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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.

Other improvements Beyond those new features, there are a good number of other tasks that Siri can accomplish in iOS 6. For example, you can now launch an app simply by asking Siri to do so. Want to post a tweet or update your status on Facebook? Siri can handle that as well, if you've set up your social networking accounts in Settings.

In general, Siri handles certain things a little better now than it did previously. For example, it's now possible to change the text for a reminder while you're creating it, and it's a little more streamlined to send someone a message via Siri.

However, Siri still has plenty of shortcomings. The virtual assistant still can't read your email to you, or change your settings (though it will recognize commands to turn on Airplane Mode or Bluetooth), and trying to edit an email message or iMessage you've composed via Siri is liable to induce hair-tearing for anything but the shortest messages. And much as I would like to be able to offer an opinion on Siri's Eyes Free mode, it's surprisingly difficult to get a BMW test unit.

Perhaps my favorite new feature in Siri is one of the simplest: You can control where the audio output of iOS's virtual assistant goes. When there's more than one option--say, for example, that you're in your car, with a fancy Bluetooth stereo--a button appears that allows you to route Siri's voice to either the iPhone's speakers or your car's, thereby solving a problem that has likely had plenty of us swearing at our phones.

Still, I'm heartened by the fact that Apple hasn't ditched Siri by the roadside, despite the grief the feature has taken in some places. This is one of those technologies that has the potential to redefine how we interact with our electronic devices, but it's not going to spring forth fully formed, like Athena from Zeus's forehead; it's a slow, gradual process that won't seem revolutionary until we look back at how far we've come.

Even if iOS 6 doesn't perfect the virtual assistant, I look forward to seeing what Siri learns about next.

Passing on Passbook

I'd love to tell you that Passbook is another one of those revolutionary technologies I just mentioned--heck, I'd love to tell you anything about Passbook. But unfortunately, as I write this the app remains an enigma. I've been unable to locate an app or business that is actively taking advantage of the app, so all I know is what Apple's told us: The goal of Passbook is to collect all those disparate cards and tickets you carry around into a single, central location.


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