iOS 6 review:

So-so Maps mar otherwise stellar upgrade

Apple iOS 6
Just like with copy/paste options, you can touch and hold to add pictures. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

The Mail app feature we like more, however, is the option to add photos directly into an e-mail after you start typing it. Similar to when you want to bring up select, copy, and paste controls, you'll need to touch and hold in the body of an e-mail, then touch an arrow at the right to cycle to "Insert photo or video." Frankly, Apple should be embarrassed that it took years to add such a simple function to the e-mail app, particularly since it's existed on the text-messaging side for so long. It also seems like it would be easier if it used the same camera-shaped icon from the Messages app to add a photo rather than using the touch-and-hold method. Again, this is not a shocking or new feature, and it wasn't even implemented in a way that would be recognizable to everyone, but I'm still glad it is finally here.

FaceTime over cellular
With iOS 6, you'll be able to make FaceTime calls over a cellular network, but only on the iPhone 4S and the most recent iPad. Sure, we'll take it, even if we're concerned about just how much data the app will use in an era in which unlimited data contracts are disappearing quickly. We're also concerned about the quality of the FaceTime experience over a 3G network. Indeed, as we understood it, that was the whole reason Apple restricted FaceTime to Wi-Fi when the feature debuted on the iPhone 4. As we now know, the new iPhone 5 will feature 4G LTE, but we have yet to see how the feature performs on 3G or 4G cellular data networks.

On the other hand, we're totally pleased with Apple's decision to integrate your phone number with your Apple ID, which means that when you get a FaceTime call you could answer it on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Sometimes it's the little touches that really matter.

While we like the idea of this feature, at the time of this review, we can't put FaceTime over cellular through its paces. Check back for full breakdown of the new features in the coming days.

Shared Photo Streams
The Photo Stream in iOS 5 let you set your devices to share photos with other iOS devices on the same account, but a handy new feature in iOS 6 makes it easy to share photos with friends and family as well. Now you'll be able to select photos you would like to share, touch the Share button, and send them to as many contacts as you want. Recipients who are also on iOS devices or use Mountain Lion on a Mac will be able to view them right away in Photos or iPhoto. Those who are not using Apple hardware will be able to view your photos in a Web browser. Apple has also added the ability to "Like" and comment on shared photos. This iOS 6 feature works on both Wi-Fi and cellular connections.

While not a huge feature in the scheme of things, this method beats sending photos one at a time, or worrying about size limits of selecting and sending images over e-mail. In other words, again, it's certainly not groundbreaking, but it will definitely be useful for sharing several images with multiple people who can then "Like" and make comments about each photo.

Apple iOS 6
To share, touch the share button, select photos, then touch Photo Stream. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Rounding out the list are a few new features for Safari. You can view a Web page in full-screen when using landscape mode, cache a Web page and save it for reading later even when you're offline, and share Photo Streams. The addition of iCloud Tabs means you'll be able to pick up where you left off on any device. So if you started reading something on your iPad, you could continue to read the same Web page on your iPhone or MacBook (running Mountain Lion) later simply by hitting a button. These changes continue to follow the overall theme of keeping you connected across all devices.

Will my iOS device work with iOS 6?
The answer to this question is yes, probably. iOS 6 will run the iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, and 5. It will not work on the iPhone 3 or 3G. As for the iPad, it will run on both the iPad 2 and the new iPad, but not the original. iPod Touch users need the fourth or fifth generation of the device.

The larger question might be, "What features will work on my device?" Here is a chart that shows what will work on which device:

iPhone 3GS iPhone 4 iPhone 4S iPhone 5 iPad 2 iPad 3
Siri n/a n/a X X n/a X
Flyover and Turn-by-turn navigation n/a n/a X X X X
FaceTime over 3G/4G n/a n/a X X n/a X
VIP list in Mail X X X X X X
Shared Photo Streams X X X X X X
Offline reading list n/a X X X X X
Passbook X X X X n/a n/a
Safari iCloud Tabs X X X X X X
Facebook Integration X X X X X X

The most disappointing feature omission here is that FaceTime still won't work over 3G on the iPhone 4 (even though it does work on Wi-Fi). Maybe it's the processing power or something else, but it's just a shame that the device the feature debuted on won't get the added FaceTime options.

Update to version 6.0.1
With version 6.0.1, Apple has effectively stomped out some of the more annoying minor bugs people have noticed since the iOS 6 release, but the bigger issues such as the Apple Maps app received no changes in this version. As Josh Lowensohn reported, the bigger changes seem to be coming in the iOS 6.1 update slated for sometime after the holidays.

The list of tweaks in this update revolve around other common problems people have been experiencing with iOS devices since the release of iOS 6. One bug that kept iPhone 5 users from installing over-the-air updates has been fixed, prompting users during the update process to install a special iOS updater that is removed from the device once iOS 6.0.1 is installed.

The update includes a fix for an Exchange meeting bug that could completely delete a meeting if only one user declined the invitation. This particular bug caused companies to come up with workarounds, sometimes specifically telling iOS users to avoid declining meetings to keep them on the calendar.

The lines that would show up on the Apple keypad have been fixed. This problem involved flickering horizontal lines that would show up on the keypad while typing. In my testing after the update, I was unable to re-create the lines I had been seeing while typing passwords and texts. The bug never prevented people from using the keypad, but it's still an important user interface fix.

Other items in the change log include minor tweaks. Problems with the iPhone Camera flash sometimes not working; issues that prevented the iPhone from switching to a cellular network (when no Wi-Fi was available); and a Passcode Lock bug that mysteriously allowed access to Passbook from the lock screen have been resolved.

iOS 6 is a welcome upgrade for any iOS user, but it's not going to completely change the way you use your device. Instead, each of the tweaks here will make many daily smartphone actions easier across the board and offer some relief to those waiting for certain features (sending images from e-mail and call controls, for example). It also brings your device up-to-date with Mac OS X Mountain Lion, letting you sync your most-used content across all of your devices.

I like just about everything I see here, and Apple makes each new feature easy to use and elegant. The Maps app is the headliner of this update and despite some issues it is definitely an upgrade over Google's previous offering. It finally adds the turn-by-turn directions with voice many have been waiting for, but flyover features -- while amazing to look at -- don't offer much beyond the initial wow factor. It's a great upgrade, but it's still a replacement Maps app. And it's something other phones have had for a long time.

On the other hand, the Siri update brings voice-activated features further into the fold, adding functionality that makes it more useful than just a fun diversion. Yet, the future of Siri remains unclear. I don't think we've seen the last update to the "voice of iOS" by a long shot, and it remains to be seen how iPhone owners will react to the addition of yet more voice controls. Frankly, I'm not sure we're quite at a point where talking to your phone in the checkout line at the grocery store is socially acceptable. Here again, it's another improvement, but it's not going to vastly change the way you use your smartphone.

Still, what is very clear is that iOS 6 gives iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users more features than they had before, and we're pleased that Apple added some of the most-wanted features that have plagued iOS users for a long time. Naturally, I'm disappointed that not every feature will come to every iOS-compatible device, but Apple has never been shy about forcing customers to upgrade. Indeed, iOS has always been evolving, and with its latest version, Apple continues to give us something sharp, powerful, and exceedingly easy to use.

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