Apple iOS 6 review: A worthwhile upgrade

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

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Like before, Siri still requires an active Internet connection, but it now has access to more databases. As a result, Siri can now handle new topics. allowing the iPhone to answer your questions regarding movie times at local theaters; questions about actors, directors, movies and ratings; and questions about sports scores, standings, team schedules and player stats. Siri can also help you find and reserve seating at local restaurants. (To actually book seating, Siri launches the OpenTable app.)

Want more? You can use Siri to get spoken directions to any destination. Tell Siri to "Plot a course to the closest highest-rated Italian restaurant" and she'll navigate the best route and narrate directions in real-time using the new Maps app (see below). She'll even answer questions like, "Are we there yet?"

Not enough? Siri can now launch apps by voice command, which is really useful, and can post status updates to FaceBook and Twitter. If you're looking to explore Siri more, here's a look at all the commands you can use.

Apple, in an attempt to expand Siri's reach, has also made deals with automakers to integrate a Siri button in their cars. "Eyes Free," as it's called, should be featured by most car manufacturers in some model cars beginning in 2013.

How does the Siri feature work in real life? Not as well as when it was first announced. Far too often, it takes two attempts to get a proper answer, because the first time, the question is inexplicably translated into gibberish. For instance, "Siri, call my Dad" once gave me this reply: "Sorry, Mike, I do not understand, 'Give me a spoon for salad.'" Asking the question again resulted in the proper translation and result, but mistranslations, mid-sentence cut-offs and incidents like this are an un-Apple-like experience that will dissuade people from using this service. Things need to improve further, if this technology is to be considered more than a novelty, and I say that as someone who uses Siri at least a dozen times a day.

Maps

Maps was one of the major features announced at WWDC and it's a big one: Since the arrival of the iPhone five years ago, Apple has relied on Google for the back-end data that powered the Maps app. But legal and political strife between the two companies created a rift. The result? As of iOS 6, Google has been dropped as the data provider for Maps; Apple instead now uses resources acquired in its deal with Open Street and from alliances with other companies like Yelp and OpenTable.

How well does it work? For starters, Maps is vector-based, so area graphics and text stay sharp, focused and clean, especially in the default Standard mode. Using the Hybrid or Satellite mode -- either can be toggled on by tapping the page curl on the lower right -- takes a little longer to load, but text remains crisp. Unlike earlier iterations of Maps, the new version supports more than just zooming in/out and panning; now you can zoom with a pinch, and twisting your fingers rotates the map. If you take two fingers and push up/slide down, the displayed map shifts perspective.

Maps in iOS 6
Maps is vector-based, so area graphics and text stay sharp, focused and clean, especially in the default Standard mode.

The overall interface has been cleaned up a little: on the iPad, the top menu contains Directions, Bookmarks and a Search area with a pop-up list of recent locations; on the iPhone, the order is Directions, Search and Bookmarks, and the menu loses the redundant Search button toggle. Instead, Search is activated simply by tapping the oval text input area. The Locate Me arrow has been relocated to the bottom left corner and now resides next to a 3D icon. As before, tapping the Locate arrow once displays your location on a map and twice actives Compass mode, which is handy for figuring out direction of travel.

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