Apple’s new Maps app has taken a ton of heat in recent days, and rightfully so. The company ousted Google in favor of a homegrown replacement that relies on data from Yelp and TomTom, and the general consensus is that the newer version leaves a lot to be desired compared to the prior one. That aside, the iPhone 5 (and iOS 6, which is also available for free on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S) does have a few features that should tickle the fancy of travelers.
For starters, iOS 6 brings an extra level of intelligence to Siri. As you’ve probably seen in the television commercials, Siri is the integrated voice recognition platform on the iPhone that helps users answer questions, make reminders, and add calendar appointments. But, with the new operating system, Siri is capable of doing more, and most of that benefits those who are routinely on the move. Due to Siri’s newfound integration with Apple’s Maps app, you’ll be able to trigger Siri and say things like, “Take me home,” or, “Show me how to get to a nearby Starbucks.” From there, Siri will be able to launch Maps on her own and start turn-by-turn guidance. iOS 6 is the first version of the iPhone operating system where users have been able to initiate turn-by-turn guidance using just their voice, and it works exceptionally well in testing.
If you’re out on the town, particularly a town that you aren’t familiar with, Siri’s new abilities should be able to help. You can now ask her about movies and nearby cinemas. “What’s playing nearby?” will pull up a list of theaters that are in the same general area. You can even ask, “What PG-13 rated movies are playing nearby?” for a more granular look at your options. Similarly, asking “What’s the best Chinese restaurant around here?” will consult Yelp’s database, sort nearby Chinese eateries by rating and provide links to guidance. Best of all, Siri’s not turned off by very specific questions. You can ask that Siri find something “within one mile of here,” or specify that you need “a 5-star restaurant.” Once you’re settled on a place, you can tell Siri to “make a reservation for six people at 8:30PM,” and she’ll handle the details for you through the OpenTable platform. It all requires minimal input on your end. (To save yourself some trouble, go ahead and install the Yelp and OpenTable apps ahead of time.)
Now, for Passbook. Passbook is a totally new Apple-built app introduced in iOS 6. In a nutshell, you can think of this as a wallet for your boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, loyalty cards, and more. If you have a United or Delta flight coming up, your boarding pass will surface here as your iPhone’s GPS indicates that you’ve reached the airport. If you have a Target gift card stored here, it’ll automatically surface once your walk into your local Target. With airlines, it will constantly monitor changes related to the ticket you have, alerting you to gate alterations, delays, etc. As of now, partners are limited. Delta, American Airlines, Lufthansa and United are onboard, but most other airlines have yet to speak up as to whether or not they’ll join the bandwagon. There’s a growing list of retailers that will support Passbook, including Sephora, Target, Starbucks, American Express, Walgreens, Fandango (for movie tickets), LiveNation (for concert tickets), MLB (for admission to baseball games), and Ticketmaster.
As an example, those with the Sephora app can link their Beauty Insider Card to Passbook, and their iPhone will remind them to use it each time they walk into a Sephora store; moreover, you may get occasional coupons through the app to encourage you to do more than just window shop. Unfortunately, Passbook is useless without partner support. You can’t just load up a Lowes Food membership card manually and then have Passbook bring that to the surface each time you go for groceries. That’s a real shame, but we’re hoping that Apple is actively reaching out to retailers far and wide to make Passbook more than just a novelty. It’s worth your time to check the Passbook app each week or so and tap the “App Store” button within it. That way, you can scan the supported apps on a regular basis and download whichever ones are both new and of interest to you.