Apple released its iOS 4.1 update for mobile devices Sept. 8. In addition to fixing a handful of software bugs, the upgrade bakes the company's new Game Center, iTunes TV show rentals and Ping social networking service into the iPhone and the second-, third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch.
The update preserves standard-issue iOS 4 features such as multitasking, the iBooks e-reader, app folders and the ability to change home-screen wallpaper. Bug fixes include a proximity sensor issue and Bluetooth connectivity. For iPhone 3G users running iOS 4, performance should now be faster.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs, unveiling the additions during his company's Sept. 1 event in San Francisco, focused especially on the iOS 4.1's multiplayer-centric Game Center, which will compete against not only Nintendo's and Sony's portable game systems, but also the upcoming Windows Phone 7's "Games" Hub. He also highlighted the update's 99-cent TV show rentals and high-dynamic range (HDR) photography, the latter of which merges multiple exposures into a better-quality image.
Jobs claimed some 120 million devices currently run iOS, with 230,000 new iOS activations per day. Apple's iTunes service claims 160 million registered users, a potentially huge base for its Ping social networking service, which allows members to swap information about their favorite artists, songs and albums.
Apple plans on following the iOS 4.1 update with iOS 4.2 for the iPad, which will offer wireless printing in addition to features such as stronger security, Game Center and device-management capabilities.
During the Sept. 1 event, Jobs introduced a revamped iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle and iPod Nano. The newest-generation iPod Touch-which he jokingly referred to as an iPhone "without a phone"-now features the company's FaceTime video-conferencing application, along with a high-resolution Retina Display and HD video recording; the 8GB version will retail for $229, the 32GB for $299 and the 64GB for $399.
Those hardware and software updates to its product line position Apple for even greater competition against its rivals in the mobile space, including Google and Microsoft. Google is reportedly finalizing plans for a homegrown music platform that would challenge iTunes, and its Android smartphone platform continues to swallow an ever-larger piece of the smartphone market-share pie.
For its part, Microsoft is prepping to launch Windows Phone 7, a total revamp of its smartphone franchise, by the end of 2010. Apple's iOS 4.2 update could also lessen any competitive differentiators between the iPad and the Windows 7 tablets rumored to be forthcoming.