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iOS 7.1 is now available to download. What’s new?

After a long time in testing, the final release of iOS 7.1 has today been made available to the masses.

iOS 7.1

Apple has begun seeding the newest update to its iOS mobile operating system, version 7.1. Some of the most talked about features are now present, including CarPlay, but there are a host of smaller and subtler changes too. Here’s a rundown of what to look out for.

Behind the scenes

Let’s get the things you can’t see out of the way first. In amongst the blanket term ‘bug fixes’ Apple has improved the user experience by enhancing the accuracy of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, iPhone 4 users should notice slicker performance across the board and more countries will now be able to access iCloud Keychain.

What’s more, Apple is hoping that this update has quelled the spontaneous reboot bug that some iPhone users were experiencing.

CarPlay

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated part of the iOS 7.1 update is CarPlay, which works with select vehicles to allow for an iOS experience in your car. Manufacturers including Ferrari, Honda and Mercedes-Benz have already signed up to introduce CarPlay compatibility in some of their 2014 portfolio, with brands like Land Rover, Ford, Jaguar, BMW and more set to join the fray soon after.

Apple CarPlay

CarPlay relays key elements of your iOS device in a driving-friendly format. Through your in-car infotainment system, you can browse your music library, make or take calls, handle messages, use Apple Maps and even access some third-party services like Spotify.

The big bonus here is that you can interact with the system using your car’s inbuilt hardware controls (buttons, knobs, dials etc.) or navigate with the help of Siri using your voice for a safer “eyes-free” experience. We’re closer to recreating KITT than ever before I tell you. Speaking of Siri…

Siri’s more sophisticated

Just ahead of Microsoft’s plans to bring its new voice assistant Cortana to Windows Phone, Apple’s Siri has gained some new skills. What looks to be the most useful is the new home button control, which lets you continue to press the button whilst talking to Siri and release it to immediately have Siri carry out your request.

Before users would have to leave an awkward pause following their command while Siri determined that they’d finished speaking, now you can simply release the home button and he/she’ll immediately hunt for the information you’re after.

Also native speakers of Mandarin, UK English, Australian English and Japanese should notice that Siri speaks with a more natural sounding voice.

Clearer Calendar

The iOS 7 Calendar app is clean and clear to read, but it’s not as well suited as some alternatives to showing you your upcoming events. iOS 7.1 goes someway to removing that shortcoming, with an expanded list view button now residing next to the search button within the app.

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What’s more, if you don’t like the split month/list view, you can, with a little digging around view all of your upcoming engagements in a fullscreen list view, which is arguably much clearer to browse through.

Visual tweaks

There have been a few nips and tucks throughout iOS 7.1 which should make it easier to navigate and interact with. CultOfMac goes into great depth, showcasing new visual elements found within the OS in all sorts of areas, most notably with animations and transitions.

The zoom effect when opening or closing a folder has been fractionally sped up, making an already slick experience look and feel slicker. Swiping up Control Center now finishes in a playful little bounce, feeling like somewhat of an animated tip of the hat to the skeumorphic realism of iOS 6 and its predecessors.

The start/end call and power off slider now follow a circle motif, as opposed to the rounded rectangular forms of before. iPhone 5S users may notice that HDR Auto mode is now an option, which will let your phone choose which of the three images it’s snapped is the best of the bunch for you.

Accessibility

Some visual changes seem purely aesthetic, but there are many that slot more into the realm of accessibility improvements, clearing away an ambiguity in interface elements like buttons and other controls.

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If you’re happy to restart the device, text can now be made bold for better visibility. The frost effect on the back of folders and other similar backgrounds can also be made less transparent and you can darken and dim both the colours and the whiteness of elements in iOS 7.1’s interface.

If you still miss the button silhouettes that used to sit in the corners of iOS, then you’ll be happy to learn that ‘Button Shapes’ is a new option highlighting control elements you can interact with once again.

How to get it

So that’s it. Provided you have a compatible iOS device, you should be able to jump into the Settings menu, tap General and press Software Update. Assuming you’re connected to a WiFi network, the 260-280MB download shouldn’t take all that long, bringing you in line with the latest and greatest mobile experience Apple has to offer.

Here’s the full changelog:

changelog

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