Apple's iOS 7.1 lands with CarPlay, improved fingerprint scanner

The updated operating system also makes some changes to Siri and fixes some bugs and user interface issues.

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Apple's iPhone 5S runs iOS 7, an overhauled version of the company's mobile operating system. Sarah Tew/CNET
Apple on Monday released an update to its iOS 7 mobile operating system -- iOS 7.1 -- that adds new features such as CarPlay and fixes bugs.

With iOS 7.1, Apple also tweaked its Siri voice assistant, iTunes Radio, and its Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The company streamlined the operating system to make it work better with the iPhone 4, made some user interface refinements, and included some stability and accessibility improvements.

The update is available immediately, and the Apple devices will alert users about it over the next week.

iOS 7.1 marks the first major update following Apple's release of iOS 7 about six months ago. Apple initially unveiled iOS 7 at its developer conference in June of last year and released the operating system in September. The software underwent a complete design overhaul, with everything from the typography and color schemes getting an update. iOS 7 also added useful features like automatic updates to make everyday use easier, AirDrop, and iTunes Radio, as well as a new control center that gives quick access to most-used features. Since the introduction of iOS 7, Apple had released five beta updates of iOS 7.1 to developers.

About 83 percent of Apple device users have downloaded iOS 7, Apple said. The operating system won't run on the original iPad from 2010 and any iPhones older than the iPhone 4.

Apple streamlined functions in iOS 7.1 to make the experience faster for iPhone 4 users, which have a much less advanced chip than Apple's newest phones and tablets.

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Apple's iOS 7.1 update tweaks the month view in the calendar, allowing users to toggle over days to see appointments. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

With iOS 7, Siri recognized that a user was done talking because the person paused for a couple of seconds. Now, users can hold down the home button the entire time they're talking to Siri. Once they lift their finger, Siri knows they're done talking. Both ways of interacting are available in iOS 7.1. Apple also included new male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, British English, Australian English, and Japanese.

iTunes Radio also got some tweaks. There's a new search field that allows users to create stations based on their favorite songs or artists. Users can buy albums with a single tap from iTunes Radio, rather than only buying singles. And for the first time, users can now subscribe to iTunes Match from their mobile devices rather than from the desktop.

In the calendar month view, users can now toggle to see daily appointments. And the Touch ID fingerprint reader became more accurate with iOS 7.1. There should be fewer false rejections as well as quicker response times in reading fingerprints.

iOS 7.1 also includes a camera update that's specific to iPhone 5S users. That's because the newer phone uses Apple's advanced A7 processor while older devices have less-powerful chips. HDR, or "high dynamic range," will automatically turn on when it's needed. That takes many photos at once in different exposures to create a sharp image that looks closer to what the human eye sees, as the varying highlights and shadows are all accounted for.

Meanwhile, iOS 7.1 users will be able to take advantage of Car Play, which Apple unveiled last week at the Geneva Motor Show. The feature is a means for an iPhone (5 and newer) to power a touch screen on a new car's dashboard. The interface is iOS-like, but vastly simplified compared with what's seen on a phone or tablet. Functionality is limited too -- really just letting users access maps and audio, though Siri can read messages and take dictation for responses.

Updated at 10:40 a.m. PT: with additional details.


 

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