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Refined iOS 6 highlighted by stunning Maps overhaul

Dan Moren | Sept. 20, 2012
Following on the heels of the massive update that was iOS 5, iOS 6 might seem like merely a modest update. But that doesn't make it insignificant by any means: A key app has received a substantial overhaul in this latest update, Apple has added an intriguing new--if yet unproven--built-in app, and the company has even, for the first time, removed a piece of software present since the iPhone's launch.

Following on the heels of the massive update that was iOS 5, iOS 6 might seem like merely a modest update. But that doesn't make it insignificant by any means: A key app has received a substantial overhaul in this latest update, Apple has added an intriguing new--if yet unproven--built-in app, and the company has even, for the first time, removed a piece of software present since the iPhone's launch.

In addition, plenty of iOS's features have been updated and refined, and user interface conventions have been tweaked across the entire OS. Apple's also put an emphasis on rolling out certain features to both its mobile and desktop operating systems--Facebook integration, Mail VIPs, etc.--ushering in a new era of giving the two platforms parity when it makes sense to do so.

Five years after its debut, iOS 5 was already a mature operating system, a stable foundation upon which to build. With all that Apple had already added to it, you might have wondered what was next for the mobile operating system. As it turns out, there's plenty.

Off the map

Every iOS release has its marquee feature, and with iOS 6 it's unquestionably Maps. The app has gotten a in-depth makeover, perhaps the most thorough ever to be applied to one of iOS's built-in applications.

What's new The bow-to-stern overhaul starts deep under the hood, where Apple has replaced the mapping engine that in every previous version of iOS was provided by Google. In its place, Apple has rolled its own solution, supported by mapping data from GPS maker Tom Tom, OpenStreetMap, and a cast of thousands.

As you might expect, such an all-encompassing update means new features, the disappearance of old ones, and plenty of changes in the way things have been done to date.

The first thing that catches the eye when you launch the new and revamped app is that the map itself is front-and-center--on the iPhone, Apple has reduced the amount of chrome around the edges of the interface. The result is a minimalist interface that leaves much more room for the map itself. You'll find only a search box at the top, flanked by a pair of buttons; another pair of floating buttons in the bottom left corner for locating yourself and activating 3D mode; and the familiar page-curl in the bottom right. There's also, for the first time on the iPhone, a welcome landscape orientation option.

On the iPad, the app more closely resembles its predecessor, with a couple of shifts in the interface.

Due to those changes, using the new Maps may take some getting used to. For example, you no longer have to choose between Search and Direction modes. In either case, you just enter the location or destination in the search box; once you've located it, you can get a route by tapping the Directions button.

 

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