This week, Apple released the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS.
The previous version, iOS7, was unveiled by the Cupertino, California-based tech giant at its Worldwide Developer Conference with much fanfare in June of last year. It was rolled out to Apple users during September.
iOS 7.1 marks the first major update since that release.
So what’s in store for those who upgrade? It’s time to find out.
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What is it?
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, iOS is the operating system software that powers Apple’s non-Mac devices, including the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
This latest update allows your compatible iOS device to work with Apple’s new CarPlay in-car information and entertainment system. The system is set to ship in new Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo cars this year, with more manufacturers signing up for future models.
What’s the consensus?
According to Ars Technica, one of the welcome changes in iOS 7.1 is a series of minor but significant design improvements:
One of the goals of the iOS 7.0 release was to bring a sense of cohesiveness and consistency to iOS—most iOS 6 apps were products of the same design sensibility, but years of piling new features on top of the original iPhone OS’ foundation resulted in a pile of apps that looked and behaved similarly but not identically. In most cases, iOS 7.1’s changes to the design are minor. In many cases, they’re so small that you’d need to look at the old and new versions side-by-side to even notice. But taken together, they bring a level of polish and refinement to iOS 7 that wasn’t always present in the original release, and some of them even look to the old iOS 6-era design for inspiration.
According to KnowYour Mobile, the operating system generally feels snappier, especially on older devices:
iOS 7.1 is noticeably faster on every single iOS device I have tried it on, including an iPhone 5s, an iPad Air, and the trusty old iPhone 4. Everything I do now in iOS 7.1, from unlocking the lock screen to launching apps to accessing Control Center to multitasking is probably 10-15% snappier than it was before. The older your iOS device the more noticeable the speed improvements are too – something owners of iPad 2’s and iPhone 4’s should be very happy about.
Another welcome “new” feature is the return of the split Calendar screen:
Another much long-requested feature is the return of the split Calendar screen. This was a staple of iOS since its inception, but Apple – for some reason – chose to remove it in iOS 7.0. Now once again users can view the full monthly calendar with individual events listed below it for the selected day.
Aside from CarPlay and the improved Calendar, ZDNet lists the following improvements:
- Siri improvements: Including natural-sounding voices for U.K. English, Australian English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. You can also use it in push-to-talk mode by holding the Home button for the duration of your query;
- iTunes Radio updates: The radio feature, first introduced in iOS 7, has been updated with new features, including the ability to buy albums over-the-air from “Now Playing”;
- Accessibility additions: The “parallax” motion feature option now includes Weather, Messages, and multi-tasking user interface animations;
- Camera settings bolstered: Including a setting that allows users to automatically enable HDR mode for iPhone 5s users;
- Touch ID improved: The software that controls the biometric reader has been improved to make fingerprint recognition better.
Finally, over at The Verge, one bug fix in particular was particularly noted:
Aside from the visual tweaks, iOS 7.1 finally includes a fix for something you hopefully won’t see anymore: random reboots that iPhone 5S, iPad mini with Retina display, and iPad Air users have been experiencing. Apple promised a fix in January, and the issues have existed since the launch of iOS 7, causing some devices running the latest OS to randomly reset for no apparent reason.
Should I upgrade?
Unlike the jump from iOS 6.1 to iOS7, this is not a major overhaul of how your device looks and works. That said, if you’re an iPhone or iPad user, there are a number of small but significant interface improvements, new features and bug fixes in this release. By most accounts, it’s worth taking the time to upgrade.