I expected iOS 5.1 to be announced at the iPad event the other day, since it had been in beta for developers for quite some time. I also expected it would be released about a week later, in order to give developers some time to update their apps for it.
However, it came out just a couple hours after the keynote, and I downloaded and installed the update on both my iPhone and iPad over-the-air, without iTunes’ involvement at all. It was a quick and easy upgrade, and improves a number of things.
I was greatly pleased to see the revamped lock screen camera shortcut on the iPhone. When iOS 5 debuted, you could double tap the home button from the lock screen to reveal a quick camera access button. Now that is always visible, and you just slide the lock screen up.
Related to that, the camera itself loads faster than I remember it ever loading before.
Also, iCloud’s Photo Stream now allows you to delete photos from it, which is handy for getting rid of screenshots and poorly composed photos.
Finally, on the iPad, Apple redesigned the camera app, moving the shutter release closer to where your thumb is likely to be. I don’t take photos from the iPad often, but this will be nicer for the rare times I do.
Battery Life & Performance
Apple says it fixed bugs affecting battery life. Battery life hasn’t been shabby on my nearly two year old iPhone 4 at all, but I have noticed over the past couple of days that it is better.
As far as performance goes, everything feels a little snappier, especially with the built-in apps.
Apple made the odd decision to change the cellular label to 4G on the iPhone 4S when in an AT&T HSPA+ network area. As an iPhone 4, owner, this doesn’t apply to me. Now, do not think that a software upgrade magically unlocked 4G access. No, this is just some marketing crap AT&T has been doing to say they have “4G” speeds. So, AT&T has 4G and 4G LTE. The latter is what every other carrier calls 4G.
Ben Brooks has a great article about why this move feels like a crap move from Apple.
All in all, iOS 5.1 is a top-notch upgrade for performance, battery, and usability. I’m sure there are many more tiny refinements to discover. If you haven’t upgraded yet, go to
Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device and get it.
This geofence indicator is a perfect example of a subtle refinement in iOS 5.1.