iOS 7.1 aims to atone for iOS 7's shortcomings

For those of you with iOS devices, Apple has released iOS 7.1 via over-the-air update today. This new rev of the OS adds a few new features and, most notably in my view, attempts to fix some problems introduced with iOS 7. There's a list of changes here on Apple's website. Listed first is the new "CarPlay" feature for automotive control integration, which is a nice upgrade for those with compatible touchscreens in their cars, I suppose.

To me, the biggest changes have to do with the UI and performance. iOS 7 was a big and necessary change, but it lacked the sort of polish for which Apple was known under the tyranny of Mr. Jobs. As a result, iOS 7.1 looks to fix some rather obvious problems, most of them filed under the bland, final bullet point in the release notes: "Continued user interface refinements."

For instance, Cyril's first reaction was relief that the slider to unlock an iPhone when you receive a call has been tweaked so the touch target area is larger, making a swipe-to-unlock motion easier and more reliable.

My top improvements have to do with iOS 7's swanky UI animations: they now happen faster and appear to be smoother on older hardware. This fact, combined with some other apparent optimizations, has iOS 7.1 running appreciably faster on my third-gen iPad. I essentially stopped using that system after the iOS 7 update and even refused to sell it to my brother because it was too sluggish. This update has been an awful long time in coming, but it does seem to restore the performance I'd enjoyed under iOS 6. In fact, 7.1 feels faster than 7.0.x even after disabling the "reduced motion" accessibility option.

iOS 7 was by all accounts horribly sluggish on the iPhone 4. Fortunately, the 7.1 update has specifically been tuned to run faster on that older device. Ars has the first write-up I've seen on iPhone 4 performance in iOS 7.1, and it looks like things are better, if not as snappy as iOS 6.

I'd say this update probably puts Apple on equal footing with the latest version of Android in most important ways. I'm just not sure why they keep building devices with so little RAM onboard while pushing the envelope on SoC performance and software multitasking support. The iPad Air is a great system, but it's RAM-poor. Right now, the bargain-priced Nexus 7 2013 edition still seems like a smarter mix of resources for everyday usability.

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