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Apple's iOS 6: The reviews

September 20, 2012: 7:50 AM ET

Once you get past that work-in-progress Apple Maps app, the word is mostly positive

FORTUNE -- The sixth major update of Apple's (AAPL) mobile operating system is old news to the developers and tech writers who've been playing with it all summer. But the formal reviews of iOS 6 only began to appear on Wednesday, when the software became available for download to the other several hundred million owners of Apple mobile devices.

With the caveat that some of the features the reviewers describe only work on the most recent models of the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (check here for details), here's a sample of what they had to say:

David Pogue, The New York Times: Loses Google Maps, but Adds Other Features. "In the end, iOS 6 is to software what the iPhone 5 is to hardware: a big collection of improvements, many of which are really clever and good, that don't take us in any big new directions. Lots and lots of nips and tucks — that's Apple's motto lately."

Dan Moren, MacworldRefined iOS 6 highlighted by stunning Maps overhaul. "Following on the heels of the massive update that was iOS 5, iOS 6 might seem like merely a modest update. But that doesn't make it insignificant by any means: A key app has received a substantial overhaul in this latest update, Apple has added an intriguing new—if yet unproven—built-in app, and the company has even, for the first time, removed a piece of software present since the iPhone's launch."

Apple Maps: Oops.

Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch: The Highs, The Lows, And Everything In Between. "Overall, iOS 6 is a big step forward, but that's hardly surprising given Apple's track record. As always, there will be those who say it doesn't push the envelope enough, and Maps has already ruffled quite a few feathers. But that Maps has raised such an outcry is perfect example of why Apple's generally doing things right with iOS updates: it stick out like a sore thumb, and in truth, it's not a big enough step backward to do anything beyond mildly inconvenience a few folks. Plus, it's inevitable that Google will offer up its own standalone Maps app to address that single deficiency."

Jacqui Cheng, ArsTechnica: iOS 6 gets the spit and polish treatment. "Does Apple's latest OS deliver the kind of improvements that Apple's existing and potential user base has come to expect? After having used iOS 6 for several months from the beta period through the final release, our answer is a qualified yes. It's clear that Apple's current focus with iOS 6 is refinement rather than revolution, but we're not just talking about small refinements here; iOS is more robust than ever, with a few significant improvements to the kinds of things Siri can do, a complete overhaul of Maps, improvements in privacy controls, a far more useful Photo Stream, and new phone call and Do Not Disturb features. That's in addition to a generous helping of fixes and feature improvements sprinkled throughout the rest of the OS."

Federico Viticci, MacStories: Thoughts on iOS 6. "Adding features for the sake of adding is not innovation. Users want their devices to keep working with the same degree of functionality, which is why I see Maps as a real, tangible problem today. But this doesn't mean iOS 6 isn't a notable update. iOS 6 is a good improvement over iOS 5 with several welcome refinements and additions like Facebook, more languages for Siri, and a faster Safari. In my opinion, iOS 6 has, right now, worse Maps and App Store search; especially for Maps, if you rely on features like Street View and public transit directions, I can't recommend the update until an official Google Maps app comes out. For everything else, iOS 6 improves on almost every aspect of the operating system, and sets the stage for a stronger platform in the future."

Rene Ritchie, iMore: The definitive guide to Apple's iOS 6 software features for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. "iOS 6 is nowhere near as audacious as iOS 2, which brought the App Store, or iOS 5, which cut the iTunes cord, took us to the iCloud, and brought Siri along for the ride. It doesn't remove user and developer pain points the way iOS 3 did with cut/copy/paste or iOS 4 did with multitasking. iOS 6 is more of a soft-reset and a way to set the stage for iterations to comes. It strips Google almost completely out of iOS and introduces an all-new Maps app and increased Siri intermediation. It introduces Passbook, which isn't a digital wallet, but does provide a single repository for tickets and balances, and starts to make mobile transactions convenient and comfortable. It abstracts and outsources sharing with new Facebook and enhanced Twitter integration, so Apple no longer has to worry about creating awkward new networks of their own. And it increases support for China, which has become a hugely important market for Apple."

Raymond Wong, BGR: Refining the world's most refined mobile OS. "In the end, iOS 6 is yet another welcome update to polish off what was already a solid OS. It's got a ton of small features to make daily inconveniences that much more manageable, and that's really what technology should be; it should work to make our lives easier. iOS 6 does that in the simplest of ways. It doesn't break previous conventions for anything bold and new, but who cares? iOS worked beautifully when the original iPhone was released and it'll work again with the iPhone 5 — with virtually zero 'learning' required."

See also: Apple's iPhone 5: The reviews.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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