This afternoon at 1 p.m. EST Apple will release its updated operating system, iOS 6, but despite all the new bells and whistles we're a little anxious about immediately upgrading. First, for those who've tried beta versions, iOS 6 hasn't gotten the greatest reviews. But most of all we're worried that software developed for the super-fast iPhone 5 will run like mollases on our iPhone 4. Still there are plenty of cool new things in store to tempt us: Apple Maps, Passbook, smarter Siri (for 4S owners only). But we won't know how well it works on our phones until it's already too late, having replaced iOS 5 with 6. I will upgrade as soon as Apple's servers let me, but in the meantime here are the features that have me the most anxious.
Because of a divorce with Google Maps, for this next iteration of the phone software will include an Apple version of the navigation app, instead of the Google made one that we are all familiar with. Maps is one of my most used apps and I can't be alone. The maps app had over 200 million mobile users, as of last year, with 40 percent of all Google Maps traffic coming from mobile. If it's not beloved by all these people, at the very least it is what they are used to. Apple Maps is not. From an Apple event earlier this year announcing the new iOS, we know some of the features that will come with the app, including 3D capabilities, turn-by-turn directions, Siri, plus all the things we expect from a phone maps app. That all sounded vaguely fine, until those who had previewed the new software gave us their take on maps, which so far don't sound too good.
- They have no photographic street view, explains The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg.
- Nor any public transit information. "Apple will instead link you to third-party transit apps," adds Mossberg.
- They also don't look as nice, by default. "They tend to default to a more zoomed-in view than Google’s, making them look emptier until you zoom out," Mossberg continues.
- The app doesn't do its most basic job -- knowing where to go -- that well, adds Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky. "At one point as I was driving south on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, it thought I was going north; at another point, it mistakenly thought I was on Fremont Street, a couple of blocks away. I encountered a similar issue walking in downtown San Francisco," he writes.
- It misplaces locations, notes The Telegraph's Shane Richmond. "Apple's Maps are missing places such as railway stations and frequently misplace cafes and restaurants, often putting them streets away from their actual locations," he writes.
- Without the treasure trove that is Google's database, Apple Maps doesn't return results as well as Google, found developer Josh Carr. He writes:
I went on to search “iPhone Repair” and “iPad Repair” since that’s obviously relevant to our business. The results broke my heart. All of the work I’ve put into our local recognition is completely gone because I focused so keenly on Google Places. By limiting search to Yelp businesses, there were only two places returned for “iPhone Repair.” They illegally use the trademarked term “iPhone” in the name of their company on their Yelp record. One of the companies used a false name just so they had iPhone in the title."
- 3D maps won't work on iPhone 4, unless you hack it like developer Anton Tikov.
- Neither with turn-by-turn navigation, or flyover.
Apple has said that it is "constantly" updating maps functionality and some of the "anomalies should soon be fixed," writes Richmond. But some of the above things don't sound that fixable, at least in the near enough future. The reviewers give Apple a break saying things like: "it's worth emphasizing that when it comes to maps, at least, we're comparing a first-gen product to a mature one. Google Maps has blossomed over the past five years since we first used it on the original iPhone, so we're optimistic that Apple's offering will seem more polished a few years down the line," from Engadget's Brad Molen. But we plan on upgrading our phones to iOS 6 in the very near future, so that doesn't help our case now. Now, if we want the most up-to-date Apple software we get what sounds like worse maps.
Bugs and General Slowness
Previous iOS upgrades on older phones have caused the whole phone to work worse. The iOS 4 update, meant for the iPhone 4 owners, gave iPhone 3GS phones swiping issues, freezing problems, and hanging apps. The Apple support pages show lots of complaints for iPhone 4 owners after they upgraded to iOS 5, meant for the 4S. Some samples:
- "It worked for less than an hour before it went black"
- "My phone is still acting very sluggish"
- "Lost a few apps in the upgrade"
- "Running terribly SLOW on IOS 5, after about a week since the update."
iPhone 4 and 4S owners shouldn't be surprised if the iOS upgrade causes some snags. Apple has conditioned us to expect that kind of failure.
Every "how to upgrade your iOS" post suggests you back up your data before upgrading because you can lose everything. (Um, do that.) But even if you do back it all up, a wiped out phone is such a pain, a pain that might not be worth it this time around.
Things the iPhone 4 Won't Get, For Sure
When doing a cost benefit analysis on this situation, some phone owners might value iOS 6 additions, for its shorcomings. iPhone 4 owners should know that they will not get smarter Siri, FaceTime over 3G, or most annoyingly: turn-by-turn maps directions or flyover view.
For some, all of these issues might be enough not to install iOS 6 at all. Some of us, though, don't feel like we have a choice. And, maybe Apple Maps won't be so bad, and there will be no bugs, and everything else will be great. But, for those willing to wait a bit, we suggest holding off until we guinea pigs have tested the functionality out. It might be worth holding onto iOS 5 just for Google Maps, in which case you will not get updated Siri, passbook, and other goodies.