Apple yesterday introduced its first major update to its mobile operating system following the release of iOS 7 back in September. The release of iOS 7.1 delivers a number of new features including support for Apple's new CarPlay, improved control for Siri, user interface refinements, security updates, bug fixes and more.
The company has given prominent placement to the iOS 7.1 update on its website, including a graphic and link on the home page, and a comprehensive standalone marketing page — something rather unusual for the company.
iOS 7.1's support for Apple's new CarPlay feature allows buyers of certain new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo automobiles to utilize the new in-dash integration feature with their cars. More automobile manufacturers are expected to support CarPlay later this year.
More precise Siri control
Users can now manually control when Siri is listening by holding down the home button while they speak and releasing it when they're done. Previously, the only option was to have Siri automatically notice when you stopped talking, something that was occasionally problematic when using the feature in a noisy environment. The update also adds more natural sounding voices for a number of languages including UK and Australian English, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese.
Lots of keyboard tweaks
The biggest user interface change was to the iPhone's keyboard, with tweaked shift and caps lock keys, while Apple also changed the look of the icons in the phone dialer and a few other interface elements. MacRumors has a detailed list of the smaller changes, but other than some minor look-and-feel changes, most users will not notice a significant difference when upgrading from iOS 7 to 7.1.
Undocumented, but very interesting changes (Jailbreakers read this!)
Apple has dramatically improved the experience of using iOS 7 on older devices like the iPhone 4. Ars Technica saw a measurable improvement in the time it takes to launch native iPhone apps on the iPhone 4 between iOS 7 and iOS 7.1. Built-in apps like Safari, Camera, and Messages, all saw significant improvements in launch speed on the iPhone 4 following installation of the new OS.
iOS 7.1 also breaks the jailbreak for iOS 7, with Apple publicly crediting members of the evad3rs jailbreak team for discovering a number of security holes in iOS 7. iPhone owners looking to jailbreak their phones should not upgraded past iOS 7.0.6, as iOS 7.1 will need to be rejailbroken, a process that could take some time.
Finally, the final release of iOS 7.1 indicated support for two unannounced iPad models, likely minor improvements for the existing iPads. Apple occasionally pushes new hardware updates to introduce minor efficiency improvements or other changes that do not warrant major marketing.
iOS 7.1 appears to fix a number of other bugs and system instabilities and is a recommended install for all iOS 7 users. It can be installed over-the-air via the Settings app on iPhones and iPads.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.