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New adventures in iOS 6

After grappling with various error messages, I was finally able to cleanly install iOS 6, and the now infamous Apple Maps, on my iPhone 4S.  

And guess what: in terms of its everyday functionality, it's actually really good.

It's easy to use. The predictive search is really fast, the interface is clean and easy to follow.

Unlike Google Maps for iPhone, you get turn by turn voice directions. They're delivered in a crisp Aussie female accent, and include street names.

You also get basic traffic info, and alerts about roadworks, and turn instructions were delivered at the right times. 

You get a choice of routes (a main one plus two alternatives), and if you stray off track, it's very quick to re-calibrate.

If you switch out to another app, a status bar stays on top of the screen. It's a nice touch (see screen shot right). It keeps you in the loop, and lets you get back to Maps with a touch.

The vector-based graphics scroll and the text resize very smoothly.

Overall, I'm very impressed by its feel and functionality. It's a good example of Apple's simple-is-better approach in action.

I've been using TomTom's $95 iPhone app for navigation on my iPhone. Now, I wouldn't bother with it - and it's hard to make the case unless you're a professional driver who could benefit from TomTom's more detailed traffic incident information (which costs $9.99 a month or $49 a year).

TomTom also offers a $150 "Car Kit" stalk that boosts GPS reception (and provides a handy place to plonk your iPhone), but I've found Apple Maps quickly locates my position and tells me to turn at all the right times. It's assisted GPS (that is, GPS aided by cell network information on your location) is plenty good enough.

If you use Google Maps for Android (which, unlike the iPhone version hiffed out of iOS 6 includes voice directions) then you won't find much new here. In fact, there's one less feature, because there's no Street View option with Apple Maps.

Users in 60 cities get a 3D flyover option (see the London example, right), and helps to compensate for the lack of Street Views.. But we've only got the satellite and hybird views, with no flyovers in the immediate future.

Overall, it's quite similar to Google Maps for Android in look and feel.

I'd say Apple Maps has a sleight edge in usability. 

The bad stuff ...
But, of course, it's been beleaguered by blooper worldwide, including squashed, surreal images, and the arbitrary relocation of numerous landmarks and transport centres - including Dunedin and Timaru airports being located in the wrong place, and a central Auckland railway station in the middle of the harbour (see links right).

... including some bad stuff for yours-truly this morning
But there are also more meat-and-potatoes errors - or at least out-of-date information.

This morning I asked Apple Maps for directions to the Sofitel on the Viaduct (which was renamed from the Westin in February). It couldn't find it - or at least not until I entered the hotel's old name.

Google Maps (which you can still use on an iPhone via opening in its browser) could locate the Sofitel, and offer directions.

Interestingly - given TomTom (among others) supplied data for Apple Maps - TomTom for iPhone could also successfully locate the Sofitel.

Crowd-sourced fixes
Apple can push out Maps fixes on the fly (rather than us having to wait for iOS 6).

It also has a quite user-friendly Report a Problem feature, which lets you simply tap on, say, the hotel with the out-of-date name.

Apple said this morniing that 100 million have now downloaded iOS 6 - which should in theory mean many of Apple Maps bloopers are reported quickly (I've reported the Westin/Sofitel on the Viaduct, so it will be interesting to see how soon it is corrected to Sofitel).

It's a pity the crowdsourced fixes are needed for basic cartography.

But, still, at least there's a mechanism in place to improve Apple Maps' data.

The interface is solid, it just needs to get some more accurate information feeding it. And some Street Views (or at least 3D flyovers). But for easy car navigation, it's already top dog.

Elsewhere in iOS 6
Elsewhere in iOS 6, the new Do Not Disburb option is a boon if you've been struggling with email and Facebook alerts, or phone calls, during the night. You can now let through only calls from selected contacts, or a anyone who calls twice within three minutes.

The panorama feature (while nothing new) is a easy way to stitch together many pics into a giant 28 megapixel photo, and a lot of fun (although - maybe I'm thick - it's not immediately obvious how to begin. In the end I turned to this quick video how-to.)

Below is a panorama I took around NBR Towers. It's a little fish-eye. A line appears onscreen as you take the panorama, and the steadier your hand in staying level with it, the better your shot - and boy do you need to keep steady. Too fast or too slow and it won't work. And if you move even a touch up or down, you can get a weird L-shaped panorama.

Click the image to enlarge (though note the enlarged image is still only 1MB, it will kill our web server to load the full 28mP version).

In iOS 6, you can use voice commands (through virtual assistant Siri) to open Twitter, speak at tweet, then send it.

While the Tweet-from-Siri feature is not optimised for the New Zilund accent, and not enabled by default here, you can turn it on. I did - with mixed results (see screen shots below).

Click panaroma to enlarge.

ABOVE: Panorama can be exasperating. Move your iPhone even fractionally up or down, and a weird L-shape can result.

In iOS 6, you can use voice commands (through virtual assistant Siri) to open Twitter, speak at tweet, then send it.

While the Tweet-from-Siri feature is not optimised for the New Zilund accent, and not enabled by default here, you can turn it on. I did - with mixed results (see screen shots below).

In practice, Siri pauses and gives you the chance to manually correct any mistakes. I left them so people could see the raw voice-recognition performance. Overall it was pretty good - but pretty good is not good enough. Maybe one day Siri will be optimised for Godzone.

And then there's Passbook - Apple's new proximity-based e-voucher system ... whose folders are all empty. Along with the super-hot Square, this on-screen barcode-based system looks like an intriguing alternative to the perrennially around-the-corner NFC.

Anyhow, shortly I'm hoping to see iOS 6 on an iPhone 5, released in NZ today, so check back soon.

ABOVE: Voice-to-tweeting with Siri - iOS 6 on iPhone 4S.

ABOVE: Voice-to-tweeting with Siri - iOS 6 on iPhone 5. Three tweets by voice, and only one mistake ("exit" - I know the phrase in the first tweet is "jumps", but jumped is what I said and what Siri faithfully reproduced). The iPhone 5's more powerful A6 processor, and support for faster wi-fi and cellular connections (Siri is cloud-based) could help with what seems to be enhanced accuracy.

ABOVE: Luckily, Siri lets you check a tweet before you say "send" ...

ABOVE: Similarly I found Siri pretty good for spoken instructions in Google Maps - but between the drag of trying to speak clearly, and corrections, you're still better off typing in a location. Between location-enabled services and predictive search, Maps is pretty quick the manual way.

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Comments and questions

Yawn, Blackberry was doing that "do not disturb" thing 5+ years ago.

But what has RIM done lately? Oh yes, this:

Oh yes Blackberry lost their way all right (which is a pity as it's still the only properly secure mobile device), but I was just pointing out that the "Do not disturb" is not an example of Apple leading the way, but rather yet another of them simply catching up with what others have been doing for a long time.

Grumpykiwi, you're grumpy alright!

Yes but RIM doesnt have hordes of sweaty kids behaving like a bunch of religious zealots

If Apple is the digital equivalent of Scientology, does that make CK the equivalent of Tom Cruise?

Chris Keall is Apple fiend :-)

friend or fiend?

I tested it on the North Shore using my iPad at the weekend.

The main problem I found is it doesn't seem to recognise No Right Turn junctions. Three times I was told to make illegal turns, at one junction, the right-turn wasn't even physically possible.

Oh.. and the alternative routes are sometimes ridiculous. We're not talking scenic routes, but going 15km out of the way on a 10km drive.

The No Right Turn thing is interesting. I've used it for multiple trips over the past couple of days and all the routes it's suggest to me have been sensible.

You're totally bias haha

Will be interesting to see who is first in NZ onto passbook. There are a few companies which are big enough to justify :

air NZ
AA card

Absolutely. But when I check with Apple earlier today, it was not aware of any NZ companies currently using Passbook.

It does look like a pretty handy way to store all your e-tickets etc with barcodes - and I like the way it has a proximity trigger to make an e-coupon appear on screen as you, say, approach a ticket machine.

Also, although you have to be registered, using Passbook is a more streamlined process than getting an app approved.

If they really did get their data from TomTom, it does make you wonder if they got the right file - 2002 instead of 2012???

yes but how much data does it chew using maps over cellular compared to your gps unit even including paying for your navman?

That's a valid point. Like Siri and other features, Apple Maps is all-online, so if you're on a tight data plan you'd want to stick to the plain map view - though of course the same criticism could be leveled at Google Maps used with iOS 5.

Data usage does seem to be an issue (see I've asked Apple if it has any official stats.

Getting Maps to calculate route directions while you're still within wi-fi coverage is own option to slim data usage.

[UPDATE: Nokia reminds me the Drive maps in its Lumia series can be used offline.]

On my HTC One X I can pre load maps using my home wifi connnection and save a shedload on mobile data.... Wonder how long til Apple copy that

Come to think of it, isnt it strange that they can copy stuff like that and yet the moment another phone maker uses rounded corners or some other similar rubbish that no one really gives a $hit about, litigation commences

IgnOrant and bitter, apple is simple and efficient and looks good, of course you can wifi any locality and have it stored if you drop a pin. Can't say I have ever been disappointed with any of their products, they just work without the b. s.

Apple does use data from TomTom (copyright 2006-2012 according to the Apple Maps credits) but also a couple of dozen other providers (click the page turn bottom left then About to see them in Apple Maps).

TomTom has told media its data is solid - and I've certainly found TomTom for iPhone solid for NZ. Something obviously got lost in translation.

The top picture (turning onto Mt Eden Road) looks like the type of view I get on my Nokia N8 maps app when I'm driving somewhere which I thought wasn't part of the iOS6 upgrade in NZ. Was I wrong?

Not sure what your question is. Can you clarify? Thanks

I thought the driving directions part of the NZ iOS6 upgrade was more like viewing directions on google maps on the computer, basically a birds eye view with a marker where you are but with an overlay of how far to the next turn etc.

However from your screenshot above, it looks more like something I see on my N8 or someone would see using a Tomtom. Which is what I thought the US and other countries got as part of the upgrade.

Can you please confirm whether the iOS6 upgrade does make the driving directions look similar to something you'd get out of a Tomtom or whether it is more birds eye view like you'd see when you looked at directions on google maps via a standard computer?


Yes, Apple Maps looks similar to TomTom etc in driving directions mode rather than being bird's eye view

Thanks very much

How well does navigating with Siri work in a Norf Sho Kid Car with DOOF DOOF DOOF enabled, fartcan on full blast and the suspension hacked off?

Sod the map issue! Just like iOS5, this upgrade screwed my contacts. New names of people I have never heard of. Details of established contacts removed. Calendars do not sync across devices. Notes data disappears.
I have other map apps. I don't need Apple Maps and, in fact, it doesn't show on my iPad2 or iPhone 3gs

I'm getting a couple of irritating glitches after my iPad upgraded to ios6, namely, when I turn my iPad on it won't go through the front slide screen first off, I have to turn off and restart to be able to push the slide; I also have to go into Safari twice to see my bookmarks.