4S), I don’t see features as a reason to upgrade.

    The other category is that the upgrade fixes critical bugs and security flaws. Though I’m sure there have been some useful bug fixes, in this particular case, I’m not aware of any important fixes that would make this the reason to upgrade.

    Which is to say, I tend to agree with your assessment, especially if you use Maps. The one caveat would be if you start finding apps having problems with the older version of iOS. There has been a flurry of upgrades to apps to support iOS 6 and the larger screen. Though it’s unlikely to cause issues with iOS 5, it’s a very remote possibility.

    Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it!

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