Apple iOS 10 review: iOS 10: What we like, and what needs to get better

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Siri still needs improvement.

Josh Miller/CNET

What let us down:

Siri's (lack of) smarts: You may be able to order an Uber or launch a Skype call with your voice, but Siri still trails far behind Google's voice assistant skills. Siri asks you to consult your iPhone too much, and isn't a hands-free experience at all. We found ourselves constantly having to course-correct for basic music searches, restaurant recommendations and sports scores.

Uneven 3D Touch implementation: 3D Touch has spread across more of the iPhone, but it's still not nearly as universal or useful as it should be. Pressing in on the pressure-sensitive screen still opens secondary menus slowly. New widgets that pop up above some apps offer quick-access info like weather forecasts and sports score recaps, but not enough apps use it, and it's impossible to predict which do. That being said, 3D Touch -- which is only available on the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, 7 and 7 Plus -- at least does more than it did a year ago. The flashlight now has three brightness settings, and you can set timers with a quick swipe. But it still feels barely implemented -- how about being able to hot-switch Wi-Fi networks? -- and hardly takes advantage of its amazing levels of pressure sensitivity.

Notification changes: Larger notifications and alerts interrupt what you're doing. They hang longer on the screen, are easy to accidentally press and harder to swipe away. It's best to just wait for them to leave. That's fine a few times, but adds up over the course of the day...and sometimes interferes with apps that are in use. To interact with them, you need to use 3D Touch or press and hold, which feels a lot clunkier than iOS 9. Learn what's new with Notifications.


3D Touch is an inconsistent experience.

Josh Miller/CNET

Lock screen message replies are more trouble than they're worth: Again, the implementation is the main problem here. First you have to swipe, then press "View," then "Reply" (or archive), and then you have to unlock your phone. Not much of a shortcut at all, if you ask us.

Control Center's sprawling redesign: It now takes several swipes to get between basic settings, Music controls, and a new Home panel for HomeKit-connected appliances and accessories. We'd prefer a taller hub that fits in more, or a more customizable set of icons (with even more 3D Touch menus, please).

Apple Music is better, but not there yet: Apple's redesign of the Music app has a new look, but it's not really any easier to use. Menus can get confusing, features are hidden, and even simple actions like "shuffle album" still feel like they're hard to find. It's cleaner-looking, but it also feels like it's harder to find some music now.

Siri's lack of third-party app support: You can now ask Siri to do a few things for you on third-party apps, like call an Uber, send Square Cash and send a message through What's App. Until more developers hop on board, it's still limited. Sending a What's App message wasn't very accurate or fast, but Uber was easy to bring up...however, it's still nicer to open the app to make sure your pickup location is accurate. Out of 185 apps installed on one of our iPhones, only four or so apps are Siri-enabled.

Messages' lack of intuition: As we said, the new WhatsApp-style responses in iMessage are actually pretty fun. But using them isn't super-intuitive. Consider the "tip the phone to landscape for handwriting mode" and the drag-and-drop sticker implementation. And let's not even talk about installing sticker packs, which boots you out to the App Store.

Apple's Maps app: Apple allows app extensions to work in its Maps app now, and those that work are nice to have: Uber can book rides, and OpenTable makes reservations. And there aren't many apps that work in Maps yet, nor are their hooked-in functions always easy to find in the Maps user interface. So, despite the fact that Apple Maps has come a long way, we're still toggling between it and Google Maps.

Control Panel now has multiple panels which require more swipes.

Patrick Holland/CNET

iOS 10.2 and beyond

What improvements do we want to see? Well, for starters -- fix or improve everything listed directly above.

And there's plenty of other possible step-ups, too. How about Apple Pay cash transfers in Messages, for instance? Or a lock screen that could fully launch mini apps that did more things with just a few touches? And why not just finally adopt some of Android's best features, like a full-on app drawer or real customizable home-screen widgets?

All in good time. The good news is that you no longer need to wait a full year for iOS improvements. Version 10.1 is already here, and 10.2 is already in public beta. Here's hoping that our wishlist items listed above get addressed in those point upgrades -- or in 2017's inevitable iOS 11.

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