Apple Lightning cable inspection finds an extra-smart connector, won’t make for cheap substitutes

Apple Lightning cable inspection finds an extrasmart connector, won't offer a cheap substitute

Apple made much ado of the Lightning connector it launched side-by-side with the iPhone 5, but what we’ve known about it has been limited outside of the presence of an authentication chip. Double Helix Cables’ Peter Bradstock has delved deeper and tells AppleInsider that there’s some clever wiring that clinches the reversible design. While Lightning’s power supply is truly symmetrical among the contact pins, the data isn’t — which suggests a chip inside is redirecting data to keep the plug working as intended. The technique helps explain why Apple would need any elaborate circuitry in the first place. No matter the wizardry inside, Bradstock doesn’t see any cut-rate Lightning alternatives being useful in the near future: as it’s unlikely that anyone outside of Cupertino knows how the authentication works at this stage, clone cables may amount to little more than heaps of metal and plastic ~ Jon Fingaz

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Samsung smartphones vulnerable to remote data wipe

Code that’s making the rounds on the Internet could trigger a factory reset on the handsets without warning, a security researcher discovers.

 

Samsung's Galaxy S3.Samsung’s Galaxy S3.

(Credit: Samsung)

Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and S3 may be vulnerable to a flaw that could allow their personal data to be deleted from their device, a security researcher has discovered.

The malicious code, which is now circulating on the Internet, could trigger a factory reset of the popular handsets, according to Ravi Borgaonkar, a researcher in the Security in Communications department at Technical University Berlin, who demonstrated the vulnerability at the Ekoparty security conference in Argentina last week (see video below).

The flaw lies in the way Samsung’s TouchWiz UI interacts with unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) codes, which execute commands on the handset’s keypad. While most dialers require the user to hit the “send” button to complete the code, Samsung’s does not, Borgaonkar said.

He showed how the flaw could be exploited on a Samsung Galaxy S3 via a single code embedded in a Web link, QR code, NFC connection, or SMS, supplying the correct factory reset code to wipe the device without warning the owner or asking for permission.

Borgaonkar also said it was possible to lock the SIM card, preventing owners from using many of the device’s features. However, attacks can be prevented by turning off “service loading” in settings and disabling QR code and NFC apps, he said.

Samsung appears to be the only Android smartphone maker affected by the flaw, Borgaonkar said.

“It’s possible to exploit this attack only on Samsung devices,” he said.

The truth about iPhone 5’s first weekend sales

 

 

Customers hover around a table of iPhones and iPads at the SF flagship store.

(Credit: Josh Lowensohn/CNET)

commentary Apple supporters triumphantly cheered on the company after it sold 5 million iPhones over the weekend. Wall Street, however, was disappointed by the figure after seeing the long lines on Friday.

The correct reaction probably lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps a polite golf clap? For analysts, it was a classic case of hype feeding into the estimates, which ramped up to as high as 10 million for the first weekend, numbers that even a powerhouse like Apple couldn’t hope to achieve.

“We find it unfortunate that some analysts continue to publish irresponsible estimates without taking into account realistic demand trends and potential supply constraints,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee.

On the flip side, while 5 million is an impressively high number, and is 1 million better than last year’s iPhone 4S launch, it isn’t a genuine indicator of the longer-term appeal of the iPhone 5. There was so much pent-up demand that Apple would have sold out of however many phones it had in stock. The truth behind that first weekend statistic that Apple proudly proclaims is the number isn’t really as relevant as you might think. It’s a nice figure to boast about, window dressing, and it certainly fuels the hype and illusion that Apple is invincible. But in reality, that’s about it. There are too many factors, including supply issues, the availability of its phones in key markets, and reaction to the competition, to really make a judgment on whether the company’s latest phone will suitably carry on the legacy of success that its predecessors enjoyed. The true test of the phone’s longevity in the market won’t come until after the key holiday season, when many high-profile smartphones start to see a pullback in sales and the euphoria of the recent iPhonelaunch hype has long faded away.

Now, any company would kill to sell 5 million units of anything over the weekend, but the iPhone runs at a higher standard. Sales of the iPhone 4 were amazingly resilient, and hung on to the top spot at AT&T for more than a year (it was also helped by its introduction at Verizon Wireless). Conversely, sales of the iPhone 4S had an initial pop, but began to fizzle as the months went on. Yes, it remained a top-selling phone, but its momentum couldn’t match the previous iteration.

The iPhone 5 is poised to pick up where the iPhone 4 left off. Despite criticism that it isn’t drastically different, the phone addresses the key concerns of iPhone users, namely the larger display and a faster 4G wireless connection. Those two, alongside the thinner and lighter design, may convince consumers that it’s worth the upgrade. Despite the initial disappointment, Wall Street remains as bullish as ever. J.P. Morgan yesterday said it estimates Apple will sell 50 million iPhonesin the fourth quarter. For the quarter ending on Saturday, the firm estimates 25 million units will be sold. Sterne Agee’s Wu said the noise over the launch and the following disappointment didn’t change his estimate. He still believes the company will sell 27 million this month and 46.5 million in the quarter ending December 31. While the stock may have sold off yesterday, there remains a lot of optimism around Apple.

The lines at the Fifth Ave. Apple store in Manhattan during iPhone 5 launch day.

(Credit: Greg Sandoval/CNET)

There are some hurdles for Apple to reach those lofty expectations. For one, the company’s decision to use a new, thinner display is causing some supply shortages, according to reports. The various suppliers are having trouble producing the volume of screens needed to meet the high demand. The supply issue is one of the reasons analysts blamed for the big discrepancy between their estimates and Apple’s actual sales figure. Another unknown is whether Apple will be able to expand the availability. In China, hundreds of millions are waiting for the iPhone to show up at China Mobile. Getting the iPhone to China Mobile is important because it’s the world’s largest wireless carrier with more than 650 million subscribers, or more than twice the combined customer base of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile.

Beyond internal issues, Apple and its new iPhone 5 face unprecedented competition. Its biggest rival, Samsung, has already launched a campaign mocking the iPhone lines that even some fans have admitted contains genuine insight into the silliness of the whole affair. For once, its rivals can already boast of those key features in many of their smartphones.

Samsung’s Galaxy S III has been a blockbuster in its own right, and overtook the iPhone 4sthis past summer.

Google unit Motorola has already tweaked Apple for the maps flap, and its lineup of Droid smartphones are an attractive alternative.

The holiday season is poised to get even more crowded with a slew of Windows Phone backed by a massive push from Microsoft, vendors such as Nokia and HTC, and carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T. For the carriers in particular, the iPhone is no longer the phone to have, since it’s available virtually everywhere. There is also a lot of incentive to promote other phones, since they require a lower subsidy and consequently weigh less on their profits. Apple’s iPhone 5 will be successful; there is little doubt of that. But how much of a success remains to be seen, and one weekend’s worth of data isn’t nearly enough to make a call yet. ~ Rodger Cheng

Playing PC games on TV opens up new world of gaming

Big in-your-face action <i>(Image: Schedivy Pictures/Getty Images)</i>

 

A new PC interface for TV screens is set to change gaming – and could herald future smart TVs with the power of modern PCs

THE world’s largest video-game distribution platform for PCs is now available on televisions, bringing a new community of gamers into the living room.

Last week, Valve, the US firm behind the acclaimed Half-Life and Portal games, launched Big Picture, a television interface for Steam, the company’s PC-only video-game distribution and social-media platform.

The move aims to change the gaming landscape. It will also accelerate a move towards smart TVs equipped with the power of modern PCs.

Even though Steam offers over 1500 games and claims around 50 million PC gamers, it is still something of an industry niche. Big game publishers such as EA and Ubisoft are geared towards console releases, with PC versions of games coming later, if at all.

But even Sony’s PS3, the youngest of the current generation of consoles, is six years old. PC hardware, meanwhile, gets better and cheaper every year. With Nintendo launching its new console in November and Sony and Microsoft poised to follow in 2013, Valve is determined to muscle in on console territory: the family sofa. As a Big Picture promo video puts it: “Sometimes, you just want to kick it in the living room.”

“It’s about being a couple of steps ahead of the curve,” says John Walker, co-director of cult PC-gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun. “It’s a really interesting flag they’re placing.”

Big Picture provides an alternative interface for Steam which lets users bring their profile – including their social network and personal library of games – out of the bedroom or home office and into the family environment of the living room. It includes a TV web browser optimised for use with a game controller or a keyboard and mouse.

The downside is that you need to run an HDMI cable from your PC to the television. That’s fine for laptops, but will be impractical if the PC and TV are not in the same room. But TVs with built-in PCs are a future inevitability, says Walker. Such a combo would also make on-demand streaming of films over the internet far more convenient. Another possibility would be for Valve to offer its own Steam set-top box – a small, dedicated games PC running the Linux operating system. Valve is already adapting its games to run on a Linux version of Steam, Walker notes, making this less of a technological leap.

Both Steam and consoles face competition from cloud-based gaming services like OnLive and Gaikai, which Sony recently bought for $380 million. Because the computing for these games is done on servers in the cloud, a TV with a small set-top box is all the computing power that is required to play. But internet bandwidth limitations mean that cloud-based gaming cannot yet compete with the console or PC experience.

Valve’s move will have a big impact on independent game developers, as getting approval to publish a game and charge for it via Steam is far easier than on consoles. And there are very few restrictions to distributing games on PCs.

“Steam on a TV is massively exciting for an indie developer,” says Mike Bithell, who is lead game designer at Bossa Studios in London by day and an independent developer by night. “It’s a fast and easy way to take a game created with the PC in mind and transfer it almost immediately to couch play.” ~ Douglas Heaven

Canon adds another full-frame model

Canon 6D
Canon 6D Full Frame D-SLR
The inclusion of a full-frame sensor offers greater control over depth of field in portraits, allowing photographers to easily isolate their subjects with attractive background blur. With the Canon 6D, photographers can now also explore the full potential of their wide-angle EF lenses to capture every detail of a sweeping landscape, with models ranging from 8mm to 800mm. Additionally powerful DIGIC 5+ image processing offers a host of automatic modes and creative shooting features, complementing full manual controls to offer total flexibility to a wide range of users.
Canon EOS 6D
Canon EOS 6D features
The Canon 6D digital SLR camera is full of advanced features to assist photographers in capturing outstanding quality landscapes and portraits. HDR mode enables the capture of both highlights and low lights in tricky lighting conditions, while Multiple Exposures allows photographers to combine up to nine separate exposures into a single image in-camera, creating a dramatic effect in the final picture. A silent drive mode offers a more subtle option for shooting candid portraits or weddings, and a single axis electronic level accessed through the viewfinder or via the LCD display, ensures that horizons are level during image composition.
6D
Canon 6D Sales package
• Canon EOS 6D body
• Canon LP-E6 battery pack
• Canon LC-E6 battery charger
• Canon AVC-DC400ST stereo AV cable
• Canon EOS digital solution disk
• Software Instruction Manual CD
• Canon EOS 6D instruction manual
• USB interface cable
• Wide neck strap

Canon 6D price and availability
The Canon 6D body carries a suggested retail price of € 2000,- Euro. Prices may vary from country to country. Visit the Canon website in your country for more information and optional EOS 6D accessories.
EOS 6D

iOS 6 Jailbreak already available, but not for all devices

Apple’s iOS 6, the latest iteration of its mobile operating system was released yesterday and before some people have even managed to download the update it seems the ingenious developer community have already managed to come up with a tethered jailbreak using the latest version of the Redsn0w tool. The speed of some jailbreaks is really quite remarkable and we have all the details below but you need to be aware that this won’t work with all devices.

Hackers seem to be particularly quick at jailbreaking new iOS’s as the last few were jailbroken within a day of release by the dev community. Only a couple of days ago we told how one hacker advised those with jailbroken iOS devices not to update to iOS 6 until a jailbreak was available for it. We also then told about the iOS 6 TinyUmbrella app to save SHSH blobs. Now the Redsn0w iOS 6 jailbreak is available but a significant point is that this will only work with some iOS devices, namely the A4-based iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 4th generation. Also as mentioned earlier this is a tethered jailbreak and there is not yet an untethered jailbreak available.

News of the Redsn0w tool jailbreak for iOS 6 came to us from Redmond Pie and came from the creative minds of the iPhone Dev Team. As usual we cannot recommend jailbreaking your device and anything that goes wrong is totally your own responsibility. Nevertheless we know that many people out there do enjoy the freedom of a jailbroken device so we will give you the details if you wish to take advantage. You’ll probably already know that if you want to go ahead with a jailbreak you’ll need to do a full backup of information but if you rely on unlock then you should avoid updating to iOS 6 at the moment.

You’ll need to download the newest Redsn0w version for either Mac or Windows from the source provided in the Redmond Pie article linked to above. You will also find full step-by-step instructions on how to perform the jailbreak process as well as how-to boot tethered on iOS 6 and also how to install Cydia on iOS 6 as the latest version of Redsn0w doesn’t do this by default. No doubt there will be many happy iOS 6 jailbreakers using any apps they choose on their devices very shortly.

Please remember this jailbreak is only for the A4-based iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 4th generation. It will NOT work for the other devices that support iOS 6, namely the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 2, iPad 3 (new iPad) and finally the iPod touch 5th generation. We’re interested to hear from readers about the iOS 6 jailbreak with the latest Redsn0w tool.

Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard

Having launched a pair of Windows 8 tablet-focused input devices, Microsoft has now turned its attention to full-size peripherals. The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard comes equipped with Microsoft’s new array of Windows 8-specific buttons and a new take on the familiar spacebar. By bisecting and enlarging the standard spacebar, Microsoft offers you the option to turn the left space key into a dedicated backspace button. The backspace functionality is interesting, but the fatter spacebar gives the Sculpt Comfort a clunky feeling. At $59.99, the price is also high enough that you’ll definitely want to try it out before you buy. You might check it out if you’re looking to adjust your current typing style, but Microsoft’s Sculpt Comfort Keyboard feels more like a solution in search of a problem than a must-have input device.

The Sculpt Comfort feels like the La-Z-Boy of PC keyboards. A padded wrist rest juts out about 2.5 inches from the front of the device. A pair of feet under the wrist rest pops out to elevate your wrists off the desk like an ottoman for your hands. The enlarged spacebar keys create an expansive landing spot for your thumbs, and your fingers fall across Microsoft’s familiar wavy, curved key alignment (which you may have seen before). Even the key action feels soft, although in a way that’s overly mushy.

An overlarge spacebar makes the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard feel imprecise. An overlarge spacebar makes the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard feel imprecise.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The problem is that not everyone wants the keyboard equivalent of an easy chair. The spacebar in particular feels unnecessarily large, and it sets the keys far enough back that you feel like you have to stretch to reach them. You can take the wrist rest off, which helps some, but the spacebar still feels like you have to reach over it to type. And compared with generally crisp laptop keyboards and the newer breed of mechanical typing devices, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard feels a bit like you’re typing in mud.

Microsoft’s rationale for the large, bisected spacebar comes from its own research. It explains as follows:

This design choice is the result of internal research that showed 90 percent of typists use only their right thumb to press the spacebar, leaving a lot of unused real estate on the left side of the bar. Research also showed the backspace key is the third most pressed key on the keyboard — behind the spacebar itself and the letter “e” — but constantly striking backspace breaks a person’s typing stride because of its location on the top right-hand corner of the keyboard.

Simply hold down both the left and right spacebar keys to toggle the left-side assignment between “space” and “backspace.” And while I can’t necessarily disagree with Microsoft’s research findings, as a lifelong touch typist I also can’t say “the backspace problem” has ever really bothered me. Microsoft wisely allows you to adjust the function of the left-side spacebar on the fly. I had it set to backspace mode throughout the writing of this review, and as much as I tried to remember to use it, I never felt the need. It might pay off in a few extra words per minute if you thoroughly retrain yourself — stenographers, take note — but overall the reimagined spacebar is more experimental novelty than compelling innovation.

Along with the tweaked design, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard comes with some useful features for Windows 8 users. As we saw in the Wedge Mobile Keyboard, Microsoft has superimposed four Windows 8 specific hot keys — Search, Share, Devices, and Settings — over a set of the top-row function keys. If you’d rather just have traditional “F” keys, a useful switch lets you lock the top buttons into either hot-key or function-key mode. The new Windows key, bearing Microsoft’s redesigned Windows logo, lets Windows 8 users swap between the new Windows 8 tile interface and your current active window. In older versions of Windows, the new Windows key opens the Start menu.

Otherwise the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard is a straightforward typing device. It is wireless, which means batteries and a wireless receiver. The 2.4GHz receiver is a larger dongle-style USB device, as opposed to Microsoft’s and Logitech’s tiny microreceiver designs. The good news is that the pairing process is practically instant. Simply plug the receiver in and start typing; there’s no messing with connect buttons or other hoops to jump through. For batteries, Microsoft includes a pair of standard AAAs.

Conclusion
The Sculpt Comfort Keyboard has some useful touches in its removable wrist rest, the front-side support feet, and its Windows 8-specific hot keys, but overall the keyboard has an overstuffed quality to it. From the too-soft key response, to the thick wrist rest and giant spacebar, the Sculpt comes across as cumbersome. And although it might be interesting to reexamine your relationship with the spacebar, the keyboard itself gets in the way of any fun you might have experimenting with it. Input device preferences are highly subjective, of course, so you may find what Microsoft has done here is just right. Just be sure to get some hands-on time with the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard before you make a purchase. Those used to crisp-feeling typing hardware will likely want to keep looking.

In Thailand, Smuggled iPhones Go for Up to $1,400

BANGKOK – IPhone fanatics lined up in their droves across Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong to pick up the latest version of Apple Inc AAPL -0.49%.’s smartphone Friday. But enthusiasm also raged in Thailand – a country where the iPhone 5 won’t go on sale until later this year.

Customers here are flocking to crowded shopping warrens such as Mahboonkrong in downtown Bangkok to place deposits on phones smuggled in from places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and even the United States. One vendor in MBK – as it is known – said his team will try to bring over 100 phones into Thailand, and so far more than 80 people have handed over deposits of 5,000 baht, or $160, per phone.

Bloomberg News
People wait in line outside the Apple store on George Street in Sydney on Friday.

This contraband comes at a price, however. The an unlocked, top-end 64 gigabyte iPhone 5 will cost 43,000 baht, or $1,387, compared with about $927 in Hong Kong. The cheaper 16GB version goes for 35,000 baht, with the 32GB version selling for 39,000 baht.

“There is very high demand here, that’s why the prices are so high. Many people want to be among the first to have the new iPhone, but nobody knows exactly when it will go on sale in Thailand,” said a vendor who asked not to be identified, adding that this was a “golden time” for MBK’s phone traders. “If you want one, you’d better make a deposit now,” he said.

The first batch will arrive at MBK at around noon on Saturday, traders said. “If you want to see some pandemonium, come then,” one added.

The new iPhone will cost much less when it makes its official launch in Thailand later this year, and will set back customers around the same it costs them to get an unlocked iPhone 4S at present.

What is less clear is when the new phones will be available. Representatives at the DTAC network run by Total Access Communications sa DTAC.TH +2.59%id they don’t know when they will be ready to sell the iPhone 5 in Thailand. An official at rival network Advanced Info Service said that it might be able to have the new phones available for subscribers at the end of this month, potentially giving the first batch of iPhone buyers just a couple of weeks of posing time before the rest of the country can get their mitts on them.

Happy 4th Birthday, Android

Android Birthday Cake

Apple may have the brand cachet, but Google has the sheer firepower. In just four short years, Google’s Android mobile platform has overtaken the global smartphone market. The first Android-powered phone, the T-Mobile G1, launched on Sept. 23, 2008. It landed more than a year after the first iPhone—and a few months after Apple introduced the App Store and made the iPhone a proper smartphone.

It’s always fun to look back and see how much the tech world has changed. But even as recently as 2008, when Android first hit the scene, most consumers still had regular cell phones instead of smartphones, Palm OS was still a contender, Research In Motion was on a BlackBerry Curve-fueled and Pearl-fueled upswing, and there was no such thing as an iPad. Mobile apps had yet to enter the public consciousness. Most phones were either 2G or 3G, not many had GPS yet, and any touch screen phone that wasn’t an iPhone needed a stylus.

The G1 wasn’t an amazing piece of hardware, either. Its 384MHz processor was relatively slow even for the time, and it looked like a slightly ungainly and unfinished T-Mobile Sidekick, with its oversize, slide-out QWERTY keyboard and thick, slanted chin. The OS itself was pretty barren, and looked like a Linux install without any customizations. Still, it had a glass capacitive touch screen and a WebKit browser like the iPhone, and you could heavily customize the home screen. As a result, the G1 still felt more capable than the stylus-based and non-touch smartphones of the day. Our reviewer Sascha Segan called the G1 “a basic introduction to what could be a blockbuster mobile platform.”

Enter the Motorola Droid
Sascha was right, of course, but it wasn’t immediately obvious at the time. After the G1 came out, we only saw a few other Android handsets appear over the course of the next 12 months, leading us to wonder if the platform was ever going to make it for real. Then came the Motorola Droid—the first high-profile Android handset to hit Verizon, complete with a tremendous “Droid Does” marketing campaign and a signature “Droiiid” sound for when new email arrived. It helped that it was also a fast phone and came with free voice navigation, the first handset ever to do so.

The Droid in fact did it for Android; for the first time, mainstream consumers began to wonder if they should get an iPhone or a Droid. From there, Android popularity surged—and the rest is history. 2010 saw the first Samsung Galaxy S handsets, while the start of 2011 brought the first 4G LTE devices running Android, more than a year and a half ahead of Apple. Screen sizes began to expand further and further. Google tried and failed to sell its own Nexus handset, only to resurrect the name in a series of purist phones across multiple manufacturers, culminating in the current Samsung Galaxy Nexus lineup.

Then there are the Android tablets. Most weren’t success stories, and many were downright terrible. But we’ve seen some bright spots recently, including the Kindle Fire HD, the versatile Galaxy Note 10.1, and my personal favorite, the Google Nexus 7, with its smooth, fast performance, bright display, and $200 price tag. We’ve even seen the debut of “phablets,” devices that straddle the line between phones and tablets, with screens in the low 5-inch range.

Two of the newest Android phones—the LG Optimus G and the Samsung Galaxy Note II—feature quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon and Samsung Exynos processors, respectively. Even on regular smartphones, screen sizes are pushing up against the 5-inch mark. And we’re beginning to moving away from pure spec regurgitating, and into genuinely new capabilities like live zoom during mirrored video playback and on-the-fly photo filtering apps.

On Top, With Some Stumbles
Today, Android sits on the top of the platform heap in smartphone sales, beating its nearest rival (iOS) by roughly two to one in the U.S, and with Samsung far and away the sales leader. Android phones are great choices for consumers, for enterprises, for accessing the cloud, for enthusiasts hacking emulators and installing rogue OS builds—you name it and there’s a market for it. The latest OS, Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean,” rivals iOS in its smoothness and sophistication and beats it on customization options, if not in outright usability, and it’s finally beginning to appear on a few devices, too.

To be sure, the OS has taken some hits lately—most notably in Samsung’s massive loss to Apple during last month’s patent trial, one of the largest and most significant the tech industry has seen in more than a decade. The trick going forward will be for phone vendors to differentiate their devices and software builds, while simultaneously steering clear of existing UI patents and not completely alienating Android purists in the process. It’s a balancing act.

In addition, Android may have finally lost some of its inherent advantages over iOS with the introduction of the iPhone 5 last week, such as 4G LTE support, free voice navigation, and (to a limited extent) support for larger screen sizes. Finally, while Google Play is now stuffed with over half a million third-party apps, nearly all of them are for phones; there’s still a distinct lack of tablet-specific apps compared with the iPad.

These hurdles can all be overcome, though. There exists a vibrant and thriving Android enthusiast and developer community, plus more choice and fewer restrictions than you’ll ever see on Apple’s side. It’s been good to have you around, Android; here’s to faster performance, even cooler devices, and hopefully, fewer lawsuits in the months and years to come.

50 iOS 6 tips: Panorama, Apple Maps, reading list and more

After a year-long gestation, iOS 6 is upon us. The latest version of Apple’s operating system for iPad, iPhone and the iPod touch is smarter than ever, with slicker graphics, better iCloud integration and easier sharing. It ships on the iPhone 5, and is compatible with the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, fourth and fifth-generation iPod touch, and the second and third-generation iPad.

Here’s CNET UK’s pick of the 50 best tips, changes and must-have features for iDevice users everywhere.

Email

The iPhone, iPad and iPod touch have long shared one of the best mobile email clients currently available. In iOS 6 it’s been given a subtle dab of polish.

iOS 6: VIP senders

1. VIP senders
Some emails are more important than others. Sometimes it’s the subject that determines their importance, but more often than not it’s the sender. Add really important senders to your VIP list and their messages will be sorted into a dedicated VIP inbox, so if you’re pushed for time you can just read them and ignore everything in your regular inbox. Think of it as Apple’s take on Google’s Priority Inbox feature for Gmail.

To save a sender as a VIP, open one of their messages, tap their name in the From field and then tap Add to VIP. A small star will appear beside their address to indicate that it’s been added to the list.

iOS 6: Facebook

 

2. Email pull to refresh
The circular arrow email refresh button has disappeared from the mail app’s interface.

To update your inbox in iOS 6, simply drag it down past the top of the message listing, as you would to update your Twitter stream, and release when the stretched icon snaps.

 

 

 

Sharing

iOS 6 benefits from beefed-up sharing tools for all of the core apps.

iOS 6: Facebook

3. Facebook integration
iOS 5 introduced Twitter as a core service. iOS 6 extends that honour to Facebook, which was rumoured to have been Apple’s first choice when developing iOS 5, and was for some reason switched out late in development.

Facebook and Twitter are both managed through the Settings App. Scroll to the end of the default applications settings to find them and add your details in the appropriate boxes to enable posting to either service without using a third-party app.

iOS 6 screen grab

4. Facebook and your Contacts
Give Facebook access to your Contacts list and it will match up anyone listed on your phone who is also a friend on Facebook.

Not only will this enable you to post updates to them directly, but it’ll also draw down their Facebook photo and use it to populate the photo field for their record in the Contacts app.

 

 

5. Post from Notification Center
As Facebook and Twitter are built in, you no longer need to use bespoke apps to post to either of them. So, if inspiration hits when you’re sitting on the bus, whichever app you’re using, you can swipe a finger or thumb down from the top of the screen to open Notification Center and use the Tap to Tweet and Tap to Post boxes to send an update directly.

iOS 6 screen grab

iOS 6 screen grab

6. Send multiple photos
Previously it was only possible to email photos one at a time, unless you went through the tedious process of copying and pasting them individually out of the Photos app and into your message. With iOS 6, you can select up to five photos at once and send them all out in a single email.

Open the Photos app, tap edit and then tap on each of the photos you want to send. Now tap Share to call up the various ways in which you can dispatch them and tap Mail to drop them into a new message.

Note that the sharing sheet is content sensitive, so if you select more than five images, the Mail option disappears. Reduce the selection to just one image and the Twitter option, which is missing from the grab to the right, reappears.

7. Shared Photo Streams
Photo Stream already makes it easy for you to view images shot on your iPhone from your iPad. Now Shared Photo Streams goes some way to restoring the Gallery feature that disappeared when Apple shut down MobileMe in favour of iCloud.

Create a Shared Photo Stream by opening Photos, tapping Edit and then tapping on each of the images you want to include. Now tap Share and select Photo Stream. Give the new Stream a name, include an address for the person with whom you want to share it, and decide whether or not you want the website on which they’re stored to be made public. The person to whom you sent it will receive an email containing a link to your shared photos.

iOS 6 screen grab

8. Enable Shared Photo Streams
Shared Photo Streams are turned off by default, so before you use them for the first time, you’ll need to turn them on through Settings > iCloud > Photo Stream > Shared Photo Streams.

 

 

 

Privacy

iOS 6 takes your privacy seriously, and although there are plenty of opportunities for you to integrate your data with third-party applications, such as allowing Facebook to peep at your contacts, it’s easy to shut down those that shouldn’t be seeing everything.

iOS 6 screen grab

9. Restrict your applications
The centralised options pane at Settings > Privacy lets you restrict particular data types, with lists of which applications have requested certain types of data.

Each one is accompanied by a slider allowing you to revoke its access with a single tap.

 

 

iOS 6 screen grab

10. Hide yourself
The iOS Location Services layer provides data based on your current position so that applications like Maps can plot your location. It also means the camera can geolocate your images so that when you import them into an application like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom or a sharing site like Flickr, it’s easy to see where they were taken.

Again, you can revoke access to this data for each app in turn, but because it’s potentially sensitive, you can also switch it off system-wide by opening Settings > Privacy > Location Services and tapping the slider at the top of the screen to move it to OFF.

iOS 6 screen grab

11. Do Not Disturb
It’s not just when you’re in the library that you might want to quieten down your phone. That’s why Apple implemented Do Not Disturb.

One tap on this option in the Settings app and your iPhone falls silent until you disable it.

In case you should forget, it places a moon icon beside the clock to remind you that it’s set not to disturb you.

 

 

 

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12. Shhh… I’m sleeping
You can set Do Not Disturb to activate automatically during set hours. That’s good news if you sleep with your phone beside your bed (don’t forget to set the hours to expire before any alarms you’ve set to wake you up), and for anyone who doesn’t want to be disturbed while working (teachers stood at the front of a classroom, for example).

Set the hours during which Do Not Disturb should kick in by tapping Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb > Scheduled.

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13. Hear from those who matter most
It’s all very good being able to take yourself out of circulation like this, but what if you’re a parent with a kid who’s had an accident or is locked out of the house? In this instance you should set some exceptions to let through calls from those who matter most.

Set up a new list in Contacts and add to it those who should be excused from calling you when your phone is set to Do Not Disturb, then go to Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb > Allow Calls From and select your new list.

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14. Permit persistent phone calls
Anyone else who needs to get through in an emergency will likely try your phone several times in quick succession.

If they call again within three minutes of their first call they’ll cause your phone to ring if you set the Repeated Calls slider to ON.

 

 

 

 

Browsing

Safari for Windows missed out on an update the last time Apple shipped a new release. On the Mac and iOS though, it’s stronger than ever.

15. Full screen on iPhone
The iPhone has always been a great device for browsing the web, in large part because of its high resolution. In iOS 6 you can make it even better with a single tap: turn your iPhone to landscape orientation and tap the double-ended arrow on the toolbar to remove the bar and address box, and enjoy your sites full screen.

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16. Reading list
Sometimes you don’t have time to read everything you find in one sitting, and you end up with a screen full of tabs. Rather than leaving them open, save each one to your reading list by tapping the shortcut button and selecting Add to Reading List.

Not only will this bookmark the page in your List, which you can find by tapping the open book icon followed by the pair of glasses at the bottom of the drop-down dialogue, but it also caches the page content so you can read it offline. It synchronises it with Safari running on your Mac and other iOS devices so it’s accessible from anywhere.

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iOS 6 screen grab17. Synchronise your browsers
iCloud can also synchronise your browser tabs if you turn on the Safari sync feature through Settings > iCloud > Safari. Once active, it populates an iCloud tab dialogue in the iOS 6 and OS X 10.8 versions of Safari on each of your devices, so you can quickly switch between the same set of tabs on each platform. You can tell on which device each page is opened as they’re organised into logical groups, with the device name as the header of each group.

iOS 6 screen grab18. Swap your search engine
This was possible in iOS 5, but it’s worth remembering that you can switch the default search engine.

In its virgin state, Safari always directs you to Google, but you can change this to Yahoo or Bing if you prefer by picking one from Settings > Safari > Search Engine.

 

iOS 6 screen grab19. Search within the current page
You can also search the current page from the same search box as you would use for Google, Yahoo or Bing.

Type in your keyword (in the grab, right, I’ve used Samsung), and then scroll to the bottom of the results list to the line where it says how many times it’s been found in the current page.

Tap this line and you’ll return to the page, with each result highlighted. Use the left and right arrow keys on the toolbar to step backwards and forwards through the list of results.

 

 

iPad Clock

The new iPad clock in iOS 6 has a beautiful set of Swiss faces at the top and a world map below plotting the locations of your chosen cities.

20. Add new cities
You can add your own destinations by swiping the faces to the left and tapping an empty face on the next screen to pick a new city. As you do, cities already on the map will shuffle around to make space for the new one.

When you fill up a whole screen of faces, a new one will become available in the same way that you can have several different screens full of apps. Whichever run of clocks you’re looking at, the map will always display every destination you’ve selected.

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21. Check the weather worldwide
The iPad doesn’t have a weather app, but if you just want a quick idea of what’s happening around the world, you can do so with the clock. Each icon on the map is accompanied by an icon showing current conditions, along with the temperature.

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22. Tap to set an alarm
The clock also allows you to set an alarm, as it does on the iPhone. Tap Alarm at the bottom of the screen and the ‘+’ icon at the top to open the alarm tumblers. Rather than scrolling through them until you reach the time you’re after though, it’s quicker to double-tap on the grid in the time slot where you want the alarm to sound.

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23. Drag to reschedule
Rescheduling works in just the same way. Hold a finger on one of the alarm blobs and drag it up and down to set it later or earlier. Anything set later than the current time will be left in the column for today. Anything set earlier than the current time will be moved into that time slot for tomorrow, since you’ve already missed it today.

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24. Cancel an alarm
To cancel an alarm, tap Edit, followed by the delete icon beside each one in the list that drops down.

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Find a lost iDevice

Apple has built on the success of Find my iPhone with a dedicated Lost Mode in iOS 6.

iOS 6 screen grab25. Activate find my iPhone
To use the new Lost Mode you need to make sure that Find my iPhone (or Find my iPad) is active on your device. Turn it on through Settings > iCloud > Find my iPhone, then return to the Home screen.

Note that switching this on could result in data about your current location passing through Apple’s servers.

 

iOS 6 screen grab26. Switch to Lost Mode
If you lose your iPhone or iPad, log in to icloud.com/find and switch to Find my iPhone. This searches for your device, and if it has an active network or phone connection, it will plot it on a map so you can see where it is. You can now wipe it or put it into Lost Mode.

Lost Mode lets you set a passcode on the device and display a phone number on the screen asking the finder (or thief) to call you. They can do this directly by tapping Call from the screen that pops up on the iPhone, without having access to any of its other features.

 

 

27. Check your email
When your iPhone or iPad are in Lost Mode, keep an eye on your email as it will keep on sending you updates of its current location, which should make it easier to find. Don’t take any risks and try to recover a stolen device yourself. Pass details of its location to the police or relevant authorities.

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A smarter shopping experience

Apple is not just about the hardware and software of its devices, it also offers well-stocked stores for buying goodies to play on them. In iOS 6, each has been given a lick of paint.

28. Improvements to iTunes
iTunes is only used for buying music, movies, audiobooks and TV programmes in iOS, not playing them back as with the Mac and PC. The old rigid box-based look of this longest-running of all Apple stores has a fresh new look, with a coverflow-style carousel at the top of the page promoting Apple’s chosen products.

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iOS 6 screen grab29. Post your purchases to Facebook
Ping, Apple’s own iTunes-based social network, is set to close. In its place, you can now ‘Like’ tracks and albums on Facebook from right within the iTunes Store.

Open a track or album listing, tap Reviews and you’ll find the Facebook like button immediately above the ratings.

 

 

iOS 6 screen grab30. App Store Enhancements
Likewise, improvements to the App Store mean you can get a better view of your search results, with large panels for each one showing larger headline grabs.

Compared to this, the iOS 5 app store looks positively pokey.

 

 

 

 

31. iBooks bolstered
The iBookstore is a far more pleasant place to look for some new reading material, sporting the same Coverflow interface as the Music Store. This allows you to swipe through the various offerings or drill down into individual sections and lists of top-selling books and popular authors. Books available for pre-order are marked with an orange price sticker, as you can see in the grab below.

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Maps

Maps marks perhaps the biggest change in Apple’s latest OS. As well as dumping Google’s YouTube app in this release, it’s also switched away from using Google Maps in the Maps application, instead relying on its own map data, plus directions from TomTom.

32. Textures and depth
Maps now have more depth thanks to improved 3D rendering, even on the older second-generation iPad. A 3D button in the corner of the display lets you switch between a regular top-down and slanted view, through which you can gaze across the landscape. Dragging and twisting the view shows off the 3D lay of the land at its best.

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33. Take the world for a spin
Satellite maps render very quickly on a consumer broadband connection, and it’s easy to move around them by dragging and letting go, which causes them to slide along and then glide to a stop. Putting two fingers on the map and twisting them around lets you get a different view of the scene by turning it in the same way you’d twist a physical map. This works in both 2D and 3D modes, and tapping a compass icon in the top corner quickly reorientates the map so that north is at the top again.

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34. Buildings with depth
It’s not just the landscape that’s been rendered in 3D either — so have the buildings in some key cities. San Francisco, which you can see in the grab below, is a great example, in which the buildings really do rise up out of the ground.

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iOS 6 screen grab35. Clearer directions
The new directions engine from TomTom produces very similar routes to the iOS 5 implementation, but the way they’re presented is now far clearer.

Large motorway sign graphics at the top of the screen highlight each turn, and sliding them left and right across the screen moves forwards and backwards through the route, updating the map view below.

36. Traffic problems
Maps has long been capable of showing you where there are hold-ups and slow traffic courtesy of coloured lined on the road (you’d be advised to avoid routes dotted red as they’re congested). Now, though, you can also see what’s causing the hold-up as a series of icons on the map highlight accidents, alerts and roadworks. Tapping on them calls up a floating panel giving further details.

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Passbook

As soon as magazines and newspapers started to create their own apps, our iOS home screens began getting very cluttered. Apple solved this problem in iOS 5 by introducing Newsstand, a special folder to contain them all.

Now it’s done the same with vouchers, tickets and loyalty cards in the form of Passbook, an iPhone-only tool that doesn’t appear on the iPad.

iOS 6 screen grab37. Collect tokens and vouchers
Passbook is a simple folder for the various digital tickets and slips that previously would have been rendered in cardboard or plastic and slipped into your wallet.

Vendors can send you vouchers or membership cards, plane or train tickets and so on in an email, or allow you to download them from a website.

So long as they’re compatible, they’ll be neatly filed in Passbook.

 

 

iOS 6 screen grab38. Location awareness
Passbook documents can be set to be location aware. This would allow a coffee shop loyalty card to pop up on your Lock Screen, for example, when it detected that you were walking past the shop’s front door.

When you popped inside, it would be ready for the barista to scan the barcode or QR code, or type your details into the till so that you could collect or redeem your points, or enjoy a discount.

iOS 6 screen grab39. Automatic updates
Sometimes the information on a Passbook document will change after it’s been issued. Airline tickets are a prime example here, as the flight time or gate could change at the last minute. Flipping over the ticket by tapping the ‘i’ in the bottom corner will let you check that it is authorised to accept Automatic Updates, which would enable the airline to push the amended data directly to your phone.

iOS 6 screen grab40. Securely shred old tickets
In much the same way that you should get into the habit of shredding old tickets and receipts from your wallet, you can shred the expired contents of Passbook. Flip around any voucher you don’t need any more by tapping the ‘i’ in the bottom corner and then tap the trash icon and confirm that you want to delete the selected pass.

Passbook will run it through the shredder and remove it from your wallet.

 

 

 

Phone

It’s easy to forget that the iPhone is actually a phone, as well as everything else. Naturally, the features in this section, while being integral to iOS 6, only work on the iPhone and not the iPad or iPod touch.

41. Swipe calls to reveal options
As well as the regular answer and decline options, you now have several other ways to quickly handle incoming calls. Swipe up on the screen rather than tapping either button when a call comes in to open up the menu, from which you can dispatch a text message or set a diary note to call them back.

42. Decline politely
There are often times when you don’t want to take a call right away. For these occasions, set up your iPhone to reply to the caller with a text message. You can set three default messages to handle calling them back later, telling them you’re on your way, or asking them what they want through Settings > Phone > Reply with message. If none of these is appropriate, tap Custom to type a new message on the spot.

iOS 6 screen grab43. Remind yourself to call back
Alternatively, tap Remind Me Later to send the caller to voicemail and then specify when you want to be reminded to call them back.

As well as an option to call in an hour, you can be reminded when your iPhone detects either that you’re leaving your current location, or you’re arriving at the location saved on your own card in Contacts as your home address.

It uses the integrated GPS receiver and Wi-Fi IP look-ups to determine when this might be and where you are.

 

Best of the rest

There are literally hundreds of tiny improvements in iOS 6, but we’ll sign off with seven handy but not essential add-ons that give it a little extra spit and polish.

iOS 6 screen grab44. Split personalities
In iOS 5 and earlier, it was only possible to set a single signature, which was used by all of your email accounts, meaning you signed off in the same manner on both your personal and business messages. This isn’t always appropriate, so iOS 6 now lets you set signatures on a per-account basis if you choose.

iOS 6 screen grab45. Podcasts push off
Podcasts are no longer part of the Music application. They’ve been hived off into an app of their own called, naturally enough, Podcasts.

It’s a free download from the App Store and includes a comprehensive catalogue of available subscriptions and downloads in both audio and video format.

iOS 6 screen grab46. More noises
With increased ways of getting in touch with friends and family — and a commensurate broadening of the ways in which they can get in touch with you — there are more ways to be notified.

There are now more events for which you can set alert sounds, along with a built-in alert tone store selling current songs available for use as tones.

 

 

 

 

47. Panorama photography
Panoramic photography, which has been common on consumer digital cameras for many years, finally comes to the iPhone in iOS 6, without the need for a third-party app.

All you need do is sweep an iPhone 4S or 5, or a fifth-generation iPod touch across the scene in front of you and it’ll stitch together up to 240 degrees of the view, either vertically or horizontally. This feature doesn’t work on older iPhones or any iPad.

iOS 6 screen grab48. FaceTime goes mobile
This one is dependent on your phone network provider, but FaceTime can finally be used over 3G and 4G connections. Previously it was restricted to use only over Wi-Fi. So long as you have sufficient data left in your monthly bandwidth allocation, you can now video conference from the train just as easily as you can from home.

49. Siriously useful
Siri was conspicuous by its absence from the new iPad, but upgrading it to iOS 6 adds in the Siri features that were missing. Previously the only part of Siri that these devices could use was the dictation tool. Other improvements to Siri are largely aimed at a US audience, although it does now support more languages than it did at launch, and Apple is adding to its repertoire by the day.

50. The four-finger shuffle
Gestures are nothing new — they’ve been part of iOS for the last few releases, but if you can learn just three, they’ll do a lot to prolong the life of your iPad by saving you from clicking the Home button quite so often as you do on an iPhone.

Put all four fingers on the screen, slightly spread out, and slide up to reveal the task switch bar. If you want to cycle through your applications, swipe them to the left and right instead of sliding them up. And if you want to return to the home screen from any application, put all four spread-out fingers and a thumb on the screen and bring them all together to close your current app.