Apple iPad mini 2 review: Moving up the ranks

Orlin Milinov, 22 November 2013.

Apple Maps takes care of digital mapping

Apple has replaced Google with TomTom as the map provider for the iOS native Maps application.

If you've got the Wi-Fi+Cellular version of the iPad mini 2, then it also has a GPS chip inside so you might as well use it for dash-mounted voice-guided navigation. As of iOS 7, the navigation service also includes turn-by-turn walking directions.

The navigation will work even on the lockscreen or in the background. Real-time traffic reports are available and Apple is also crowdsourcing the live traffic info anonymously from iOS users on the road.

Sadly, there isn't an option to pre-cache maps for offline use, which can be a problem if you need guidance abroad or when you don't have signal. Still, if you set up a route when you have internet access, Maps will cache the maps needed to guide you along the way so you can finish your trip even without an internet connection.

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Maps UI

When you enable the 3D view (outside navigation) you will be able to explore cityscapes from birds-eye view. The currently available selection is quite limited, but more and more areas are joining Flyover in time. You can zoom, tilt and rotate using two-finger gestures to explore 3D landmarks rendered in real time.

When Apple Maps launched with iOS 6 it was quite a disappointment because of its poor map data, but Apple managed to deal with most of the problems and lack of data and accuracy.

In case you prefer Google Maps, it is available as a free download in the App Store and itis on par with its excellent Android counterpart app. You get voice navigation in regions where available, you can cache maps for offline use, you can use Street View, etc. It's generally, one of the must-have apps even on iOS.

Thereare plenty of other apps to discover

The iOS App Store is still the richest application store to date. It uses a tabbed interface and there are plenty of ways to discover new content. A Featured pages with a carousel showing the top apps is available as well as the usual Charts (Top Paid, Free and Grossing apps), Search and Updates. The Nearby apps tab will help you find the most popular apps people have downloaded around your current location.

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App Store with new UI, nearby apps

iOS 7 brought one more feature that users have been asking for - automatic app updates. Once you turn it on in the App Store settings, your apps will update automatically (via Wi-Fi only) and you'll get notifications for the completed updates in the notification center.

As usual you can view all the apps you've bought on your current or previous iDevice through the Purchased menu in the Update tab. iCloud plays a key part here - all of your purchased apps from each device show up here and are ready for download.

The App Store has a new hidden extra that will be appreciated by those using iTunes gift cards. You can now scan the card codes with you camera right via the App Store interface.

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You can redeem codes with your camera • you can send people gifts too

The iTunes store is where you get music, videos, TV shows, movies, podcasts and ringtones. The tabbed interface is similar to that of the AppStore, divided into Music, Movies, Search, Tones and More.

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iTunes Store

Music sync is probably the trickiest part of the iCloud sync. Along with the tracks purchased from the iTunes store you surely have a collection of your own that you sync with your iOS device via iTunes. Apple is also offering a service to sync both collections in one place.

The music you've purchased at the iTunes Store will be easy to sync automatically across all your iGadgets. But you will need to use the iTunes Match service for the rest of your music collection if you want it synced too.

iTunes Match will scan your collection on the computer and check for matches with songs in the Apple's iTunes Store. If there is a match, the iTunes song will be synced, if not - well, Apple will upload this song on their servers and then sync.

So iTunes scans yours songs and pushes them to all your other devices if they match. If some of your tracks are of lower bitrate than 256Kbps, the iTunes Store will replace them with higher quality (256Kbps). The iTunes Match service costs $25(US) or €25(EU) a year.

Google offers a similar service for Android - it's called Google Play Music, but it only works in supported regions of the world.

Game Center has an amazing new look

Game Center is done with the old looks and we are glad to see it evolve with iOS 7. We love the new looks and its functionality is on par with before. You can see which the most popular gaming titles are, you can see what your friends have last played and you get points for playing.

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iOS 7 Game Center

Thanks to Game Center individual apps can tap into your friends' game scores and match them to your own right inside the apps. You can also setup turn-based multi-player games with your friends even if they are not with you and use it to chat with them while in the game. You can also send challenges to friends.

If you have no use for the GameCenter functionality, you can disable it by cancelling its login prompt several times - then it will be gone. Otherwise, you can just log on and leave it be without using it.

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