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What's new in iOS 5.1?

Upgrade your device for free today

Apple's hardware launches tend to eclipse software updates, and that's never been truer than with the new iPad. Simultaneous with its release was iOS 5.1, which brings a few minor improvements, but nothing significant or new.

SEE ALSO: New iPad review

Of most interest, but only if your first language is Japanese, is the new language support for Siri. This was the feature Tim Cook chose to announce first during the March 7th keynote speech when introducing the software update.

Siri speaks Japanese

Disappointingly, Siri remains exclusively on the iPhone 4S. The new iPad gets the dictation portion - but you have to activate it by tapping the new microphone symbol on the keyboard.

Everyone, though, will benefit from the new ability to delete photos from the Photo Stream. Previously, if you enabled Photo Stream in order to have your photos appear automatically on your other iOS devices, you couldn't then remove an image until you'd subsequently taken more than 1,000 new photos. Now, you can delete unwanted photos at will, just as with the traditional Camera Roll.

A third new feature is that the camera button is now always visible on the Lock Screen: there's no need to double-tap the Home button.

As Apple also launched a new Apple TV, iOS 5.1 includes new Genius Mixes and playlists for iTunes Match subscribers.

Specifically for the iPad, there's a redesigned Camera app to take advantage of the higher-resolution screen. Plus, there's podcast controls for playback speed and the same handy 30-second rewind button that was previously only on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Apple also claims to have fixed more bugs causing poor battery life, but which devices this affects remains to be seen.

Most of the software updates centred around Apple's iPad apps rather than the iOS operating system. Garage Band, iMovie and Photos have all been ovehauled, and there's a brand new app: iPhoto. This allows you to organise and edit your photos in ways that the standard Photos app doesn't.

We're not too surprised that Apple waited until the iPad's camera was upgraded to launch the app. The iPad 2's rear camera takes pretty dismal photos, but the third-generation can shoot 1080p video and good 5Mp still photos thanks to the same five-element lens from the iPhone 4S.

How to upgrade to iOS 5.1

If you own an iPad 2, there's no doubt that it's worth getting the free update to iOS 5.1. However, unless you're a Japanese iPhone 4S owner, there's hardly any reason for other iPhone owners to bother. If you've Jailbroken your device, you'll have to wait anyway, but you're not missing out.

If you decide you want to upgrade, it's a very simple process if you're already on iOS 5. Launch the Settings app, tap General, then Software Update. After a few seconds of searching, you'll see a Download and Install button. Tap that and the update will be installed in a few minutes. All your settings, apps and documents will remain, but it's sensible to make a backup with iCloud or iTunes before you perform the update.

iOS 5.1 update

The update screen on an iPhone

Improvements we'd like to have seen

Here are five things we wanted Apple to fix in iOS 5.1, so hopefully these will appear in the next update:

1. App Store. This is one of our main pet hates: the App Store still kicks you out after you've purchased one item. We want to see an option to change this so it only exits when you say it can. You'd be pretty upset if you had to buy one item at a time in Sainsbury's, returning to the store to get the next item, and it's barely more acceptable in iOS.

2. Syncing still doesn't work properly. It's great that you can sync your device via Wi-Fi (as of iOS 5) but while certain items are updated or deleted across your devices, others still aren't. Delete a contact, for example, and that will be removed everywhere. Delete a podcast, though, and it will be synced back to your device from iTunes upon the next sync.

3. Notification Center hasn't been updated. On the iPad, this means it doesn't really make full use of the big screen. On the iPhone, the miniscule Clear buttons are still ridiculously tiny. Plus, as there hasn't been any changes at all, you're still stuck with notifications from all your calendars, even if you choose to hide certain calendars in the Calendar app.

4. Messages still refuses to acknowledge that messages from different sources are, in fact, from the same person. This shouldn't be the case, as the Contacts app knows that the sources - an email address and a phone number - are for the same person.

5. Siri is still only on the iPhone 4S. We realise that Siri is still in beta, but we can't understand why Apple won't roll it out to other devices. There's no reason, for example, why it won't run on the iPhone 4, and it would have been yet another reason to upgrade to the new iPad.

So come on Apple, sort these things out, as we can't be the only ones to be frustrated by these problems.

Need Apple buying advice? See: Apple Advisor


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