SAN FRANCISCO — The new version of iOS, the software that runs Apple's iPhones and iPads, may be more important for what was taken away than for any of the things added.
Gone from iOS 6 are two formerly built-in Google apps that were integral to previous versions of the operating system: Google Maps and YouTube. (The latter, at least, can be reinstalled from the App Store.) Google's search capability is still there, but Apple's improvements to Siri, its voice-based personal assistant, provide an alternative way of finding more and more information.
And a new Apple app called Passbook represents a toe in the water of mobile payments, something Google has aggressively been pursuing with its Google Wallet software.
In short, while iOS 6 introduces some neat tricks into the iUniverse, it feels less like a major enhancement and more like another front in Apple's increasingly bitter war over Google's Android operating system.
The new software comes pre-installed on the iPhone 5 and is available as a free download for iPads, iPod touches and previous iPhones. I tested it on a variety of devices, ranging from a current-model iPad to a three-generations-old iPhone 3GS, and found it smooth, stable and responsive.
I also appreciated several of its new features, including bringing Siri to the iPad for the first time and allowing the iPhone 4S to take the same kind of panoramic photographs as the iPhone 5.
But the change that's grabbed the most public attention is the new Apple navigation app that has supplanted Google Maps. As I wrote in my iPhone 5 review last week, while the new app is gorgeous and the spoken turn-by-turn directions are a welcome addition, the software is too easily confused. In addition, it displays many fewer nearby points of interest.