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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.

Turn-by-turn directions Browsing maps is fine, but iOS 6's biggest new feature inside its biggest new feature is the long-awaited addition of turn-by-turn directions. It's a feature that Google has been providing to Android phones for a while, and its inclusion in iOS 6 marks an attempt to obviate yet another standalone electronics device--in this case, the GPS unit. But does it succeed?

Using the turn-by-turn directions feature is easy at least, and you have a couple of different options. In the Maps app, you can search for a destination and then press the Directions button (a right-angle arrow); you'll be prompted to choose your starting point--by default your current location--and a type of directions: car, walking, or public transportation (more on the last in a moment). Tap Route and you'll get an overview of the directions.

You can also, as with previous versions of Maps, tap the Directions to Here or Directions from Here buttons when viewing information about a location. Even quicker than that, is to tap the green Quick Route button that shows up next to the location's name on the map. And, of course, you can also ask Siri (iOS's virtual assistant) to give you directions to a location.

In any of these cases, you'll be given an overview of your route, in some cases including options for multiple routes, as introduced in iOS 5. Maps will give you distances and travel times for each route.

Once you've started the directions, you'll zoom in on your current location, represented with a blue circle and an arrow in it. The current direction will be given with a large road sign-style dialog box at the top, along with an icon indicating what action you need to take, if any. Siri will speak any directions aloud; if you're playing music or other audio, it will fade out slightly while Siri tells you what to do, then fade back in.

As you continue, your location will update and you'll be prompted with subsequent directions; just like in earlier versions of Maps, a blue line will show you the route you're taking.

At any time, you can tap the screen to get an ETA, along with distance and time. Two buttons let you either end the directions or return to the overview mode, and you can pinch the map to zoom out and back in a small amount. Other than that, you can't do anything else in the Maps app while directions are being given. However, you can use other apps at the same time: In that case, you'll see a blue-green bar at the top that says "Tap to return to Navigation"; whenever a turn is imminent, a banner alert will appear with the information about the upcoming direction and Siri will speak the instruction aloud.


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