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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.

Flagged Mailbox In addition to VIPs, the other major improvements to Mail include a much-awaited Flagged smart mailbox. You've been able to flag messages since iOS 5, but if you wanted to actually see all those flagged messages in one place, you had to resort to your computer. One caveat: Flagged will only show you the number of flagged messages for mail that has actually been retrieved. So if Mail is configured to show your 50 most recent messages, you'll only see the flagged messages within those 50, unless you manually load more messages.

The workflow for flagging has changed, as well. Previously you tapped a tiny Mark link that appeared under the subject, after which you could chose to mark something as flagged or read/unread. In iOS 6, this has been replaced with a little flag icon in the toolbar, where the Refresh button used to live; otherwise, it continues to work the same.

I noted in my iOS 5 review that flagging didn't play so well with my work's Gmail account, which is configured via Microsoft Exchange--you could flag messages on iOS devices, but those flags would not show up in desktop clients or on the Web. That situation has been changed but not really improved in iOS 6--now I don't even have the option to flag messages in that account at all. Which, on the one hand, prevents me from futilely flagging messages, but, on the other hand, saddens me deeply.

Other improvements There are a couple of other improvements to Mail that make life easier. For example, tap and hold on the New Message button and you'll get a slide-up tray of your previous drafts. Tap any of those to resume working on them. (You can also tap a button to create a new message.)

Tap and hold in the body of a message and the pop-up box that appears now offers an option to Insert Photo or Video. Tapping on that will yield a standard photo picker, letting you easily embed pictures or videos from your iOS device, without the hassle of copying-and-pasting or having to remember to send emails from your Photos app. That solves the age-old problem of trying to reply to an existing message and attach photos.

You've also, at long last, got the ability to maintain mail signatures on a per-account basis. Go to Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and scroll down to Signature. Tap on it and you'll see an option for All Accounts or Per Account. Tap Per Account and you'll get a box for each of your mail accounts; enter signatures in them, and those will be appended to the message you send from the respective account. For those of us that maintain both personal and work accounts, it's a godsend.


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