Apple has announced the imminent release of the iOS 8.1 update during its October press event devoted to the new iPad Air 2 and new Mac hardware earlier today. The update aims to fix all of the complaints with the first three iOS8 updates and will be the first update that will take user feedback into account for future updates and fixes, as well as being the first of three major updates planned for this version of the operating system.
To begin, Apple will bring back the “Camera Roll” album in iOS 8 with 8.1 to help users find their recently taken snapshots after weeks of complaints centering on its removal from the first iOS 8 update. The update will also include a new service in iCloud Photo Library, which will offer users the option of either backing up their photos to iCloud or using the service as primary storage to free up storage on devices, only downloading photos when necessary. The service will debut as a beta on iOS 8.1 powered devices.
iOS 8.1 will also mark the formal launch of Apple Pay, the payment system Apple announced to great fanfare when it unveiled the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in September. The new iPhones can store credit card data locally in the “Secure Element,” which also contains a Device Account Number unique to each phone. Stored cards can then be used to make purchases by using TouchID to authenticate and the built-in NFC radio to transmit the data. The Device Account Number and randomly generated per-transaction codes are used in place of credit card numbers, which aren’t exposed to retailers or to Apple.
App developers can also integrate Apple Pay into their apps to be used instead of credit card numbers when users make in-app purchases. Apple has also confirmed that Apple Pay will launch on Monday, October 20th with an expanded support network of more than 500 bank-issued cards across 220,000 locations operated by dozens of retailers. As Apple Pay requires hardware unique to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, it is only compatible with those phones and users with older iPhones will only be able to use Apple Pay in a more limited fashion when their devices are paired with an Apple Watch, which won’t be available until early 2015.
iOS 8.1 also includes support for SMS Handoff, one of several features related to the Continuity functionality Apple first mentioned during WWDC in June. When enabled on an iPhone, other iOS 8.1 devices and Macs running the just released OS X Yosemite will be able to receive and respond to standard text messages as well as iMessages. SMS Handoff also has no hardware requirements, unlike many of the other Continuity cross-device features.
iOS 8.1 is also meant to improve stability and fix various bugs in the operating system as users and developers have reported everything from Wi-Fi connectivity problems to issues with the new HealthKit and HomeKit frameworks since iOS 8 was released and minor updates were pushed out to correct those issues since then, only to suffer more problems as a result of the updates and the main reason for the integration of a user feedback mechanism in the latest update.
iOS 8.1 will be available through iTunes and as an over-the-air update for all devices that can run iOS 8: the iPhone 4S, 5, 5C, 5S, 6, and 6 Plus; all iPads aside from the first-generation model; the fifth-generation iPod Touch; and the third-generation Apple TV. The update will be available on Monday and will ship with the newest iPad tablets in the iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air 2.