Apple has released iOS 7.1, with an array of visual tweaks, some bug fixes, and an option that lets users turn off the so-called "parallax effect" that creates an illusion of changing perspective, and hence motion, in the radically redesigned user interface.
If Apple sticks with its typical 12-month software and hardware refresh cycles, the next version, presumably iOS 8, could be previewed at the next Worldwide Developers Conference in June, and be released with new iPhones and iPads in September or October.
IOS 7 generated a lot of strong opinions, both favorable and not-so-much, because its visual style, under Jonathan Ive’s guiding eye, was emphatically different from previous releases. Apart from the visual changes, there is a wealth of under-the-hood changes that are only gradually becoming better known and used.
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One is the iBeacon specification, which uses the onboard Bluetooth LE radio for micro-location services. Apple just released an updated whitepaper on iOS security that discloses much more about its security architecture and details on such iOS 7 innovations as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Apple also used iOS 7 for the first commercial adoption of Multipath TCP, a protocol extension that can transmit packets over multiple pathways, currently being used by Apple’s Siri voice service.
The new firmware includes a fix to prevent a random crash bug that has plagued some iOS 7 users. And Touch ID has been massaged to make the fingerprint recognition faster and more accurate.
For most users, the most obvious changes will be in the visual appearance of power off and phone dialer: they now use elements with a more rounded look. Incoming calls now show separate “accept” and “decline” buttons.
The music app now has more prominent icons for shuffle and repeat. There’s also a new option to completely disable motion in the wallpaper when you select an image for it. In the past, users could go into Settings, General, Accessibility and turn on “Reduce Motion” to, yes, reduce the degree of motion apparent in the UI.
The 7.1 release also includes Apple’s recently announced CarPlay feature, with a set of Siri voice prompts and commands that let you play selections from your music library or answer a call. So far, BMW, Ferrari, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo have announced plans to incorporate CarPlay in some future new cars and in-vehicle entertainment systems.
Also new: iOS users now can subscribe to iTunes Match from their mobile devices instead of through desktop iTunes. And the iTunes Radio interface has been tweaked: you can search within featured stations, and create new stations based on past searches.
Over the past six months, since the release of iOS 7, Apple has issued fixes including: dropped FaceTime calls, a security vulnerability in the lockscreen, and most recently in iOS 7.0.6 a SSL verification flaw, in which the OS didn’t validate the connection’s security, potentially exposing some data.