Apple released version 4.1 of iOS, its mobile operating system, promising several new features, bug fixes, and performance improvements for users of the iPhone and iPod Touch. iOS 4.1 offers access to Game Center, FaceTime calling from the iPhone app's Favorites tab, and improved audio quality when using Bluetooth accessories -- all worthwhile improvements and additions, certainly.
But these are not the new features and fixes that I'm most interested in...and they're not going to earn a spot on my list of the four biggest improvements that iOS 4.1 delivers. Here's my list:
Glitchy Proximity Sensor Gone
I'm going to share a secret: I wasn't affected by the great Apple iPhone 4 antenna debacle. I'm not saying I don't believe that there was a flaw with the iPhone 4's antenna, and I'm not saying Apple didn't need to fix the problem. (Thank you very much for that free bumper case, by the way.) I'm simply saying the problem never affected my iPhone 4: no matter where I held the phone, its antenna signal strength never suddenly dropped on me.
But I was affected by the iPhone 4's buggy proximity sensor -- the sensor that's supposed to recognize when the iPhone is on a call and near your face, and disable the touchscreen accordingly. The point of the proximity sensor is to prevent your face from activating the touchscreen when you're on a call. When the proximity sensor doesn't work, your face can switch your call over to speakerphone, end the call without you realizing it, mute the call, try to add a line to a call, or initiate a Facetime call. If you haven't experienced a glitchy proximity sensor, you're in luck. If you have, you know -- as I do -- how annoying it is to be chatting away into your phone, not realizing that your cheek actually disconnected the call at some point. Talking to yourself really isn't all that fun, and it's something I won't have to worry about once iOS 4.1 is installed on my phone.
TV Show Rentals
I know, I know. I should happy about all of the security holes -- 20 in the Webkit framework alone, according to Macworld -- that Apple has fixed in iOS 4.1. But what I'm actually happy about is the ability to rent TV shows directly from my iPhone. Why? Two reasons: I like TV, and I'm cheap. Sure, I already could purchase TV episodes directly from my phone, but it's pretty rare that I'll watch an episode more than once. That's why renting a show for 99 cents makes more sense for me ... and my budget.
HD Video Uploads Over Wi-Fi
I like using my iPhone 4 to capture video clips, and I like sharing those videos via YouTube. But I don't like the fact that, until now, the iPhone 4 hasn't let me transfer HD videos to YouTube wirelessly. That annoyance is history with iOS 4.1, which lets you choose whether to upload your video to YouTube in standard def or high def when you're connected via Wi-Fi. You still can't upload HD videos over a 3G connection, but that's just fine by me: I'm too busy using my data allotment to watch streaming videos from Netflix, anyway.
I can't say for certain that the new High Dynamic Range photo capability is a winner for Apple, but it certainly looks promising. The HDR technology -- which can be turned on or off via a toggle button that is added to the top of your camera interface -- works by combining three photos captured in quick succession. HDR is supposed to be able to take the best parts of each of the images and combine them into one image, which should -- in theory -- look better than just one photo. I've only played around with the new HDR feature briefly, but it's one that I really look forward to trying out.