A weekend with iOS 5.1: what’s improved?

iOS 5.1 was released last week, almost immediately after the new iPad launch event. Due to having a jailbroken device, it took me a couple of days to decide whether or not I wanted to download the latest version of the iPhone’s operating system. I like the customization I’d gotten used to, but, for the sake of you guys, I decided it would best serve the readers of an iPhone blog to see exactly what they’ve got with the “dot” update from Apple.

So, the big question is, what’s improved, and what needs more work?

1. Japanese Siri

The iPhone is massively popular in the Far East. Japan usually being in the group of countries to see new iDevices launches at the same time as the US. In some ways it was a tad surprising that Siri wasn’t available from launch in Japanese. But, clearly, English (in its various forms), Spanish and French are accepted as being more popularly spoken. (On that note, where is Siri in Mandarin and Cantonese?)

For those in Japan, this is a big deal and an improvement. Siri isn’t great at picking up foreign accents attempting to speak English, so to have it in their native language, Japanese iPhone users will be delighted. Plus 1 for Apple.

2. Photo Stream deletion

As part of my job, I’m constantly adding and cropping images in iPhoto, and taking screenshots from my iPhone. It’s hugely frustrating that my 1,000 pics in Photo Stream are virtually all images I never want to see again, or have any further use for. It’s been one of my biggest annoyances since Photo Stream was launched with iCloud last year. I was delighted when I found out I could finally delete photos from my cloud server. And it’s something that I’m always asked by my friends how to do. Surprise is the usual response when I tell them it can’t be done – at least until now.

3. Constant camera shortcut on lock screen


One that I’m not too keen on, and still, it’s better than the previous method. I severely disliked having to double tap my home key to gain access to the camera shortcut. And, to be honest, I often forgot it was there. I equally dislike having the icon constantly on show, it makes the unlock slider look too chunky and short. It’s just not visually appealing enough. That being said, I really like how simple it is to gain access to my camera. Slide up, and I’m there instantly. For the moment, I’m sure I can sacrifice my desire for better looks to gain more efficient practicality.

4. Improved face detection

The camera app now detects all faces in frame, up to ten different faces, and auto exposes.  I always find it better to control exactly where I focus manually, touching the right spot in the view finder. But, it’s a great addition for those big party shots for those of you with busy social lives.

5. Addressing battery life?

Apple’s yet to get this perfectly right. Personally, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in battery life. Once I’d installed and restored my phone from a previous backup I went almost two days without charging. The improvement has been noted by a few of my twitter followers too, but there are one or two still seeing no difference. Let’s hope Apple finds all the individual bugs eventually. Have you noticed any improvement? Let me know in the comments, or through twitter.

6. 3G toggle for iPhone 4S

YES!! When my battery has been low in the past, my first emergency action was to switch 3G off. Nothing saves power juice like turning off the HSPA radio, and relying on WiFi and 2G only. Imagine my disappointment when I realized it simply wasn’t an option for the 4S. My annoyance has been subdued. Unfortunately, there has been question as to whether this is a feature available to everyone. Some twitter and Facebook users on AT&T have claimed that it’s still not in the settings menu. Have you noticed the toggle, or lack of?


After a long weekend, it’s clear Apple’s software team has got a lot more right than wrong. There were other improvements like Genius playlists in iTunes Match, improved camera app in the iPad’s OS, and adding the “4G” indicator to the iPhone 4S on AT&T. None of which made any difference to my day-today use. However, I would like to see a permanent and absolute fix for the battery problems, not for my sake, but for everyone who still suffers with constant need to plug in their iPhones.

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  • Zebraunit

    I have an iPhone 4s. I’ve heard some rumors that it may be better to restore your iPhone as a means of updating to ios 5.1 rather than doing the update provided on the iPhone. Some have said that the battery issue if fixed better by doing it this way. Any input?

  • Eroc369

    Why would the 4s get a “4G” indicator in the status bar if it’s not truly running on the 4G network? It doesn’t have the 4G chipset

  • jzarob

    The 3G switch wasn’t in iOS 5 on the iPhone 4S. Is it gone for the iPhone 4, too?

  • jzarob

    Networks like AT&T and T-Mobile say that HSPA+ is 4G, when in reality it’s more like 3.5G. It’s faster, but not the same as LTE. According to AT&T, there is a difference between HSPA+ 4G, and LTE 4G, which is why on the iPad 3, “LTE” shows up in the cellular version’s status bar, not “4G”.  Hope that answered your question.