New iOS 6 will find its bearings
Apple's Maps app is not as flawed as some online critics claim.
THE penalty of being a tall poppy is that everyone takes a whack at you, for good reason or just to puff up their egos. Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, is a very tall poppy and thus is copping shiploads of gleeful whacks over its beautiful but somewhat less-than-excellent new Maps app in iOS 6.
I've found Maps a good deal better than what critics in the blogosphere would have you believe. My potting shed has not been defined as an international airport, as one blogger has claimed, but errors and omissions have been encountered.
Apple started developing Maps a couple of years ago when it became apparent that Google was not developing its iPhone app with the same enthusiasm being applied to the Android version. Apple bought several independent cartographic companies and licensed data from a dozen or more others, including TomTom, the in-car GPS outfit; Yelp, the recommendations service recently licensed in Australia by Telstra; and, for Australian maps, MapData Services. It added its own graphics and a lovely multitouchable 3D photographic Flyover feature of the world's major cities, including Melbourne and Sydney, but so far hasn't done a Google-style Street View, for which the privacy-conscious are grateful.
Mapping the planet is an enormously complex and difficult undertaking. Google has done it pretty well but even now, several years in, continues to take body blows (see bit.ly/PFOyE1). Apple faithfuls may take comfort in that and from the confident expectation that serious updates must be on the way.
You can help by telling Apple about errors and omissions thus: open Maps and tap the page-curl at the bottom right of the screen to reveal a set of options. Above the main options buttons is a tiny line of type: ''Report a problem''. Tap on that and follow the instructions to send a message to the mother ship. The same set-up may be used to correct Yelp data on cafes, shops, servos and so on.
While the furore about Maps is embarrassing for Apple, it seems not to have slowed the multimillion sales of iPhone 5, or downloads of the latest iOS 6 mobile operating system that may be loaded onto every iPhone from the 3GS onwards and on fourth-generation or later iPod Touch devices.
And, indeed, iOS 6 is a lovely piece of work. On the iPhone 5, with its faster A6 microprocessor, improved battery and enhanced Retina display screen offering much brighter colours and sharper text that's more intensely black, it is a joy to use.
Siri is much better informed than she was in iOS 5 and now will produce AFL, NRL, basketball and cricket scores and fixtures, find you a nearby restaurant and more. I have found her usefully accurate in dictation to Mail and Pages. She steadfastly declined to find a weather forecast for Melbourne until I realised I had not installed Shifty Jelly's excellent $1.99 Pocket Weather app on the iPhone 5. That done, Siri became a meteorological expert immediately.
But one of the most interesting innovations in iOS 6 is Passbook. It links your iPhone with stores that offer discount vouchers, theatre tickets and so on. Virgin Australia already allows passengers to get flight information and store boarding passes in Passbook as QR codes. Apple's App Store has a Passbook-compatible app from ShopperNova that offers discount vouchers. Australia has more iPhones per head of population than almost any other country, so expect a raft of Passbook apps.
Passbook is time- and location-based, so passes and tickets pop up on your phone's lock screen when they are due. It's early days for Passbook but some experts think it will develop into an instant touch-and-go payments system possibly supported by in-store bank readers.
Another advantage, if that's how you see social networking, is the close integration of iOS 6 with Facebook. You can share photographs directly from the camera and tell your friends where you are directly from Maps. If you are loaded with shopping, you can tell Siri to send the vital info. Facebook events are integrated with Calendar and the addicts can tweet or post to Facebook with a tap directly from the Notification Centre.
Much else lies within iOS 6 and digging around to find it all is exciting. I especially like the Do Not Disturb response for the phone, which you set in Settings.
Finally, at risk of disturbing the gods that hover over Cupertino, there is a way to keep Google Maps available in iOS 6. Simply launch Safari and go to google.com, where, with a couple of taps, you will be offered an iPhone app and an invitation to ''tap here to place the app on your home screen''.