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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.

Text-to-speech Those who use iOS's Speak Selection feature will find a few new improvements. In addition to adjusting the speaking rate, users can now choose a number of different speech dialects of English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese. Words can also optionally be highlighted as the voice speaks them.

Hearing aids iOS 6 brings compatibility with Bluetooth hearing aids, if you have one. Apple says it has been working with vendors to bring them to market.

Home-click Speed It's now possible to adjust the speed needed to activate double- or triple-clicks of the Home button to slow or slowest.

What's in store

iOS's three storefronts--the iTunes Store, the App Store, and the iBookstore--are integral parts of the experience, and all three of them have gotten significant reimaginings with iOS 6. They each feature a new design, as well as more touch-friendly features and additional capabilities.

App Store Of the three, this is likely the one where iOS users spend the most time. The new version strikes me as more attractive than the old one, with a black/gray theme and large, colorful rotating carousels that you can swipe through.

App pages are broken up into more usable chunks, with separate tabs for details, reviews, and related apps. Further down, at the bottom of the page, you'll find other information sub-divided into menus, such as developer info, top in-app purchases, the license agreement and privacy policy and, my favorite, the version history, which handily collects release notes from prior versions.

Charts are given more prominent placement in the new version, with the Categories option--which used to be on the App Store's main toolbar--instead relegated to the top left corner of the Charts screen. Genius also nabs a spot on the toolbar; tap it and you'll be prompted to activate the feature and log into iTunes for personalized recommendations.

On the iPhone, this takes the form of a swipeable list of app "cards," each of which shows the app name and icon, the reason it was recommended, its rating and price, and a screenshot. A Not Interested button at the bottom lets you take it out of the running. (The same cards appear on the iPad, but there are several visible at a time, and it's easy to scroll through them.)

This card interface appears under search now as well. On the iPad, it's not so bad, as it's also accompanied by three drop-down menus that let you filter by price (free or paid) and category, and sort by relevance, popularity, ratings, and release date. On the iPhone, however, it means you have to spend a lot of time scrolling through listings to find what you want, as opposed to the previous interface, which packed more information into the same amount of space.


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