iOS 7.1 Brings Changes to Siri, CarPlay Support, iBeacon Improvements, Apple TV Upgrade

ios 7 updatesOne of the big changes with the arrival of iOS 7 is the way Siri works. In the past, you'd hold the Home button, wait until Siri responded with "What can I help you with?", release the button, and then speak. Siri would automatically detect when you stopped speaking, and respond. The problem was that sometimes Siri would respond because you'd made a slight inadvertent pause in your speech, even though you weren't done talking. Now with iOS 7, you hold have the option of manually letting Siri know when you're done talking by holding down the Home button while you talk. Siri keeps listening until you release the button. In addition, Siri also has new, more natural-sounding male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese.

iOS 7.1 also comes with support for Apple's new CarPlay that launched last week at the automobile trade show in Geneva. It lets you take advantage of features of your iPhone without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the steering wheel. You can use the Phone, Music, Maps, and Messages apps, as well as third-party audio apps. You press a button on the steering wheel to get Siri's attention, and then take advantage of these functions. CarPlay can also be controlled via a touch-panel display, if your car has that feature, as well as via the car's knobs and controls.

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While Apple's release notes don't say anything about iBeacon, the website Beekn has found that iOS 7.1 brings major improvements to this new feature in iOS. The most important improvement is that your iBeacon-enabled apps will look for the presence of beacons even if the app hasn't been booted up. The app no longer needs to be running in the background tray. It works even if you hard reset your iPhone. Of course, if you'd rather it not be looking for beacons, you can adjust the settings or simply turn off Bluetooth. Beekn also reports that iBeacon now seems to have a much faster response.

Coinciding with the release of iOS 7.1, Apple released an update to their Apple TV software, bringing it to version 6.1. It includes the iTunes Festival channel, so you can listen to the concerts taking place during SXSW this week. It also adds a handier option for hiding channels that you don't use. You can now press the Select button to make the channel icon jiggle, just as with iOS, and then press the Play/Pause button, which gives you a popup menu with the option Hide This Item. 

iOS 7.1 also comes with improvements to Apple's Remote app, which works with Apple TV. It now has a dedicated tab for iTunes Radio. Plus, you can now stream content you've purchased from the iTunes Store directly on your Apple TV without using AirPlay.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.