Apple released its latest mobile operating system update on Monday, iOS 7.1. The major upgrade packs in an assortment of bug fixes, improvements, new features and some subtle changes to the overall interface.
iOS 7.1 is the first major update to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch operating system since iOS 7 was released in September 2013.
There are some welcome repairs in 7.1. The update improves the accuracy of the fingerprint sensor on iPhone 5S devices, which occasionally had issues recognizing fingerprints. Apple says there are general performance improvements for iPhone 4 owners, many of whom complained of speed and other issues after upgrading to iOS 7.0. It also repairs a bug that caused the home screen to crash.
Minor upgrades include an additional way to activate Siri. You can now hold down the Home button and start speaking, letting go when you’re done bossing it around. Without the upgrade, you must wait for Siri to detect when you are done speaking. Male and female Siri voices have been updated to sound more natural in Mandarin, Japanese and UK and Australian English.
iPhone photographers won’t have to manually toggle on HDR. The camera on the iPhone 5S will now automatically detect scenes it thinks can benefit from high-dynamic range and turn it on.
iTunes Radio, the Calendar App and FaceTime have all added minor improvements, and there are a handful of accessibility tweaks aimed at making the OS work better for the visually impaired.
The big new feature in 7.1 is CarPlay, a tool for pairing an iPhone 5 and newer smartphones with select in-car systems. Apple announced details about CarPlay last week. It lets drivers control features like navigation, the phone, music and messages using Siri voice control, an in-car touchscreen display, and the usual buttons and knobs built into cars.
Don’t get too excited about taking CarPlay for a spin just yet. The feature is part of a new partnership with big-name car companies, including Volvo, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz, and will only be available for a small number of new vehicles for now.
To get the free update on your mobile Apple device, make sure you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network (it’s too big to download over your cellular connection), go to Settings -> General -> Software Update and tap Download and Install. It can also be downloaded through iTunes. You can find a full list of the changes on Apple’s support site.
By Heather Kelly