Mobile Phones Guide

iOS 6 Hands-on: Facebook Integration, Shared Photo Streams, Mail, Safari & Privacy Controls

Safari, Mail & Privacy Controls

Mail Gets VIP Treatment

The Mail and Safari apps are arguably the two most frequently used default apps on iOS. In iOS 6, both apps will see a more streamlined interface, new features, and enhancements - many of which solve pet peeves that we've had since the very first version of iOS.

Beginning with Mail, the star feature is something called VIP. Essentially, you can now mark important contacts as VIPs, so that you don't miss emails from important people - be it your boss, your spouse, or your client. It'll have its own VIP mailbox, and email in that mailbox will be synced to all your other iOS 6 and iCloud-running devices. You can customize Notification Center alerts for new VIP email, as well as alert tones.

Oh, before we forget, you can now do the pull-to-refresh gesture in Mail, something that's been in apps such as Twitter and Facebook for the longest of time.

Adding photos and videos to emails is made easier too. Previously, we've to go to the Photos app, select the photo, bring up the Share Sheet, and click Mail to start a new email. In iOS 6, videos and photos can be added directly in the email that you're already composing. (Seriously Apple, what took you so long?)

Other new features include the ability to quickly mark or flag an email by tapping on a Flag button at the bottom left corner; open password-protected Microsoft Office documents; rearrange inbox order; and create different signatures (including HTML) for different mail accounts. So now you can have a prim and proper business signature for your work account, and a more casual one for your personal account.

Now, here's a gem we discovered. Before iOS 6, to get to your last email draft quickly, you can tap and hold the Compose button. In iOS 6, this same action will now bring up a Drafts page, where you'll be presented with all your previous drafts, as well as the option to compose a new email message.

 

Safari: It's All About Ease of Reading

Safari improvements in iOS 6 are all geared towards making web browsing - especially across iOS devices - easier.

In iOS 5, Apple introduced Reading List, which saves links of web pages so that you can come back and read them later. And iCloud will keep this list updated across your devices. However, unlike Google's Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Reading List doesn't allow offline caching of the web pages. But this is going to change in iOS 6: Safari now saves web pages, so that you can read them offline without an Internet connection. If you're worried that Offline Reading List will eat away your data bundle, you can go to the Safari settings in the Settings app, and turn off the use of cellular network for saving Reading List items. Sadly, this Offline Reading List feature is only available for iPhone 4 or later, and iPad 2 or later.

Another new feature is iCloud Tabs. The idea is simple: Tabs that are opened on Safari (be it on iOS devices or Macs) will be synced to iCloud, and be reflected in all your devices. Reading a HardwareZone review on your desktop Mac, but your other half has just tasked you to pick up some groceries? That's okay - you can continue where you left off on your iPhone while you're in the queue at the store. The iCloud Tabs folder resides in the Bookmarks tab.

In iOS 6, Safari supports common HTML input elements. This means that you're now able to upload photos and videos right within the browser, in addition to taking a new photo or video. This is especially useful if you use a service that doesn't have an app yet. Even for a service that has a native iOS app that supports media uploads (for example: eBay, Facebook, WordPress), some users might still prefer to use the service's web interface.

 

Mobile Safari Performance (iPhone 4S / iOS 6 vs. iOS 5.1.1 / Apple WebKit 534.46)
  iOS 6 iOS 5.1.1
SunSpider 0.9.1 1835.5ms 2232.5ms
HTML5 Test 360 + 9 (out of 500) 324 + 9 (out of 500)
CSS3 Test 54% 52%

Other smaller but nonetheless useful enhancements for Safari in iOS 6 include a redesigned Share Sheet, full screen mode in landscape mode (for iPhone and iPod Touch), and better JavaScript performance (see benchmarks above, which include scores on how well Safari supports HTML5 and CSS3 standards, and related specifications). We've also discovered that while the number of web pages that you can open on the iPhone remains at 8, on the iPad, the maximum number of tabs has increased to 25.

Ready for yet another tip? To quickly access the history of your current browsing session, instead of diving into the History folder, just tap and hold the Back button.

 

Privacy Settings You Can't Miss

Remember the stir that Path - a popular social networking app - created earlier this year when it was discovered that it had been transmitting users' contact information on their iOS devices to its servers secretly? Path's CEO later apologized, and the company released an update that allows users to opt out of the contact collection feature. The truth is, there are many other apps out there collecting contact data without the user's approval. Faced with growing criticism (even the U.S. Congress got involved), Apple responded in a statement that "any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release". Well, it seems that this future software release is iOS 6.

In addition to being asked for approval to grant an app access to a particular database when the app asks for it for the first time, there's a new Privacy tab in the Settings app. Since it's not buried in other menus, it should be difficult to miss. This new Privacy section is also now home to the Location Services settings. Under Location Services, you'll find four more sections: Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and Photos. When you navigate into each section, you'll see the apps that have previously requested access to that particular data. You can proceed to revoke any prior granted access, or allow access for an app that you've rejected before via the On/Off toggle.