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Three white iPhone 5S handsets displaying iOS 7After months of speculation and rumor, Apple has finally launched iOS 7.1, the first major update to its mobile operating system since the company launched iOS 7 in September of last year.

For users who have been frustrated by a couple of persistent bugs, the update brings major fixes and is supposed to rectify the so-called “black screen of death” crashes that have been plaguing devices since iOS 7 launched by displaying a black or white screen with an Apple logo while a user was in middle of doing something else. iPhone 5S owners will also see improvements to Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint reading software, which has frustrated some users with its lack of reliability.

The fixes come just a few weeks after Apple released iOS 7.0.6 to fix a critical SSL vulnerability in the iPhone’s code that would allow an attacker to snoop on activity that a user could think was secure.

The update also adds a ton of new features, including support for CarPlay, Apple’s system for allowing users to link their iOS devices with certain new car models. Users of iTunes Radio will have an easier time creating and managing stations on the go with the new update, since Apple added a search box to allow people to easily create and search through stations for their favorite music.

Siri is getting some significant improvements, with more natural sounding voices for its Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, UK English and Australian English versions. Users will also be able to tell Siri when they’re done speaking by holding down their device’s home button while talking, and then releasing it once they’ve finished talking. That change should make it easier for users to take advantage of Siri’s capabilities in crowded rooms.

IMG_1419It’s a fairly hefty update for both my iPhone 5S and my 4th generation iPad, clocking in at over 200 megabytes for each device. That means it’s going to take a little while for the update to install — my iPad took about 15 minutes to finish installing —so users expecting an important call on their iPhone might not want to update until after they’re off the phone.

Users can download and install the update for the iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches by opening the Settings app, and then going to General > Software Update. For those who don’t want to update over the air, they can connect their iOS device to their computer, and select “Check for Updates” in iTunes.

As always, there’s a chance that something could go sideways when updating an iOS device, so make sure that it’s backed up before pressing the update button.

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