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Apple iOS 6 review: A worthwhile upgrade

September 19, 2012 03:49 PM ET

Safari

In Safari, the big change involves Reading List. Although this was introduced in iOS 5 as a way to save articles for later reading, iOS 6 adds a handy offline mode. Using iCloud, stories you save in Reading List are available for offline reading on your other devices and on Macs running OS X Mountain Lion.

To add your current page to Reading List, click on the Sharing Button and select Add To Reading List. You'll see a spinning cursor on the menu bar of iPhones and iPads when that happens, indicating a sync is under way, and after a moment, it disappears. The syncing and sharing works really well. Saved links on Mountain Lion appeared within seconds on my other devices, such as my iPhone. Just to see what would happen, after verifying the iPhone had received the new link, I picked up my iPad, browsed to Settings, and turned on Airplane mode. Only then did I check Safari's Reading List and found that I was able to view the saved page, even with no active Internet connection. Well played, Apple. Let's hope Apple's iCloud servers can handle the traffic.

The other major Safari feature, iCloud Tabs, also uses iCloud for syncing across devices. With this, you can now pick up any device, be it your Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, and instantly continue browsing stories after moving to a different device.

Let's say you're on your Mac, reading a story, when you need to run an errand. On the go, you can use your iPhone to continue reading the story just by accessing Bookmarks and swiping to iCloud tabs. This feature, to say the least, is very convenient.

The main issue I have with both Reading List and iCloud Tabs is that they're hard to locate on iPhones. That's a shame, too, because things as useful as these features should be obvious. On an iPad, Reading List is located under the Bookmarks pop-up, selectable by tapping the Eyeglass icon at the bottom of the pop-up window; iCloud tabs is accessed right from the menubar, between Bookmarks and the Share Sheet. Though I recognize the space limitations inherent on the iPhone, Apple should look for a way to better expose these features.

Safari also gets a full-screen mode. As in OS X Mountain Lion, Safari in iOS 6 features a Full Screen icon that appears as a double-arrow (in landscape mode). Tapping that brings the Web content full screen; tapping it again brings back the regular Safari interface. It's especially handy on smaller screens like the iPhone and iPod touch.

Other changes

Systemwide Sharing Sheets have been changed. Gone is the list view; now you get an icon and text. Depending on the context and what's being shared, you have options to share using Mail, Messages, Twitter and Facebook. There are also options for Printing, Copying, Bookmarking, and saving the link for offline viewing via Reading List in Safari.

Facebook integration means iOS 6 is getting more social, much as Apple did with Twitter in iOS 5. You'll now be able to share photos and Safari links on Facebook from within the respective apps using the Share button. Among the apps already updated to take advantage of this are Safari, Game Center, iTunes and the App Store, where you can share app reviews with Facebook friends. No doubt, developers will move quickly to add Facebook integration in their own apps now that iOS 6 is out.

Reminders gets a small, but welcome, addition. In iOS 5, you could set location-based reminders from anything in your contacts, but in iOS 6 you can now manually enter locations using the Map app. And since third parties should also have access to Reminders info, third-party to-do list apps should be more useful, too.

FaceTime, Apple's popular video-conferencing app, can now be used over cellular networks -- with an important caveat: Your carrier needs to support this feature. In the U.S., Sprint and Verizon allow FaceTime calls over cellular with existing data plans; AT&T, in an attempt to annoy even more customers, only allows this with Shared Family Plans. Thanks, AT&T.



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