Apple yesterday laid out its plans for the next two upgrades of iOS, the mobile operating system that powers its iPhone and iPad, slating the first for release in a few days.
iOS 4.1 will ship sometime next week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during an hour-plus introduction of a refreshed iPod lineup and a slimmer and less-expensive Apple TV. The upgrade will be available for iPhones and iPod Touches, but not for the company's iPad.
Tablet owners will have to wait until November, when Jobs said Apple will ship iOS 4.2. Jobs promised that iOS 4.1 would fix some of the bugs that have been extensively reported and discussed on Apple's support forum since the launch two months ago of iOS 4.
"First of all, a lot of bugs have been fixed," said Jobs on Wednesday. "Proximity sensor bugs, Bluetooth bugs, iPhone 3G performance bugs. All the bugs that we've been nailed on. We think we've nailed a lot of them."
What Jobs didn't say was whether iOS 4.1 would address all the flaws customers have complained about, an omission that some noticed. On one iPhone support forum thread, someone identified as "mistabell" claimed to have the 4.1 Gold Master (GM) in hand -- GM is the term used to describe the last test release to developers before calling the update good to go -- and said that not all of the proximity sensor bugs have been fixed.
"I don't think the GM that went out today with the announcement fixes the problem all the way," said mistabell yesterday. "At least not for everyone under every condition."
According to a thread started two days after the June 21 launch of iOS 4, customers have reported that the iPhone's proximity sensor wasn't properly deactivating the touchscreen when the smartphone was held up to their faces, causing dropped calls, muted calls and "face-dialed" numbers.
Users have also flooded the support forum with gripes about getting and keeping Bluetooth devices, such as in-ear headsets, connected with the iPhone, and even more prominently, complained about a dramatic performance hit on older iPhones, especially 2008's iPhone 3G, after upgrading to iOS 4.
"Users who have diligently updated their OS as per Apple's request are now screwed, as you cannot go back without a jail break," said Computerworld reader Richard Ruda in an e-mail last month. "So there are thousands of people out there with phones that are very slow, do not load apps at times, and have to be reset daily."
Jobs also spelled out the new features in iOS 4.1 that will let users upload high-definition (HD) video over Wi-Fi, rent TV programs and begin using Apple's Game Center multi-player online network.
But most of his time was spent showing off a new feature he called HDR, for "high dynamic range," that processes three exposures of each snapped photo -- one taken with the normal automatic exposure, two others taken simultaneously as under- and over-exposed -- to produce more detail in over- and under-exposed areas of a photograph.
"For some photos, it's pretty great," Jobs said. Another feature in iOS 4.1 adds the Ping social network to the iPhone and iPod Touch versions of iTunes, allowing users to connect with friends and artists to discuss music, track upcoming concerts and recommend tunes.
Although iOS 4.1 will be available for the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4, as well as for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 iPod Touches, Apple hasn't defined which features may not work on older hardware. (iOS 4, for example, doesn't offer multitasking on the two-year-old iPhone 3G.) The upgrade will be a free download via iTunes.
Two months from now, Apple will follow with iOS 4.2, which Jobs said was "all about the iPad". The iPad has been stuck on iOS 3.2 since its April launch -- it was bypassed in June's iOS 4 upgrade -- and Apple had promised to deliver an update to the tablet's OS at some point this fall.
iOS 4.2 will add wireless printing to Apple's mobile devices, as well as AirPlay, a new name for the AirTunes Wi-Fi streaming technology.
AirPlay will let iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads stream content - pages from an iPad's browser, for example - to the Apple TV, and thus to the TV screen. Apple also licenses the technology to a small number of speaker and audio receiver makers, including Denon, Bowers & Wilkins, Marantz and JBL, to give customers a way to push content to external audio hardware via Wi-Fi.
The November update will be available for some iPhone and iPod Touch models, as well as for all iPads. The latter will then also receive all the new features that iPhone and iPod Touch owners get next week.