iOS 6 features: everything you need to know
The Maps application has also had a serious overhaul. Its content was previously provided by Google, but map data is now supplied directly from Apple’s own servers, while directions come from the navigation experts at Tom Tom. It has a fresh new look as a result, and maintains the ability to display satellite photography.
This move away from reliance on Google has also seen Apple drop the YouTube application. This had been a resident of the iPhone and iPod touch since their very earliest days, and they provided the best means of viewing YouTube videos on any Apple device. Going forward from the introduction of iOS 6, though, we’ll have to watch YouTube videos through the Safari browser or use a third-party client.
Facebook is now integrated, just like Twitter, and Siri, Apple’s voice-recognition assistant, has been upgraded across several territories so that it now knows more about cinema times, sports venues and so on.
Mixed in are myriad tiny improvements just waiting to be discovered.
Where have all my buttons gone?
The most immediate difference between the iPhone and a regular mobile is the lack of a keypad. This is both a blessing and a curse, the latter being that there is no tactile feedback for sight-impaired users. This also means you can easily slip and press more than one virtual button at once, although the iPhone has always been fairly talented when it comes to guessing what you meant and, in a forgiving manner, tends to use the key you meant, even if you pressed one of those that surrounds it.
However, for the vast majority of users, and those less egotistic than the serial self-portrait takers, it is an excellent implementation, and a few minutes spent getting used to the way it works will repay very real and long-term dividends.
The first thing to realise is that the keyboard is intelligent in two very subtle ways. First, it briefly enlarges each key as you tap it, so you can see its key cap pop up above your finger to make sure you have pressed the right one (and almost every time you will, because it is clever enough to sense the most likely key you were aiming for).
Second, it offers to auto-complete words for you by dropping a suggested completion for partially entered words immediately below the cursor.
The built-in default dictionary adapts to your needs quickly, and after entering a unique word just once or twice – your surname, for example – it will be offering to complete that for you, too. To accept its suggestion, just press whatever key would come immediately after the word – a space, the enter key and so on.
You can frequently do away with the keyboard altogether, because the iPhone uses your fingers in much the same way as a regular computer uses a mouse. On-screen buttons can be tapped to navigate through menus, while double-tapping some elements, such as columns on a web page, will expand them to fill the screen, without you even defining the edges of the text.
Other elements can be swiped, such as album covers in the iPod and pictures in the photos application, which can be slid onto and off the screen just like real life picture prints on a table.
The cleverest of all the finger gestures, though, is the pinch and reverse-pinch, which will zoom in and out on various on-screen elements.
Test this out by starting Maps, typing in your postcode and then putting your thumb and forefinger in the centre of the screen, both pressed together. Slowly open them up and see how the map expands with them as you zoom in. Doing the same in reverse will zoom out again. This same trick works in several other applications, including photos and websites.