Apple has released iOS 7.1, the latest version of the operating system that powers iPhones and iPads. In addition to fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, it provides several interesting new features.
iOS 7.1 formally introduces CarPlay, Apple’s new vehicular infotainment system for new cars in 2014. With CarPlay, Apple is making a bid to become the de facto auto-intelligence system—one that provides navigation by Apple Maps, music via iTunes and touchless access to phone calls, apps like Spotify and messaging through the Siri virtual assistant.
CarPlay will be shipped in cars from Volvo, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes this year with partners like BMW, Chevrolet and Ford down the road.
Here are six other things you need to know about iOS 7.1:
The Siri virtual assistant has been upgraded so you can signal it when you’re done speaking. Hold down the Home button on your iPhone or iPad when speaking and release it so Siri stops listening. Essentially, Apple has given Siri walkie-talkie capabilities.
Flat Gets Flatter
iOS 7.1 brings a couple of design tweaks to the flat design that Apple first rolled out in iOS 7. Users can now switch between light and dark keyboards through the “Accessibility” settings. Several icons are more defined, such as the Message, Phone and FaceTime app icons. Users can disable or minimize the 3D-ish “parallax” effect, in which the screen background appears to shift as you move the phone.
New Camera Settings
iPhone 5S users get new settings in iOS 7.1. HDR (high dynamic range) will turn on automatically for iPhone 5S users. HDR basically makes the camera app take several pictures at different exposures and then composites them together in order to create a sharper final image.
Touch ID Improved
Many users have complained that the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S stops working well after a few months of use. This is partly a hardware problem, but also a software issue. In iOS 7.1, Apple has improved the Touch ID software to be more accurate, leading to quicker response times fewer rejections. Let us know in the comments if the update to Touch ID improves the performance on your iPhone 5S.
Improved Performance For iPhone 4
The oldest Apple device that can run iOS 7.1 is the iPhone 4. Many users complained that the iPhone 4 was basically unusable with iOS 7 and took Apple to task for basically turning their phones into shiny bricks. In iOS 7.1, Apple promises improved performance for the iPhone 4 with better responsiveness.
Calendar Design Update
It may be a small change, but Apple updated the way its calendar app displays events in “Month View” with the aim of making them more accessible and readable.
Have you downloaded iOS 7.1 yet? What changes do you see to Apple’s latest update? Let us know in the comments.
Updated on March 12 to clarify the language and fix typos. Also, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when HDR was introduced to the iPhone; it first appeared in iOS 4.1. (Thanks to commenter jollins for the catch.)