iOS 6 preview: Safari tab sync, uploads, banners, and full screen mode
Safari has been on the iPhone since the first version launched in 2007, and has been steadily improved, year after year, version after version, ever since. iOS 6 follows the same, steady, evolutionary pattern, addressing long standing user pain-points like image uploads, and providing parity with features from other browsers, like Chrome's tab sync. It also makes Reading List more robust, and provides an interesting way for websites to alert users about, and move them into, apps.
Here's how Apple describes the new Safari features:
iOS 6 brings even better web browsing to your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. iCloud Tabs keeps track of which pages you have open on your devices, so you can start browsing on one device and pick up right where you left off on whatever device is handy. Safari now saves web pages — not just links — in your Reading List, so you can catch up on your reading even when you can’t connect to the Internet.4 And when you’re posting a photo or video to eBay, Craigslist, or another site, you can take photos and video — or choose from your Camera Roll — without leaving Safari. When you really want to see the whole picture, turn your iPhone or iPod touch to landscape and tap the full-screen icon to view web pages without distractions.
And here's how it works:
- iCloud tabs let you see pages that are open on any other iOS or OS X device you have logged into the same account. So, if you start reading a page on your MacBook, you can instantly open it on your iPhone while you take the bus, and iPad while you sit at the coffee shop, and never lose your place.
- Reading List has been extended with an offline mode. Now, when you save pages to Reading List, Safari will download a copy of the contents and keep it available to you, even if you don't have a connection when you want to read it (for example, if you're on the subway to or from work).
- Photo uploads will intercept buttons on web sites that try to access your file system, and present you with the Camera app or Photos app image picker instead. So adding avatars and putting pictures on social networks can now be done directly in Safari.
- If you go to a website that also has an App Store app, like Yelp! -- or iMore -- the website can tell you about the app with a Smart app banner, and give you a button to view it in the App Store. If you already have the app installed, the Smart app banner will give you a button to open the app, and take you to the same place in the app that you were looking at on the website. (Likely not automatically, but using some form of URL scheme.)
- On the iPhone or iPod touch, if you rotate Safari to landscape mode, a new full-screen button appears. Tap it and almost all the browser interface elements disappear and you can view your content using every pixel of the display. (Semi-transparent buttons remain: one to exit full-screen mode, and one to browse back a page, if there's a previous page in the browser history.)
It's taken so long to get image uploads into Safari that almost every popular website has already created an app to provide that functionality. Still for sites that haven't, it's a welcome addition, long past due.
iCloud tabs can be handy for someone who has a lot of Apple devices. However, if you plan on using tab sync, and other people have access to your devices at home or at work, you might also want to look into iOS 5's Private Browsing mode...
The Instapaper inspired Reading List still won't be enough for power users, but it's finally beefy enough to be useful for most casual users.
Smart banners once again show Apple's prioritization of apps over web content, and given how much of a better user experience native apps remain, that's not a bad thing.
iOS 6 is scheduled for release this fall, perhaps as soon as September 19. For more on iOS 6 and Siri, check out:
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