Posts tagged with "iOS 6"

iOS 6 Spotlight Concept

Last week, designer Cody Sanfilippo shared (via TUAW) an interesting concept of what Spotlight on iOS could be like. Drawing inspiration from Siri’s results, widgets, and some third-party apps that already enable similar functionalities, I find Cody’s concept worth of a deeper discussion. Particularly following the release of iOS 6 yesterday and the many refinements it brings to several areas of the OS, I think Spotlight is one of the stock functionalities that could use an overhaul in the future.

Cody’s proposed design essentially breaks down Spotlight by filters, and makes it play nicer with third-party apps and their content. It is aimed at reducing taps required to perform some actions such as calling a contact, or playing a song, and, overall, it takes some of the functionalities of Siri and translates them into a text-based input.

With this new system in place, you are capable of doing things a lot quicker. For example, tap phone numbers to call from Contact results. Tap their email addresses to email them. Tap “play” on a music result to play the song without ever entering the Music app. Check calendar events, or notes, or reminders instantly. You get all this information at a glance, without ever opening the applications. Of course, tapping the entry (the arrow in Contacts, entire clipping in Notes, etc) will bring you into that application.

In Cody’s vision, Spotlight could gain “filters” to display as buttons at the bottom. So rather than searching for a string of text across your entire operating system, you’d gain the option to refine your results by restricting them to a certain application, like Contacts. Looking for “Mike” in the current Spotlight, for instance, would bring up results from your Address Book, Music, Mail, Messages, and more. If you know you just want to view Mike’s contact card, though, you could enable a Contacts filter, and display a Siri-like card with phone number, Twitter username, and email addresses you can tap on.

Perhaps contacts aren’t the best way to illustrate how such concept could help users save time (though I’m a fan of Cody’s design idea for this). Say you want to play a song: with “Spotlight 2.0”, you could hit Play directly from a search result, saving you the time to open the Music app, view the playback screen, etc. Sanfilippo thought of various implementations for this concept for several built-in apps.

In my opinion, however, the really forward-thinking idea is the possible third-party app integration. You know how Spotlight can look at the contents of your Mail messages? Imagine if it’d be able to return songs from Rdio or Spotify, or tasks from OmniFocus without opening those apps.

That’s a very powerful concept, and one that is not too dissimilar from the Siri API many developers have been expecting since last year. Such an idea – a system that can “look into apps” for certain types of content it understands and returns as results – would probably require major changes by developers to their apps, although, as we’ve seen in the past week, developers who are truly committed to their apps will always update them with support for the latest technologies and devices.

If you’re interested in Cody Sanfilippo’s concept for a better Spotlight, I suggest you head over his website, where you can find a detailed explanation of his ideas, a UI breakdown, and some thoughts on the implications of a different Spotlight. If you’re interested in reading more on the subject, I also recommend this article by Rene Ritchie, which touched upon many similar points back in June.

You can check out the concept video below. Read more

On The Benefit Of iOS 6 Maps

On The Benefit Of iOS 6 Maps

Anil Dash, writing about his experiences with Apple’s Maps on iOS 6:

Here in Manhattan, where I live, basic search by building names is profoundly degraded in Apple’s maps search. “Bloomberg” doesn’t find the Bloomberg Tower; on Google Maps it’s the first result. Searching for its address “731 Lexington Avenue” yields that address on Lexington Avenue in Brooklyn. It’s fine to think that perhaps I wanted the address in Bed-Stuy, but even appending “NY, NY” or “Manhattan, NY” still yields the Brooklyn address. Google maps has none of these comprehension issues. I understand this is due to Apple partnering with Tom Tom, whose maps are considered to be lower in quality than other players like Nokia, but I’m not informed enough to say with certainty whether that’s the case.

In response to our iOS 6 coverage (my thoughts on iOS 6 here, Cody’s overview of Maps here) TomTom sent us the following statement:

TomTom supplies maps and related content to the majority of handheld players, including RIM, HTC, Samsung, AOL (MapQuest Mobile), Apple and, yes, Google (for the areas where they don’t make their own maps).

Our maps are used by businesses around the world, which have standards for coverage, detail, quality and safety.

When people use a map, their experience is determined by two things. Firstly, the underlying content, notably the maps. This is what TomTom is currently supplying the mobile industry with and it is what gives their maps the best foundation. Secondly, user experience is determined by adding additional features to the map application, such as visual imagery. This is typically defined and created by the handset manufacturers and third party software providers on the basis of their own vision and needs.

If I understand this correctly, TomTom is essentially implying that, because user experience is defined by “additional features” (such as Apple’s custom map tiles, I assume), then issues with the user experience are also related to the choices made by “the handset manufacturer”.

I do believe, however, that the problems mentioned by Dash (poor recognition of POIs, questionable detection of local addresses) – the same ones I mentioned in my piece – aren’t related to Apple’s “vision” and “visual imagery”. Here’s Business Insider yesterday, reporting about an interview with Waze CEO Noam Bardin (Waze is also listed in Maps’ copyright notices):

But Bardin says that Apple has taken a huge bet by partnering with TomTom, a maker of traditional GPS hardware that’s morphing into a mapping-data provider. Both TomTom and Waze are listed in Apple’s copyright notice as providers of map data. But Bardin’s observations suggest that Apple is relying predominantly on TomTom.

“Apple went out and partnered with the weakest player,” Bardin says. “They’re now coming out with the lowest, weakest data set and they’re competing against Google, which has the highest data set.

Ultimately, it simply comes down to having a good experience – no matter who puts in the data. But it’ll be interesting to see how fast Apple will manage to iterate on its new Maps.

Update: After asking whether issues with the visualization of maps were related to Apple’s imagery, TomTom provided us with an additional statement:

Yes, we did not develop the map application. Rather, we only provide the data to build a car-centric map foundation. Everything thing on top of that - routing, visualization, etc. - is determined by the supplier.


iOS 6: Mail, Phone and Safari Feature Additions

Mail, Phone and Safari have all been around since the original iPhone launched in 2007. They all have seen subtle changes here and there over the years and in iOS 6 that trend continues but with the addition of some really neat new features.

The big new thing for Mail is VIPs which gives you more control over how you deal with your inbox and who you pay most attention to – but there’s also the addition of the pull to refresh gesture and the ability to add images directly to a new message. Phone gets two really useful and practical features: the ability to reject a call and then quickly reply to them or set a reminder to call back, and the new “Do Not Disturb” feature. Finally, the core of what made the iPhone a ‘smartphone’ in the early days, Safari, gets a new full-screen landscape mode, the ability to sync tabs across devices, upload photos and videos, and offline mode for Reading List.

To get the full overview of these new features and some neat tips, jump after the break.

More iOS 6 coverage here.

Read more

Apple Releases Several Updates To iOS Apps

After iOS 6 and an update to Mountain Lion, Apple today proceeded to release updates to some of its iOS applications. We’ve collected them all in this post, so you can have an easily digestible list of every update released today.

Apple’s Podcasts app (our original review) got a big update today. Version 1.1 brings iOS 6 support, and subscription syncing across devices with iCloud. There’s a new setting to choose to download new episodes automatically on WiFi, and pull to refresh for iOS 6. To enable sync, you’ll be asked if you want to keep subscriptions in sync through your Apple ID.

From my tests, I have noticed the app keeps the subscription list in sync, but not other podcast information, like Downcast does.

Podcasts 1.1

  • Automatically keep your podcast subscriptions up-to-date between devices using iCloud
  • A new setting to choose to automatically download new episodes only when on Wi-Fi
  • A new setting to choose whether to play episodes by oldest to newest or newest to oldest
  • Pull to refresh a subscription to check for new episodes on iOS 6
  • Additional performance and stability improvements

Read more

Hands On with iOS 6 Maps

When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, Google was a partner and not a competitor. Apple’s Maps, with data supplied by Google, was famously demoed by Steve Jobs when he searched for nearby Starbucks establishments and made a prank phone call with a tap of his finger. When Apple unveiled their iPad three years later in 2010, Steve Jobs was equally delighted to show off Maps, as he pinched the display to get a bigger overhead view of the Eiffel tower.

Initially, Maps was a simple mobile companion to Google Maps. Standard, hybrid, and satellite views were there, as was the ability to show traffic congestion and get driving directions between two locations of interest. It wasn’t until just over a year later with iOS 2.2 that Maps was improved with walking directions, public transit information, and street view. On the iPad, a terrain view was added. Alternate routes for directions came later in iOS 5 alongside estimated time of arrival and the ability to print directions via AirPrint. Over time, it became a robust Maps application that was better than Google Maps on the web.

What Apple did with Google Maps was pretty incredible when it was first introduced with the iPhone and later on the iPad. In contrast to using sliders and buttons on the web, Apple demonstrated that maps could be intuitive to navigate with just your fingertips. Panning around a map with your finger, tapping on search results to pull up business information, and navigating the world with Street View simply felt right on a touchscreen. Google provided often accurate search results and map data, while Apple provided a delightful interface to show their world through.

Today, using maps on our smartphones to find our way is an everyday habit. Frequent fliers rely on their smartphones to find their way in new locales, while city dwellers actively use smartphones to request public transit information. The convenience offered by our smartphones makes it possible for us to actively plan our days around city schedules, plan road trips, and get directions to a business for an all important interview. Beyond Apple’s Maps, companies like TomTom, Garmin, and Navigon added to the iPhone’s capabilities by providing real-time navigation and voice-guided directions through apps from the App Store. Yet competitors, such as Android with Google Maps and Google Maps Navigation, and Windows Phone 7 with Bing Maps and Nokia Drive, were offering GPS navigation on their ecosystems for free. For iOS 6, the missing piece to be filled-in for Apple’s Maps would have to be such a feature.

In iOS 6, Apple’s Maps is a headlining feature. During this year’s WWDC 2012 Keynote on June 11th, turn-by-turn navigation was showcased for Apple’s brand new Maps application in concert with the display of real-time traffic conditions. Apple added interactive 3D views and Flyover to select cities, giving maps a 3rd dimension on top of a traditional satellite view. As impressive as Apple’s demonstrations were, the most interesting feature are Apple’s new vector based maps, completely redesigned “from the ground up” as a replacement for Google’s Map data.

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iOS 6: Tips, Tricks & Hidden Features

Every time Apple releases an OS X or iOS update we enjoy giving our readers quality walk-throughs, feature guides and my favorite – tips and tricks. Every Apple power user can attest that shortcuts and knowing many of the little things is a fantastic way to improve the user experience. I enjoy discovering as many as I can so that I feel well-versed as an iOS user and can help friends and family when they are either troubleshooting or simply want to know how to do thing easier or faster. There’s so much fulfillment when you’re able to help someone and it’s also a great way to start a conversation with another Apple user. We uncovered most of these ourselves but this thread on the MacRumors forums site has a fantastic list as well.

More iOS 6 coverage here.

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The iOS 6 Trilemma

In some ways, iOS 6 is not a major update. And yet, in others, it’s possibly the biggest thing to happen to iOS since iPhone OS 1. Both of these assertions have far-reaching consequences for the users, third-party developers, and Apple itself.

In June, soon after the official announcement and preview of iOS 6, I concluded my general overview of the software with four questions. Looking back at that article now, those questions are more relevant than ever.

  • “Will the App Store redesign also bring new curation and search features, as many developers asked?”
  • “We didn’t quite get the “silver” system theme that was rumored; Apple seems to be moving towards blue gradients as a standard UI element, but not everyone’s liking the change for toolbars and status bars. Will they reconsider or improve upon today’s beta in terms of looks come Fall 2012?”
  • “With a new iPhone likely to be released in October, will we see even more features being added to the OS to take advantage of the new device’s hardware?”
  • “Will Google release a standalone Maps application?”

The answer to three of them is “no”. The last one – whether Google will release a standalone Maps application for iOS on the App Store – could be a “most certainly yes”, but we don’t know any more details.

iOS 6 is a controversial release, in that through the following days we’ll likely witness several news outlets and independent bloggers declare Apple’s doom or absolute genius, depending on the Internet clique they choose to side with. I think that, in this case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle – a gray area that needs a calm and thorough consideration. At the same time, I also believe that the “controversial” nature of iOS 6 needs to be analyzed for its various facets and reasons of existence. Why did Apple choose these features for iOS 6? What does the user make of it?

I have been testing iOS 6 for the past weeks, and I have (slowly) come to the conclusion that there’s no easy way to cover this update with a traditional review strategy. Instead, I have decided to take a look at the software from multiple perspectives, understanding the possible implications, downsides, and improvements for each one of them.

While last year I would have answered to the question “Should I upgrade to iOS 5 right away” with a resounding “Yes”, this year I’m not so sure about the “right away” part. Read more

iPhone 5 Now Available for Pre-order

The iPhone 5 is now available for pre-order at Fortunately, it does not require missiles or the Morph Ball to obtain.

Ordering the iPhone 5 tonight? Your best bet is Apple’s Online Store. Even better is the Apple Store app, which might fetch you a new iPhone faster than the guy who’s waiting for the web server to respond to his order request. Last year lots of people had good luck with the carrier’s online stores for the 4S, Sprint (after a short delay) and Verizon especially. We’ve listed the United State’s carrier’s stores below so you can hopefully order without hassle.

The iPhone 5 is an awesome power-up for anyone on the iPhone 3GS or the iPhone 4. The iPhone 5 is super thin and lightweight, has a larger 4-inch display, and has twice as much horsepower as the iPhone 4S thanks to its A6 processor. Available in white and black in 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB models ($199, $299, $399 respectively) on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, the iPhone 5 is equipped to utilize the incredible speed of LTE wireless networks without sacrificing battery life. With an improved 8 MP camera that takes pictures 40% faster than the iPhone 4S, includes wideband audio for clearer calls (carrier support coming soon), an even more vibrant Retina display, and packaged with Apple’s completely redesigned EarPods, the iPhone 5 isn’t just a incremental upgrade. It’s redesigned from the ground up.

* * *

Don’t know if you want to upgrade? The iPhone 5 is bound to be a fantastic phone, but having the latest and greatest isn’t necessary, especially if you have the iPhone 4S (and you guys bought that knowing you would be locked in for the two-year long haul… riiiight?). The iPhone 5 has no differentiating features in iOS 6 over the 4S — you’ll have Panorama and all of Siri’s latest features. Having LTE would be nice, as would be having apps launch faster and games look prettier, but I’m betting you’ll see the upgrades you care about — more battery-life and a significantly improved camera — with the iPhone 5S or whatever the heck Apple names it. (After all, they did break the space-name-time-continuum by naming their 6th phone the iPhone 5.) Plus, you’ll feel good when you leap-frog the iPhone 5 owners next year. Boom. Circle of life.

If you have an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 (most of you) that’s due for an upgrade, of course you should upgrade — the iPhone 4S was a significant update a year ago, so you guys are really gonna feel how much faster iOS is with an even newer iPhone. No questions asked, do it. I can’t help you with picking a color though.

If you happen to be someone who got a free 3GS or a $100 iPhone 4 recently (and will be locked-in to a contract for a while), you can at least have some solace: you’ll still be getting iOS 6, but not necessarily all of the features (no Siri). Depending when your contract ends or full upgrade eligibility begins, I recommend waiting for Apple’s next flagship iPhone and ordering it then. That way, you’ll get on Apple’s cycle, won’t have to worry as much about being out of date, and won’t be behind the curve on software if Apple pulls another feature-X-won’t-work-on-older-phones bit as Apple did with Siri between the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Apple Details iOS 6 Feature Availability By Country

As noted by Horace Dediu, Apple has published an official list of iOS 6 feature availability on its website. While iOS 6 is officially coming out next week, on September 19th, not every feature will be available in every country.

The list focuses mainly on Siri, Maps, and Dictation. Availability of iTunes Store and App Store content is mentioned as well, but that’s not really new if you’ve been following the expansion of Apple’s digital storefronts in the past months. What’s interesting ahead of iOS 6’s launch is the list of features that, due to content limitations or the “beta” nature of Siri, won’t be available in some parts of the world.

For instance, Maps’ “standard” operation will be available from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe for a total of 181 supported countries. This should include the “standard” view of Maps – the new tiles that Apple is using after removing Google’s ones from iOS 6 entirely. Similarly, the Satellite view of Maps will be available in the same 181 countries worldwide. However, things start getting different with Maps’ Directions and and Turn-by-Turn navigation: the former will be available in 96 countries, the latter in 56. 3D buildings, another feature of Maps, will only be available in the United States at launch, whereas Traffic information will be available in 23 countries. Last, Maps Local Search will be available in 49 countries, and Business Reviews and Photos in 15.

Siri is even more limited. In spite of the voice assistant gaining support for more languages in iOS 6, several functionalities and integrations will be limited by the user’s location. So, for instance, while everyone will be able to set Siri to a supported language and issue commands, Sports data will be limited to 15 countries; Twitter and Facebook integration to 14; Local Search and Restaurant Information to 10, but Restaurant Reviews will only be available through Siri in 9 countries and Reservations in 3 (USA, Canada, Mexico). Another Siri integration, Movies, will be limited to 13 countries for Movie Information, 4 for Reviews, and only 3 for showtimes.

As Apple embraces more third-party services in its operating systems, it’s no surprise that some features will be restricted to only the countries where those services are fully operational. The same happened with the first version of Siri last year – some commands were only supported in the United States initially.

Check out the full list of iOS 6 feature availability here.