Apple extends LTE support with iOS 6.1
A further 36 cellcos can activate 4G on iPhones, while the update offers some clues to future cloud strategies
Published: 29 January, 2013
Apple has updated key services like Siri and iTunes, and extended support to more LTE operators by releasing the latest version of its mobile platform, iOS 6.1. Although there have been five beta releases, this is the first major iOS upgrade since September.
The most striking element of a pedestrian update is support for 36 further LTE networks round the world - Apple has highlighted its peculiarly powerful position in relation to operators by only allowing the 4G iPhone to be activated on certain LTE networks which have passed its tests. This is perhaps to avoid the kind of disappointed expectations that accompanied early iPhone 3G launches, by ensuring the devices work efficiently with the LTE systems and that there is sufficient capacity and coverage.
But the policy has angered some operators and further restricted the reach of the iPhone on LTE services - already limited by Apple's selective choice of 4G frequency bands. The latest OS update allows 36 more iPhone carriers, and 23 more iPad providers, to support LTE. The products which can run on LTE are the iPhone 5, iPad mini and the newest cellular version of the full-sized iPad.
Some apparently minor additions to iOS 6 are also interesting as they show the way Apple is increasingly knitting different applications together to create a seamless user experience, and expanding its use of the cloud. For instance, a new feature lets customers buy movie tickets from Fandango after looking up showtimes using Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant which, for all its faults, is now a foundation stone of Apple's platform.
Other tweaks include the return of the option for iTunes Match subscribers to download individual songs from iCloud (which had previously been removed); the option to reset the advertising device identifier feature introduced in iOS 6; some minor changes to Safari; reworked music playback controls from the lock screen; and a back end change to iOS Maps. Several bugs in iOS 6.0.2, issued in December, were also addressed, including one that prevented iPhone 5 users from installing over-the-air software updates.
Apple has also launched a new iPad which doubles the storage capacity of the top end model to 128Gbytes, in a clear response to the upcoming debut of Windows 8 Pro tablets geared to the enterprise. The high capacity model takes the iPad into a new price range - $799 with Wi-Fi only or $929 with cellular connectivity - mainly of interest to corporations which might replace high end notebooks with tablets, or consider the new device as an alternative to an ultrabook or Windows slate. The other features of the tablet are identical to those of the 64Gbytes version, but the change highlights how Apple is gradually diversifying its portfolio to address different user profiles and price points.