Over the weekend I had an opportunity to install iOS6 beta on my iPhone 4S and try out the new turn-by-turn navigation. I drove from Pennsylvania to North Carolina with Siri leading the way. The sections below highlight my interactions with the shiny new app. The following review is solely on the merit of the app and was not compared to other products.Overall
To use the turn-by-turn feature, I tapped the arrow in the upper left of the app. I was provided with a very familiar area to input the starting location and destination. I tapped Route, the app calculated my trip and displayed possible routes on a map. I selected the desired root and hit "Start". The app moved to the first step in a very "Google Earth" style. Siri then began providing instruction through my car speakers (I have a bluetooth connection). Shortly into the trip I decided to put the app through a few tests.
My first test was to close the app. When I did, I received a small "Touch to return to Navigation" bar persisting at the top of the screen. I then let the phone go to standby. When I touched the Lock button to reactivate the phone, I was pleasantly surprised to see the navigation app displayed on the lock screen.
At a red light I took a minute to review the physical screen. The current instruction was clearly displayed at the top. It provided the remaining miles or feet for the current step. The remainder of the screen displayed a map of my current location along with a driving path; furthermore, it provided the names of side roads I was approaching. When I tapped the screen, the app shrunk slightly to provide a plethora of other features. These additional features included stoping the navigation, an estimated arrival time, remaining miles for the trip, a map overview of the trip, an ability to put the navigation map into 3D mode and a link to view the steps of the trip. I did not find the 3D mode helpful.
Around this time, I noticed my phone was hot. Many people have run into this in the past with high usage apps. At the time it was sitting in a charging cradle. I decided to let the phone run on it's own battery for 30 minutes. In that time the power dropped by 15%. Although this might shock some, I received about the same performance out of the old app when using the "follow my location" feature.
I soon entered a familiar part of Pennsylvania that had a series of quick turns. The app displayed the current step with a helpful arrow representing the type of turn being completed. When multiple quick steps were required, the next was displayed below the current one. At one point, Siri referred to interstate 95 north as "i95 n" instead of "i95 north" which threw me off for a moment. She only did that once during the trip.
At one point I decided to toss Siri a curve ball. I decided to not follow her instructions and intentionally did not take an exit. She quickly realized that I did not take the exit and recalculated the directions. Although I was pleased to see this, I later realized that she did not keep my initial route option I requested. When the app recalculated, it defaulted back to the quickest possible route. My final test was to take Siri off the grid. I opened my settings and turned off all cellular service. The turn-by-turn continued to work without acknowledging the disturbance. Additionally, Siri continued to provide verbal directions without any communication with Apple.Final Thoughts
This app is an important step forward for Apple to stay competitive. Android has had this feature for a while. As I used the app, I found myself comparing the new app to the old one. Any missing, changed or removed functionality in the app will undoubtably become a hot button topic. I would give the app and overall grade of A-. Not bad for a first attempt and I am positive Apple will continue to refine it.
What are your thoughts or questions?
Software Developer, Mentor, Architect and UX/UI craftsman. Also, a psychology nut that loves curling.