Apple's iOS 8.1 hits Monday with Apple Pay, iCloud photo library

The update, which became available for download Monday, adds support for Apple Pay, brings back the camera roll and launches the iCloud photo library.

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Craig Federighi, head of Apple's software operations, introduces iOS 8.1 during last week's event. Screenshot by Nate Ralph/CNET

The latest update to Apple's mobile operating system has hit the market.

iOS 8.1, which Apple unveiled at its iPad and Mac event on Thursday, brings back "the beloved camera roll," as Apple software head Craig Federighi described it, and marks the debut of the iCloud photo library. It also adds support for Apple Pay, a new service that allows owners of Apple's latest devices to purchase items in stores and online using the touch of a finger on the gadget's Touch ID. And the update enables iPhone users to send and receive text messages from their iPads and Macs.

The OS update became available for download around 10 a.m. PT Monday.

Apple's iOS 8 is the company's second major release of a mobile operating system under the guidance of Federighi and head designer Jony Ive. Apple released iOS 7 last year with an updated typography, color schemes and a flatter design concept, as well as a new control center.

While not as grand an overhaul as iOS 7, iOS 8 still offers a bevy of new features with more of a focus on functionality than visuals. Besides new software that tackles long-standing issues with iOS' notification system, iOS 8 also has tie-ins with Apple's desktop OS X software, iCloud and native SMS client Messages.

It didn't take long for some iOS users to start reporting problems after Apple introduced iOS 8 on September 17. Conversations on Apple's support forums and other online source pointed to Wi-Fi connectivity glitches, the usual battery drain issues and slow performance in Safari, among other problems. A bug in the operating system also prevented developers from launching HealthKit apps in the App Store.

The iOS 8.0.1 update, released September 24 and then swiftly recalled, aimed to fix those issues. But many users immediately reported problems after downloading the update, including their iPhones no longer connecting to a cellular network. iPhone owners also pointed to issues with Touch ID after downloading the update, with some noting that the feature -- which allows people to unlock their phones using their fingerprints -- was no longer working.

Apple ended up pulling iOS 8.0.1 about an hour after it first became available. The company later published instructions for users who downloaded iOS 8.0.1 before Apple scrapped the update. The steps helped users downgrade their devices to iOS 8 as Apple worked on a fix for the software. The company released iOS 8.0.2 on September 25.

Adoption of the iOS 8 has been sluggish. As of October 5, Apple's App Store Distribution page showed adoption of iOS 8 at 47 percent. That's a mere one point bump from the 46 percent seen on September 21 and much slower than the adoption rate of iOS7, which was 69.7 percent 20 days after launch.

But Federighi gave iOS adoption a more positive spin Thursday. "In just under four weeks, 48 percent of iOS users are on iOS 8," he told the crowd, noting "the vast majority" of Android users are running an OS that's more than two years old. "After 313 days, KitKat is only on 25 percent of Android devices."

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iOS 8.1 adds Apple Pay and many other features. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET

For Apple, it's key to get users to adopt its newest software so they take advantage of new features and services. The company's software has been an important differentiator from other mobile devices. iOS 8 added much-desired functionality such as iCloud improvements and third-party app notifications. But the bugs and other problems have likely caused customers to wait to download the software.

When Apple launched iOS 8 last month, it got rid of camera roll -- and greatly frustrated users. Camera roll was a folder on the iPhone that housed all of the photos users snapped with their phone. With iOS 8, instead of going to camera roll, photos instead went to a folder titled "recently added." This folder also holds every photo taken and deleted by a user in the last 30 days -- meaning that users cannot fully delete their photos. Now, with the return of camera roll, users should be able to both separate and delete their photos again.

The iCloud photo library will be available in public beta with iOS 8.1 and will tap into users' iCloud storage. The feature will let users make edits to photos and videos on any of their devices -- smartphone, tablet or computer -- and those changes will be instantly reflected on all of their devices. The first 5GB of storage will be free and then it's 99 cents a month for 20GB, and $3.99 for 200GB; higher tiers are available, up to 1TB.

Along with the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones last month, Apple also unveiled its new mobile payments system, called Apple Pay. The service, which launches Monday with iOS 8.1, lets people purchase goods simply by tapping their iPhones to payment terminals and then touching their devices' fingerprint sensors. Both the devices and the terminals must have near-field communication (NFC) chips that store payment credentials -- something that limits the in-store service to the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus phones, as well as the Apple Watch when it hits the market next year.

But Apple Pay has another component that doesn't require an NFC chip but does need the company's Touch ID. People now can pay for items in apps using a single touch on their device's fingerprint sensor, something that removes time and the hassle of entering credit card and address information over and over. Previously, Apple allowed consumers to use the fingerprint sensor to quickly buy content just from its iTunes, App and iBooks stores. Online shopping within apps works with Apple's new iPhones and watch, as well as the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3.

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