Apple ships iOS 7.1 with CarPlay support, home screen crash fix

First major update since September 2013 for the visually-revamped iPhone and iPad OS

Apple today shipped iOS 7.1, the first major update since its newest mobile operating system launched in September 2013.

The update, which was made available Monday morning, includes support for CarPlay, the in-car, hands-free user interface (UI) for the iPhone, which debuted last week.

According to Apple's release note, other enhancements in iOS 7.1 ranged from several for Siri, the voice-activated and voiced personal assistant, to additions within iTunes Radio, Apple's free, ad-supported music streaming service that kicked off with iOS 7 last fall.

Several stability and reliability bugs were addressed in the update, including one that improved Touch ID fingerprint recognition on iPhone 5S smartphones, and a vague pledge of "improved performance for iPhone 4," the oldest of Apple's handsets able to run the operating system.

Customers with the iPhone 4 -- the model that launched in June 2010 -- have griped on Apple's support forum and elsewhere that iOS 7 was sluggish, or worse, on their devices, a common complaint for all Apple's mobile OSes on the oldest hardware.

iOS 7.1 also fixed the bug that caused crashes of the home screen, Apple said. That bug has plagued users since September, and in January the Cupertino, Calif. company promised a fix was coming.

Apple also expanded the list of supported countries for iCloud Keychain, the password management and synchronization service; gave users a by-month view in the Calendar; and continued to tweak the iOS 7 UI, which was Apple's first visual overhaul since the 2007 iPhone debut.

With 172 days between iOS 7 and 7.1, the update arrived later than those for previous editions of the operating system. For iOS 3 through iOS 6, the average length of time between the initial release and the first major update was 117 days, while the median was 109 days.

Apple patched 41 vulnerabilities in iOS 7 with Monday's update, including 19 in WebKit, the open-source browser engine used by Safari. Of those 19 WebKit flaws, 8 were found by Google security engineers working on the Chrome team.

iOS 7.1 can be downloaded over the air or through iTunes. From an iPhone, for instance, users must tap the "Settings" icon, then the "General" button on the resulting screen. Tapping "Software Update" will kick off the update process. The operating system runs on iPhone 4 and later, iPad 2 or later, iPad mini or later, and the fifth-generation iPod Touch, which went on sale in October 2012 (32GB and 64GB models) and May 2013 (16GB).

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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