iOS 6.1 Fixes Security Flaws, but Lacks Essential App Upgrades

NEWS ANALYSIS: The new release of Apple’s iOS provides some fixes and adds to 4G LTE capabilities. But it lacks badly needed improvements, such as a significant update to Maps.

Normally, when an operating system receives what is called a “dot” upgrade, it’s usually considered a fairly major product refresh, in contrast to a “dot dot” upgrade, which is usually reserved for minor fixes.

So the release of Apple’s iOS 6.1 could reliably be expected to be a major upgrade compared with say, iOS 6.0.1. This means there were likely a lot of Apple mobile device users who expected some big changes when Apple shipped iOS 6.1 on Jan. 28.

But they were fated to be disappointed. The upgrade to iOS 6.1 includes some improvements that some might consider important, but nothing that will make an obvious difference in the operating system's perceived performance or value. But perhaps that’s just the way Apple wants to do things.

Probably the most significant changes with Apple’s iOS 6.1 are a fairly long list of security fixes, mostly to Safari. There’s no question that these security upgrades are worth getting, but do they constitute an upgrade? With any other OS, this would be an automatic security fix and wouldn’t even be given a minor upgrade number. With Windows, this would be an average Patch Tuesday update.

In addition, Apple updated the number of carriers supported by 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) with some versions of the iPad and iPhone. New iPads especially got a vast selection of new carriers for data plans. The iPhone 5 likewise got a lot more LTE support for travelers. However it’s important to note that LTE iPads, whether they’re the third or fourth generation models, are unlocked, so travelers can put any SIM they wish into the device. But with third generation iPads, they might have to live with 3G rather than 4G.

There are other changes with iOS 6.1. Siri can now book movie tickets through Fandango. But that’s pretty much it as far as important application changes go. And despite rumors that the major upgrade of iOS 6 would fix Apple’s flawed Maps app, that didn’t happen.

I downloaded iOS 6.1 to my third generation iPad and checked to see if anything had been fixed from the last time I’d written about the problem with Maps. First stop, the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Last time the monument had moved to the banks of the Potomac. Now the iconic structure was back where it belonged.

Next stop, Boulder Dam near Las Vegas. There in the hybrid view the highway that in real life crosses a bridge downstream from the dam still plunged down the sheer canyon walls.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...