iOS 4.1: What You Need to Know

iOS 4.1 for the iPhone and iPod touch is set to be released sometime this week, and for some the update will bring welcome fixes along with new features. Deciding whether or not you should install the update, however, depends on how you use your iPhone or iPod touch, and exactly which model you have.

Depending on which iPhone or iPod touch you own, Apple may have made the decision on whether or not to upgrade to iOS 4.1 for you.

The update is compatible with the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, along with second, third and fourth generation iPod touch. First generation iPhone and iPod touch users are out of luck.

Version 4.1 adds AVRCP support, which is good news for iPhone owners that listen to music in their cars because now they can use in-dash audio controllers instead of relying on just on their iPhone touch interface. It also addresses audio quality issues with Bluetooth headsets and unexpected headset disconnects.

Most iPod touch models support iOS 4.1

AT&T subscribers will get Carrier Settings version 8.0, which may offer improvements with call performance and data connections — or maybe not. Until users get the update installed, it’s going to be difficult to tell whether or not this helps with cell performance.

Some iOS 4 and 4.1 features aren’t available on the iPhone 3G as well as the second generation iPod touch, too. Multi-tasking, for example isn’t available on these models.

iOS 4 introduced Multi-tasking, FaceTime, folders, unified email inbox support, along with several other features. iOS 4.1 builds on that with features like HD video uploading support, HDR photo capture, Game Center, TV show rental support, bug fixes, and more.

HD Video Uploading iPhone 4 users that have been disappointed with the quality of videos they upload to services like YouTube are in for a pleasant surprise because iOS 4.1 gives users the option to upload their HD videos instead of downgrading them to SD quality. Previously, the only way to get HD video out of an iPhone 4 was by syncing with iTunes.

Since the iPhone 4 is Apple’s first device to support HD video capture, iPhone 3G and 3GS users won’t get any benefit from this new feature.

HDR Photo Capture The iOS 4.1 update adds HDR (high dynamic range) photo capture support, which means your iPhone can capture multiple photos of the same scene, but at different exposure settings. It then blends the photos together for a single image that has the best elements of each.

For example, one image in a set may have a burned out sky while another has areas that are too dark and muddy. HDR will combine the images so you have a nice blue sky and can see the detail in dark areas, too.

This is another feature that’s limited to the iPhone 4. iPhone 3G and 3GS users that want similar control over their photos will have to look to third party solutions such as Pro HDR (US$1.99 on the App Store).

The iPhone 4 is the big iOS 4.1 winner

Game Center Game Center is Apple’s own social network for gamers. It includes games users can download and play against their friends, but it doesn’t include support for first generation iPhone and iPod touch owners, or the with iPhone 3G.

TV Show Rentals U.S. iPhone and iPod touch owners can take advantage of TV show rentals with iOS 4.1. Rentals cost US$0.99 each, and are good for 48 hours once you start watching. The selection of shows will be somewhat limited at first, but will likely improve over time.

The 4.1 update also adds the ability to include FaceTime in the iPhone’s Favorites list along with regular phone numbers, adds landscape controls to FaceTime calls, and adds a preference for disabling the spell check feature.

Bug Fixes Complaints of accidental hangups and conference calls started cropping up shortly after iOS 4 was released. The problem stemmed from an issue where the iPhone’s proximity sensor misjudged how close the phone was to users faces and let their ears and cheeks register as finger taps. iOS 4.1 corrects that annoying problem.

The update also improves overall performance on the iPhone 3G, and fixes Bluetooth connectivity issues.

The Big Decision
The list of new features and enhancements makes the decision to upgrade to iOS 4.1 a no brainer for iPhone 4 owners. iPhone 3GS users will still get some nice additions with the upgrade, although the biggest feature for them may be Game Center Support. iPhone 3 owners get the least out of iOS 4.1, although the performance improvements may be enough to make the update worthwhile.

iPhone and iPod touch owners that jailbreak and don’t want to lose access to apps that aren’t available through Apple’s App Store should stay away from the iOS 4.1 update. The hacker community may release a jailbreak update that includes iOS 4.1 support, but there hasn’t been any word yet on when to expect a new hack.

iOS 4.1 is a big update with lots of welcome features, at least for newer iPhone and iPod touch owners. Users with older devices won’t get as many benefits, but so long as they aren’t in the jailbreaking community, may get enough out of the update to make it worthwhile, too.