Apple on Monday released its first major update for iOS 7, its latest operating system for iPhones and iPads. The upgrade improves reliability of the fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S and makes adjustments to Siri, among many other changes.
A few months after Apple released the iPhone 5S, some users complained that the phone’s signature feature, TouchID, occasionally failed to read a person’s fingerprint when unlocking the phone. Apple said that iOS 7.1 would improve the accuracy of TouchID.
Many users had also reported that with iOS 7, apps frequently crashed, causing the phone to restart sporadically. The latest software update will address this issue as well, according to the company.
Apple also made a major change in the way that Siri, voice assistant, works. Previously, a user would hold down the iPhone’s home button for a few seconds, let go, talk, and then wait for it to react. Now, a user can simply hold down the home button and start dictating the command, and Siri will react.
Apple also added new languages for Siri, including Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, British English and Australian English.
The company modified its camera software for the iPhone 5S. The camera will detect when a feature called High-Dynamic Range (HDR) will improve the look of a photo and automatically enable that feature so that the user does not have to bother switching it on before snapping the picture. (HDR mode is typically useful in situations with high contrast between a subject and the background – for instance, when shooting a photo of a person who is standing in front of bright light.)
Furthermore, the software update adds CarPlay, the new capability for iPhones to stream their content to some car systems, which Apple announced this month.
Apple released iOS 7 in September. The operating system was a stark departure from past versions – it featured a “flat” design that removed some textures and gradients and added more vibrant colors, as well as changes to some tools. It was the first operating system designed under Jony Ive, Apple’s industrial design chief, who took over direction of Apple’s mobile software after the company fired Scott Forstall, the previous executive in charge of iOS.
The most surprising thing about iOS 7.1 is not the new features, but how long it took Apple to fix the nagging problem of devices randomly restarting. Jan Dawson, an independent telecom analyst for Jackdaw Research, said the challenge for Apple was probably that it had to test the new software and get the CarPlay announcement out of the way before releasing it.
“It’s frustrating for users, but the last thing Apple wants to do is introduce new bugs and problems when it’s trying to fix other ones,” he said.