iPhone 5 - iOS 6 Interface and Usability

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iPhone 5 – iOS 6.0 interface

Turn the iPhone 5 on and… well it all looks pretty familiar. If you’ve

used an iPhone before you’ll be right at home here, particularly if

you’ve already upgraded your old iPhone to iOS 6 or iOS 6.1. We won’t

cover every one of the 200 new features of the new operating system here

as we’ve already gone through most of them in our iOS6 review, but we’ll go through the basics.

The

overall layout is the same as it has been for a long time. Grids of

apps fill as many pages as needed, with each new page stacking to the

right of the home one. Swipe left and you’ve got the quick search

facility for looking up apps, contacts, emails and much more besides.

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Tap

the home button and it’ll close the app you’re in and take you back to

the homescreen. Double tap and you can see all the apps you’ve got

running, hold it down and Siri will be activated allowing you to speak

your request to the phone, asking for directions, a good place to eat or

to dictate a message.

Swipe down from the top edge of the

screen and you’ve got a notifications tray that shows the weather at the

top (tap to see more detail), stocks at the bottom, and all the various

notifications about new emails, messages on Twitter or upcoming

appointments in between.

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From the lock screen you can jump straight to the camera or a double tap will bring up the media controls.


We told you it was all very familiar.

On the one hand this is

all very reassuring as it’s easy to get to grips with and simple to use

day to day but equally it means Apple hasn’t addressed a host of classic

bugbears. For instance the list of running apps doesn’t show thumbnails

of what the app is doing, nor can you add widgets to the homescreens or

handle notifications individually.

Compared to the customisation

offered by Android, the social and cross-app integration by Windows

Phone or the multi-tasking and messaging centric feel of BlackBerry 10,

it still feels a bit behind the times.

So what has changed? We

hear you cry. Well, one of the key tweaks is the addition of Facebook

integration to accompany the existing Twitter support. You can now

upload photos, web links and such like directly from the core apps. In

fact sharing in general is easier with more options available on more

apps. That said, it’s still not a patch on Windows Phone, Android or

BlackBerry 10 on this front, with far less intertwining of different

services.

Siri has also had an upgrade, with it now able to look

up businesses here in the UK as well as football scores, making it far

more useful for us brits.

iPhone 5 – iOS 6 Maps

Of

course the big change catching all the headlines at the moment is Maps.

Apple and Google have broken off their partnership that has existed for

all previous iPhones so you no longer get GoogleMaps powered Maps, and

the YouTube app has disappeared too. Instead Apple has created its own

mapping solution in partnertship with TomTom amongst others.

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It

offers three key viewing modes, just like the maps app of old. So

there’s a simple vector based sat-nav style version, a satellite image

version and even a 3D view that looks like you’re in a computer game.

The vector based maps are incredibly easy to use with super fast

rendering and download times, while the satellite view is much like the

Google version, if a little slower. Meanwhile the 3D view is quite

brilliant, offering surprisingly realistic models of large chunks of

major cities. You can spin the maps round with ease and being able to

see the skyline makes it much easier to get your bearing.

Direction

support is available for walking, transport and car travel, with

turn-by-turn navigation on hand for the latter. These directions are

pretty good, particularly with the 3D view in use, though there are no

3D buildings for the UK in this mode yet.

Also, it’s worth

noting that like GoogleMaps, all the new maps services use maps that are

downloaded on the fly so they constantly use up data and drain your

battery.

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However,

while the maps have their plus points, they are seriously flawed.

Landmarks are mislabelled, with the location either shown incorrectly or

with old information used (long since defunct Woolworths and Our Price

stores are still shown), large sections of maps have poor quality

satellite imagery (the whole of Coventry is greyscale once you zoom in a

bit) and some towns seem to be almost completely ignored in some views

(Stratford and Warwick don’t seem to exist until you zoom right in). The

service was really bad for this when it launched and though things have

improved it’s still way off the quality of GoogleMaps or Bing Maps on

Windows Phone.

All that and you also miss out on Street View.


Thankfully Google has come out with a GoogleMaps app for iOS and not

only is it better than Apple Maps but it’s a big improvement over the

previous Google-powered Maps app on iPhone. Not only does it have

excellent satelite and map views but you also get street view, google

earth and great directions. Also, there is improved usability thanks to a

new easy zoom feature that saves you having to ‘pinch to zoom’; instead

double tap with one finger and swipe up and down to zoom in and out.

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Another

new feature is PassBook. This is a virtual way to store and manage

tickets, boarding cards and coupons. You’ll be able to quickly and

easily open up a virtual ticket ready for scanning or reading by the

bloke on the door, saving you having to fumble through printouts or

check through emails. It’s a nice enough idea, assuming companies start

supporting it but currently the only supported service here in the UK is

Lufthansa airlines.