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iOS 5.1 Brings Smattering of Features and 4G Confusion

In addition to the iPad hardware that debuted last week (see “Apple Announces Third-Generation iPad,” 7 March 2012), Apple released iOS 5.1 for all iOS 5-compatible devices, which includes all versions of the iPad, the iPhone 3GS and later, and third-generation and later models of the iPod touch. Overall, it’s a maintenance release with a small collection of new features and fixes — but one particular user interface change is causing some confusion.

After updating to iOS 5.1, many AT&T iPhone 4S owners will find that the cellular indicator in the menu bar has changed from 3G to 4G — even though their phones haven’t magically added faster data capabilities. Rather, this change reflects that the iPhone is connecting to AT&T’s HSPA+ network, which is essentially a faster version of 3G. For comparison, HSPA+ supports a maximum raw downstream capability of 14 Mbps compared to a maximum download rate of 73 Mbps for LTE (Long Term Evolution).

Despite the HSPA+ network being a slowpoke compared to LTE, AT&T considers it to be “4G.” If that sounds like a weaselly marketing strategy, it is — but AT&T has been accorded cover for this distinction by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In a press release from December 2010, the ITU agreed that “other evolved 3G technologies” could find shelter under the 4G standards umbrella as long as they provided “a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities” in comparison to current 3G networks.

When the iPhone 4S was launched in October 2011, Phil Schiller even joked about how the carriers wanted to call HSPA+ a “4G technology” (see “New iPhone 4S Adds Voice Recognition and Goes Global,” 4 October 2011), saying: “We’re not going to get into a debate in the industry over what’s 4G and what isn’t, we’ll leave that for others to talk about.” However, as Brad McCarty noted at The Next Web (among many others), iOS 5.1’s terminology change seems to be an acquiescence by Apple to AT&T’s marketing demands, and one that could lead to a slippery slope of additional carrier requests down the line.

Controversy aside, the iOS 5.1 update does offer several new features that, while not groundbreaking, are certainly welcome. First and foremost, you can now delete individual photos from your iCloud Photo Stream. To do so, open the Photos app, tap the Photo Stream album, and then tap the share button in the top right corner. From there, select individual photos and then tap the red Delete button in the lower right corner. You can also delete the current photo you’re viewing in the Photo Stream album by tapping the trash button.

Other imaging-related additions include enhanced face detection capabilities in the Camera app (being able to recognize more than one face at a time), a redesigned Camera app for the iPad that moves the capture button to the right side of the screen where your thumb is more likely to be, and a new camera shortcut placed on the lock screens of the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and fourth-generation iPod touch. Instead of pressing the Home button twice to open the Camera app from the lock screen, swipe up on the lock screen’s camera button (on the right of the Slide to Unlock slider) to reveal the Camera app.

Apple says that subscribers to iTunes Match will find that Genius Mixes and Genius playlists have returned to their iOS devices, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for many (most?) people. iPad owners will also enjoy “optimized” audio for movies and TV shows that should sound both louder and clearer. Podcast controls for playback speed and rewinding a currently playing podcast by 30 seconds have also returned.

Japanese language support has been added to Siri (joining English, French, and German), though its availability will be limited during the initial rollout. Finally, iOS 5.1 addresses some unnamed bugs that affected battery life and provides a fix for occasional audio dropped during outgoing calls.

To update an iOS 5.0 device to version 5.1, connect it to a computer running iTunes and click the Check for Update button in the device’s Summary screen (if a dialog doesn’t automatically appear). Or, update over the air without connecting to a computer: go to Settings > General > Software Update and follow the instructions there.


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Comments about iOS 5.1 Brings Smattering of Features and 4G Confusion
(Comments are closed.)

Michelle Steiner  2012-03-12 07:32
You have to slide the camera icon up to get to the camera app; tapping it doesn't do anything.

Also, for people sticking with iOS 5.0.x, a double press on the Home button from a locked iPhone will open the camera app.
Linda Cameron  2012-03-13 06:43
That didn't work for me. There must be some Settings to get it to do that.

Oops. On second thought, it does work. I didn't notice the camera icon appeared on the lock swipe bar the first time I tried it.
iTunes Genius mixes have not been fixed as far as I can tell on either one of my iOS devices. Others have reported the same on the Apple Support Forums.
ATT considers it to be 4G? There should be guidelines that service providers use to determine 4G connection. Why lie to your customers? Apple should have never let this happen. There is already a big demand for these devices, no need to be shady to get us to buy.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-12 12:14
That's sort of the issue - the ITU caved on defining 4G tightly, so it is now a relatively meaningless marketing term.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-03-12 13:40
Yes, the ITU could have been strict, but there would have been no enforcement mechanism, as it's not a trademark or a protected term (unlike IEEE 802.11 and Wi-Fi).
jehrler  2012-03-13 05:04
To be frank (and someone who is going to get criticism for this), I like the 4G addition because then I know when I am in a higher 3G speed area.

They could, of course, have made it 3G+ or 3+ but I find the extra information useful for those of us who travel in more rural areas.
LTE is not 4G... Any US carrier saying their network is 4G is FOS.
Wilson  2012-03-12 20:19
Pressing the home button twice does not bring up the camera. Pressing it twice brings up controls for music player.
The iOS 5 added the camera icon beside the "slide to unlock" swipe area when pressing the home button twice, along with the controls for music player.
Derek Currie  2012-03-12 20:30
I have to spoil the delusion party and point out that:

4G is a target technology that does not yet exist on the market. There is no '4G' available on any market at this time. Every company's claims to the contrary are deceitful. Big whoopee that ITU permits the marketing people to lie to us about it.

It isn't just HSPA+ that doesn't qualify for 4G. LTE does not qualify as 4G either. Nothing currently commercially available qualifies.

When will real 4G arrive? When 'LTE Advanced' (LTE-A) is available. Another 4G qualified technology will be WirelessMAN-Advanced, AKA IEEE 802.16.

Here are some resources for those interested in reading more about the facts of 4G:

No "4G" on Sprint?
Suzanne  2012-03-13 00:40
I believe the regulators have caved to the pressures of Apple & have stretched the definition of "4G". They should have stuck to their guns. What will Apple call 4G when they actually do get it? Oh yeah, they are currently looking to promote 5G. But will it really be "5G"?
Suzanne  2012-03-13 00:45
Derek, thanks for the info! I will read your links!
Nigel French  2012-03-13 01:12
"To update an iOS 5.0 device to version 5.1, connect it to a computer running iTunes and click the Check for Update button in the device’s Summary screen (if a dialog doesn’t automatically appear). Or, update over the air without connecting to a computer: go to Settings > General > Software Update and follow the instructions there."

This does not work reliably everywhere. In my case (UK Oxfordshire), after some research in the Apple Support Community, I found I had to change the DNS server for each device (iPad2, iPhone4 and AppleTV) to a public server (Google's before the update would work. I have reported this to my local ISP and to Apple.
What do you do when you can't update the iPad2 wirelessly or through the newest version of iTunes on the iMac? Both attempt to log into Apple's servers and come back with an error. I thought the servers might be overloaded so I tried numerous times, all with the same problem. First time I have ever ran into this problem!
darren  2012-03-16 07:20
can someone confirm (or not) that there are "bug fixes" for the iPhone 4S battery as stated? i swear my phone is empty by dinner, for no real reason.
Totally agree...thinking of to carry car battery with me to not to loose any call due to battery...Much thinking point for half eaten apple
Has anybody noticed of call drop when battery is plugged on for power supply