The wait is finally over, as the latest iOS iteration, iOS 7.1, was released to the general public just a while back. The update, despite being incremental, brings a variety of new features and bug fixes, including the all new CarPlay that Apple showcased a while back, improvements to TouchID, Siri, iTunes Radio, Calendars, and a variety of other things. We’ll take a look at what’s notably new past the break.
New Features in iOS 7.1
CarPlay is the highlight of the new update, so much so that it gets the largest block even on the official iOS 7.1 Update page from Apple. Formerly known as iOS in the Car, the new feature allows you to connect your phone wirelessly with your car’s entertainment system and control several features using Siri with better ease, including dictating messages, making/answering phone calls, controlling music playback and more. CarPlay will come by default in the newer models from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, while the likes of Ford and BMW will jump onto the bandwagon in near future.
Apple’s favorite personal assistant now gets better, natural sounding voices for more languages, including British English, Japanese, Chinese, and Australian English. It’s also going to be more responsive via a new push-to-talk like mode, whereby allowing you to press and hold the Home button for as long as you like and Siri will continue to listen, effectively ignoring pauses in the conversation.
iTunes Radio might not be as popular as Apple would’ve hoped, but it’s still getting a few cool additions of its own. It’s easier now to create stations for your favorite artists and songs thanks to the addition of a Search field right above Featured Stations. Buying albums is easier from the Now Playing screen, and you can finally subscribe for iTunes Match using your iDevice instead of mandating the need for iTunes on a Mac or PC.
The calendar app benefits from the automatic addition of local holidays for a number of countries. You can now also enable a listing of your upcoming events in the month view.
This one is specific to the iPhone 5s only. Apple has introduced a new setting for HDR whereby the camera automatically detects if HDR is required for the scene being shot, and enables the setting automatically. Say goodbye to those darkened sunsets!
Another addition, although not strictly Camera related, is the ability to upload all photos in a burst. Now, when you plug your phone to the computer, you can import all photos in a burst instead of the select few ones as previously available.
Miscellaneous (Including Bug Fixes)
There are a variety of minor additions as well, as per the official change log
- iCloud Keychain support in additional countries
- FaceTime call notifications are automatically cleared when you answer a call on another device
- Fixes a bug that could occasionally cause a home screen crash
- Improves Touch ID fingerprint recognition
- Improved performance for iPhone 4
- Fixes display of Mail unread badge for numbers greater than 10,000
- Continued user interface refinements
Please note that there are a number of Accessibility improvements as well, but we’ll talk about them in the visual overhauls below as that only seems fitting.
Visual (Interface) Changes in iOS 7.1
Power Off Slider
The slider is no longer contained in a large red rectangle; instead, you get a white, oblong slider with a discreet cancel button at the bottom of the screen. The animation speed has also been slightly reduced for a better overall effect.
Phone Answer & Decline
Gone are the rectangular buttons here as well. Now, you get circular Accept and Decline buttons, with floating circles on top for Remind Me Later and Reject with Message. A subtle visual change for an even more consistent user experience.
In line with the Phone app change mentioned above, the large green rectangle for placing a call is gone, too – you now get a circular phone icon button at the center. Likewise, adding new contacts when keying-in a number is gone, too; instead, a + sign appears next to the number, tapping which will perform the aforementioned function. It seems Apple is more focused on keeping things visual and generally doing away with text.
Another discreet change. In the Music app, the Repeat and Shuffle buttons are more prominent and have a pinkish background now as opposed to the transparent ones in iOS 7.
On the stock iOS keyboard, the Shift and Delete/Backspace keys are now more prominent, with a slightly bolder background as compared to the rest of the keyboard. The result? They stand out.
The parallax effect for backgrounds/walllpapers caused a lot of controversy with iOS 7. Although it was possible to reduce motion in Accessibility settings, now it’s easier to access. You get an option to turn motion off or on when setting a new wallpaper, instead of having to fiddle through a plethora of settings to achieve the said result.
There have been a number of additions to Accessibility settings, other than the reduce motion one that we just mentioned earlier. The horizon for the Bold font setting has been expanded, whereby it now applies to the keyboard, calculator and icon labels as well. Then, a new contrast setting has been added which allows the user to enable button shapes, darken the app colors (including dock background) reduce transparency and white point. Finally, motion reduction also applies to Weather, Messages and the App Switcher user interfaces.
That pretty much summarizes all the major changes that iOS 7.1 brings to your compatible iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. While the change log is small, the impact is significantly huge, and that’s exactly what Apple was hoping for with this release.
A Word of Caution For Jailbreak Users
If you’re a jailbreak user, this update isn’t for you. Apple has closed the critical kernel exploits that were employed by evas1on7, and hence, should you update, you may lose your jailbreak indefinitely. Your best bet right now is to update to iOS 7.0.6 (and soon, before Apple closes the firmware signing window on that one), since that provides patch to a key security flaw that you’ll be thankful to have, and wait it out until the jailbreak community says otherwise. You have been warned!