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iOS 5.1 update for iPhones and iPad: Japanese Siri, improved battery life, camera slider

iOS 5.1 is here; we’re updating/we’ve updated our iPad 2, iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 right now. Last night’s event merely touched on a couple of the new features that iOS 5.1 brings – Siri support for Japanese and photos auto-syncing to Apple TV – but there’s plenty more under the hood that you ought to get excited about.

Here’s what iOS 5.1 has to offer:

Japanese language support for Siri (Apple iPhone 4S)

Though Apple says ‘availability may be limited during initial rollout,’ Japanese support for Siri is the main headline grabber and the feature which we saw prominently popping up in leaks and rumours.

Our Japanese is a little on the rusty side but we’ll let you know if Apple’s availability for this extends to the UK initially or not. We’re guessing regions which has a sizeable Japanese-speaking population will be served first, which might not mean the UK.

Photos can now be deleted from Photo Stream

Pretty self-explanatory, pictures can now be deleted from your Photo Stream. Nice.

Camera shortcut now always visible on Lock Screen

Another small, but entirely welcome bonus is that the camera shortcut which was introduced with iOS 5.0 is now permanently accessible from the lock screen. Previously, you could only access this if the camera was active or by double-tapping the home button. Now we’re able to unlock straight to the camera for some shooting from the hip action.

Unlike the Siri update which is for iPhone 4S only, this camera shortcut feature will come to iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and iPod touch (4th generation).

 

Camera face detection now highlights all detected faces

Another camera tweak is this improvement to face detection. All detected faces are now highlighted by the camera app so you’ve confirmation of each face being detected. We’ve not seen this fature make the jump to our updated iPhone 4 however.

Redesigned Camera app for iPad

The iPad camera app has been given a redesign, with a new position for the virtual shutter key. It’s now set off to one side, ninety degrees from where it once sat which makes it easier to take pictures, always a task on unweildy, circa 10-inch tablets. Anything to make the picture snapping process easier gets a welcome thumbs up from us.

Genius Mixes and Genius playlists for iTunes Match subscribers

For those of you who’ve signed up for iTunes Match, iOS 5.1 now supports Genius Mixes and playlists for iTunes Match tracks.

Genius Mixes are pre-selected groups of tracks which are based on your favourites and recently played songs.

iTunes Match ‘matches’ the tracks in your iTunes library on your computer. This is useful if you’ve got more songs in your library than you can fit into your iPhone. You’ll be able to stream equivalent songs from Apple’s server’s on your phone – a neat way to listening to all the music you’ve bought without having to upload everything.

iTunes Match subscriptions in the UK cost £21.99 a year.


Podcast controls for playback speed and a 30 second rewind for iPad

New controls for podcasts which were introduced for iPhones in previous updates are now available for iPads too. You can now speed up (x2) or slow down (x1/2) the speed of a podcast to keep it at the regular speed (x1) and make use of the 30 second rewind tool that’s been a part of the iPhone podcasting experience for a while now.


Updated AT&T network indicator

A change specifically for AT&T customers in the US, when you’re connected to the network’s high-speed HSDPA network, you should see a 4G symbol appearing in the status bar, even though this isn’t technically ‘4G’. We wonder if Three will try the same thing once its netowrk upgrades are complete.


Addresses bugs affecting battery life

Finally. The one update feature that our iPhone 4S was crying out for. It remains to be seen how effective this will be but we’ll take what we can get.

 

Fixes an issue that occasionally caused audio to drop for outgoing calls

Another welcome change that iOS 5.1 brings is a bug fix for the few dropped calls we’ve experienced on our iPhone 4S.

Camera unlocker section updated for clarification.

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