Trending: ‘It was awesome’: After Boeing’s 777X jet finishes its first flight, test pilots give the first review

Three white iPhone 5S handsets displaying iOS 7Apple dropped iOS 7.1, its first major update to the operating system that powers iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches everywhere today, and it’s a big one.

While support for CarPlay, Apple’s new system that allows people to use certain functions from their iPhone in a new car, has earned top billing in a lot of headlines, it requires that users buy new model cars that haven’t been released to consumers yet. So, while we wait for the first generation of CarPlay-ready vehicles, here are 5 more key new features from today’s update:

Siri is a better listener

siriAnyone who has tried to use Siri knows that while the virtual assistant is pretty good at picking out a user’s voice from background noise, it can have trouble figuring out when someone is done talking. I’ve definitely had experiences when it’ll ask me if I’m ready to send a text message I’m dictating while I’m in mid-sentence.

With today’s update, ensuring that Siri keeps listening is a lot easier. Like before, users hold down the home button on their device to invoke Siri. But, if they continue to hold down the home button while they’re talking, Siri will keep listening until they release the home button again. That way, users aren’t left with abridged messages.

For Touch ID users, Siri will now automatically unlock their iPhone if necessary while their finger is pressed down on the home button. That way, saying something like “Open Safari” will automatically open the app rather than ask users to unlock their phone first.

iPhone 5S users automatically get clearer photography

cameraWhile Apple has included High Dynamic Range (HDR) functionality in the built-in iOS Camera app for a while, today’s update brings some new functionality for shutterbugs using the iPhone 5S. HDR combines the results of multiple photographs at different exposure settings to create highly detailed photos, even in very bright or very dark environments.

In the past, users were required to turn HDR on and off manually, which was great for photographers who knew exactly what they wanted and how to get it, but harder on amateurs who didn’t know what the best uses for HDR might be, or even what it did in the first place.

Now, iPhone 5S users can set their phone up to automatically shoot in HDR. Like automatically using a flash, the iPhone’s camera software will automatically take a HDR picture if the situation calls for it, and will switch it off when that’s not necessary.

Creating new stations in iTunes Radio is smoother

One of Apple’s major additions to its music ecosystem last year was iTunes Radio, which brought everyone with an Apple ID the ability to create their own personalized digital radio stations similar to offerings from Pandora.

Now, it’s easier to create a station on the fly. Apple added a search box over the featured iTunes Radio stations that allows users to search for an artist, genre, album or song and create a station to listen to in a single tap.

Unfamiliar with iTunes Radio? Check out our review of streaming radio services here.

A new month view for Apple’s Calendar app

calendarIt’s no secret that Apple’s built-in Calendar app for iOS isn’t the greatest. But, for people who are interested in taking a broad view at what their month holds, Apple has added a new calendar view that allows users to tap on a day in a month and look at a list of all their appointments.

I’ve found that it’s great for trying to schedule something a few weeks in advance: month views in most mobile calendars will often show that I’m busy on a particular day, but not necessarily when I’m busy. With Apple’s new view, it’s fairly easy for me to figure out what my schedule looks like even if I’m a month away from whenever an event might be taking place.

Better accessibility

For users who have trouble with iOS 7’s motion-heavy animations, Apple has finally updated the settings app to replace all of the pans and zooms with gentle cross-fade animations. To turn it on, go to the Settings app, then toggle the switch on under General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion.

So, there you have it: 5 great features from Apple’s new update to iOS. Did I miss something new you can’t live without? Let me know in the comments.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


Job Listings on GeekWork

Find more jobs on GeekWork. Employers, post a job here.