Apple iOS 6 review: A worthwhile upgrade

iOS has now evolved into a robust and powerful mobile OS.

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Zooming into Maps brings up local details, such as restaurant locations and other points of interest. Tapping any of those displays a pop-up with the name, a Yelp rating and review count, and a button for automatic directions and routing. Tapping the Info button displays even more information, including type of restaurant, its phone/website/street address, plus reviews and photos. And if you want to investigate further, tapping any of the reviews or photos launches the Yelp app. If Yelp is not installed, you'll be brought to the App Store where you can download it. The downside? The listings in Maps are nowhere near as comprehensive as in Google's Maps. Fortunately, Google Earth is still available as a separate download, so you can have the best of both worlds.

Flyover in Maps
Here's a look at an area just outside San Francisco as shown in Flyover, which gives you a 3D view of several large cities.

Maps also displays traffic, and information about any delays that can be accessed via icons near traffic red zones. That can help you plan whether you should wait a traffic jam out or find another route. And if you use Siri to guide you along a route, it will suggest an alternate route when one is available. Nice.

Tapping the Directions button allows you to plot a start and end location, and choose Driving, Walking or Mass Transit directions. The last feature launches a third-party app of your choosing, or, if you don't have any on the phone, takes you to the App Store. This is a slight step back from the earlier versions, which relied on Google's data for everything, obviating the need for third-party apps. (I'm fairly certain the developers of those apps aren't complaining.) In the end, leaving Apple's new Maps app may be a tad inconvenient, but if the results are useful -- and they are -- few will complain.

There is something to complain about, however, and that's the loss of Street View. In its place, Apple now offers FlyOver -- 3D views of several large cities including San Francisco, London, and Sydney. While it's a visually cool addition, FlyOver isn't really a substitute for Street View and it certainly doesn't deliver anywhere near the coverage. FlyOver will be most useful to those who live in supported cities; for everyone else, it's more like a cool demo. At least the list of cities covered will grow in time.

A definite enhancement to Maps is the new voice-guided navigation. (Finally.)

In Maps, Siri (assuming you have an iPhone that supports Siri) guides you with turn-by-turn directions, using an uncluttered user interface that displays driving instructions within graphics shaped like traffic signs. Tapping on the screen brings up more options and data, such as an Overview button, an ETA, and details on how much time and distance remains on your trip.

Even if you switch to another app, direction notifications slide from the top of the screen as Siri continues her narration. You can even ask, "Are we there yet?" and Siri will give you the time remaining and occasionally some sage advice like, "Relax and enjoy the ride."

Another new feature I like is that some of the information about traffic is crowd-sourced from other iPhones in the area. As noted earlier, when there's congestion, Maps can suggest alternate routes if one is available.

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