Apple iOS 6 review: A worthwhile upgrade

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

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Despite these advances, there are some disadvantages to Maps. For one, it requires a network connection. And since Maps doesn't cache data, if you lose your data connection, Maps won't redraw.

As I noted in my first look at iOS 6, the addition of Siri-activated voice navigation could spell trouble for GPS makers -- except for those Apple partnered with for this venture, like TomTom. While Maps isn't perfect, it's pretty good and getting better, and the addition of voice-guided navigation is a real plus for users, if not for the bottom lines of Garmin and other GPS companies.

Photos

The best addition to the Photos app is the new feature, Shared Photo Streams, which is really just a quick and easy way to share photos with specified people. Each person is notified when photos are added to the Streams they've subscribed to, and from there they can Like and comment on pictures. Think of it as a super-exclusive photo-based social network that's ideal for sharing photos among friends and family. I'll be using it often.

There are a few ways to create a Photo Stream. You can do it from a list of pictures in Albums by clicking Edit at the top right and selecting the photos you want to share. Tap the Share button at the lower left and select Photo Stream. Photo Streams can also be created by tapping the Photo Stream button at the bottom of the Photos app and hitting the Plus button. Both methods lead to the next screen, which allows you to choose recipients, name the Stream, and decide whether to make this stream publicly available on iCloud.com.

Tapping "Next" brings you to the final screen, where you can add comments. When done, simply tap Post. Recipients will get push notifications on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and a swipe to unlock brings them to your stream. (Non-iOS users can see the images on a specially created Web page.) If you want to add more photos to the stream, tap the middle of the bottom row of icons in the Phone app and add them.

Shared Photos uses iCloud, which, unlike MMS messaging, is a free service.

Photo Streams in iOS 6
Shared Photo Streams is a quick and easy way to share photos with specified people.

My biggest gripe with Photo Streams? That recipients can't add their own pictures to your stream. They can comment, they can Like, but they can't add photos. The only option is for them to start their own Streams, which is a shame since Photo Streams would be a great way to share vacation photos into a single location. Hopefully, photo-adding from subscribers will be available down the road. Still, I find this feature useful; it'll be a huge hit in my family.

The Camera app goes Panorama

The Camera app received some interface tweaks, most notably the darker theme prevalent throughout iOS 6. On the iPad, the Options and Camera Toggle buttons have been moved to the lower menu bar, and the shutter has been relocated to the center right, which is closer to where a thumb naturally rests when taking pictures on the tablet.

But by far the most important addition is the new Panorama mode (which is only supported on the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 and the fifth-generation iPod touch).

To take a panorama photo, tap Options -- it's located in the upper center of the screen -- and tap Panorama. The interface will display a rectangle with an arrow indicating in which direction to move your phone. When you tap the onscreen shutter button, the iPhone starts filling in your panorama as you slowly pan the camera along. You can even turn the phone on its side and pan up or down. The resulting high-quality panoramas can be enormous, but the shots themselves are lovely. According to Apple, panorama photos can take up to 28 megapixels, so be mindful of your storage.

Panorama mode
The shot was taken using the new Panorama mode
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