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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.

Speaking of search, Maps now offers suggestions for your search terms. I found this to be hit-or-miss; sometimes the location I was looking for was right at the top, but other times Maps didn't seem to understand what I was looking for at all. A search for the Eiffel Tower correctly located it in France, but searching for Notre Dame while looking at a Paris map tried to send me to South Bend, Indiana. Much of this can likely be attributed to the Apple's points of interest database, which doesn't yet seem to have as much depth as Google's did.

Apple has at least provided a way to indicate when something is incorrect: Swipe the page curl and then tap the small Report a Problem link above the Print button; the subsequent form provides a variety of different ways to correct the listed information.

Many of Maps's features remain the same as ever. Bookmarks still give you access to recent searches, contacts, and places you've specifically marked. Settings are still hidden behind the page curl, which you can tap or swipe to open; there you'll find the option to switch between standard, satellite, and hybrid maps--the option for Terrain maps on the iPad has faded into the sunset--as well as a button to drop a pin (which you can also do by tapping and holding on the map) and another to show traffic, which Maps still displays by overlaying red, yellow, and green lines over routes.

That traffic information does have some improvements, though: Maps can now display road work alerts, as well as accidents, pulled from local transportation departments. Those details will generally let you know what exactly is happening--road work, a closed ramp, an accident--along with when the alert began, and when it was last updated.

Apple claims the information is real-time, and according to a statement from the company in 2011, it's been collecting anonymized traffic data in order to build a crowd-sourced traffic database. In addition, directions are supposed to include traffic conditions when providing you with an ETA, and Apple said that directions can be optionally rerouted around traffic, but that was one feature I haven't yet seen in action in my tests.

Flyovers Another feature that falls by the wayside in iOS 6 is Street View. Google spent a lot of energy collecting street-level imagery of the U.S. with its fleet of camera-bearing cars. Apple, on the other hand, has played its one-up card by enlisting an armada of small planes and helicopters to capture aerial imagery for a feature it calls Flyovers.

Flyovers is definitely Maps's most eye-catching new feature, and what it lacks in practicality, it makes up for in gee-whiz. When you're viewing satellite maps, tap the 3D button in the bottom left (sometimes indicated with a pictures of buildings) or swipe up with two fingers and you'll get a whole new dimension of maps. You can pan around with one finger, change perspective with two, and even rotate the map around a central axis by using a two-finger rotate gesture (like turning a dial). If you need to jump back to the standard "north is up" paradigm, you can always tap the compass that appears in the top right corner when you rotate.


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