Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 5.1 | iLounge Article


Instant Expert: Secrets & Features of iOS 5.1

Earlier this week Apple released iOS 5.1 for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with little of the usual fanfare; uncharacteristically the update was mentioned only in passing at Apple’s iPad Event on Wednesday and no discussion or preview of its new features was provided beyond the introduction of Japanese support for Siri.

The actual release notes list several additional improvements although no significant new features—it seems that iOS 5.1 is focused primarily on fixing bugs and adding features and polish that arguably should have been in iOS 5.0 in the first place.

As with iOS 5.0.1, the new iOS 5.1 can be installed either over-the-air from Settings, General, Software Update or directly via iTunes. As with any update, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a recent backup to either iCloud or iTunes before starting—in fact it probably wouldn’t hurt to have both.

Siri in Japan

The major new feature—and the only one Apple felt was worth mentioning at its event—is the availability of Siri for Japanese users.


The feature is included in iOS 5.1, although Apple has noted that it may have limited availability during the initial rollout, presumably due to implementation requirements on Apple’s Siri servers.

Delete from Photo Stream

Hinted at during the early betas in December, the iOS 5.1 update now allows photos to be deleted directly from the Photo Stream on any iOS 5.1 device. Corresponding updates have been released to enable this feature for the Apple TV, iPhoto and the iCloud Control Panel for Windows; an Aperture update is not yet available but is hopefully coming soon.

Previously the only way to get an unwanted photo out of the Photo Stream was to “reset” (read: “delete”) the entire Photo Stream at and then subsequently toggle it off and back on from each of your devices to delete the locally-stored photos.

Although a very welcome change for Photo Stream users, the feature does come with a couple of important caveats. Firstly, photos will only be deleted on devices that are running the latest Photo Stream client software—iOS 5.1, Apple TV 5.0, iPhoto 9.2.2 or iCloud Control Panel 1.1 for Windows. Photo Stream will work as it did previously on devices and computers that have not yet been updated to these versions—not only will you not be able to delete photos from these devices, but deletions made on other devices will be ignored.


More significantly, only photos uploaded to Photo Stream using these latest software versions (e.g. iOS 5.1) will be deleted across devices. Older photos can still be deleted from the Photo Stream on the local device, but this deletion will not propagate to other devices. When deleting a photo from Photo Stream, iOS 5.1 will advise you as to whether the photo will be deleted from all devices or only the current device.

Although you can still delete a photo from each device individually, users with a lot of photos to clean out may find it easier to simply clear out their Photo Stream by resetting it at and start fresh.

Camera Button on Lock Screen (iPhone, iPod touch)

iOS 5.0 added a button hidden on the lock screen for the iPhone and iPod touch that could be used to quickly access the camera and take pictures without having to unlock the device. Users could double-tap the home button to display the camera button along with the standard music playback controls. Arguably, for many users double-tapping the home button was not much different from unlocking the device and accessing the camera normally, especially if you hadn’t set a passcode on your device. Further, many users didn’t know about this feature at all, or forgot about it all too easily.


With iOS 5.1 the camera button is now directly on the standard lock screen, eliminating the need for a double-tap of the home button to access it; instead, users slide the camera button upward to move the lock screen out of the way and display the camera. Users can return from the camera by sliding the lock screen back down into place from the top of the screen, or tap the home button to go directly to the home screen from here.

Other than the change in button behaviour, the feature works much as it did before; the camera works normally however users who have protected their device with a passcode will be limited to accessing only photos taken in the current session.

This feature obviously only applies to camera-equipped devices, so don’t expect to see it on the third-generation iPod touch. It is also not included on the iPad, likely because of its relative impracticality on the larger device.

iTunes Match Improvements

iOS 5.1 also makes several much-needed improvements to iTunes Match, both in terms of under-the-hood reliability and performance and new support for Apple’s Genius features.

Genius Playlists and Genius Mixes are now available via iTunes Match. Previously, the Genius options disappeared entirely after enabling iTunes Match and thereby replacing your locally-synced library. The Genius features seem a natural fit to having access to your entire iTunes library via iCloud, allowing for a much larger selection when creating Genius Playlists.


The feature works in the exact same way that it does for a locally synced music library, drawing songs from iCloud instead. As with other iTunes Match content, Genius Mixes stream by default but also provide an additional button in the top-left corner of the screen that can be used to download the entire mix for offline listening.


A Use Cellular Data option has been added to the iTunes Match options under Settings, Music, allowing users to disable iTunes Match streaming and downloading while away from a Wi-Fi network.

Internally, iTunes Match seems to have been somewhat improved in iOS 5.1. Performance when streaming tracks from the cloud has been improved slightly, although this will still of course be dependent on the speed and type of data connection you are using. Issues that persisted in iOS 5.0 with missing/skipping tracks appear to have been solved and the downloading and caching of album artwork appears to be much more consistent and reliable, although still somewhat sluggish in updating at times.

Some of these changes are likely attributable to the iTunes 10.6 update as well, so users having problems with large iTunes Match libraries will want to ensure that they have updated both iOS and iTunes.

Note that it may be necessary to disable and re-enable iTunes Match on your iOS device(s) in order to refresh the local library—we found that many of the performance and stability improvements in iTunes 10.6 and iOS 5.1 did not appear until we had basically reloaded the iTunes Match library on our devices. Some tagging and metadata issues also still seem to persist with iTunes Match after this update, with problems such as inexplicable duplicate album entries and inconsistent updating of play counts and last played dates. The improvements in 5.1 bring iTunes Match to the point of being usable, but there’s clearly still more work to be done.

Improved Location Services Indicators

Apple has made a couple of small improvements to location services indicators in the Settings, Location Services screen that should help provide users with clearer information about exactly which apps and services are using location and when and how they are using it. Up until iOS 5.0.1, only a single type of indicator was available that simply indicated apps that had accessed the user’s location in the past 24 hours, often making it difficult to track down apps that were still currently tracking location data.


iOS 5.0.1 introduced a separate indicator to differentiate apps currently using location, which are now displayed with a purple location services icon beside the app. iOS 5.1 expands this with a new outlined location services icon to indicate which apps are registered for geofencing. Apps that use geofencing generally have a lesser impact on battery life. Further, geofencing apps tend to be slightly more innocuous from a privacy point of view as they have simply registered with an iOS process to be notified when you cross a certain virtual boundary (i.e. arriving at or leaving a location) as opposed to actively tracking your movements.


The status bar will also display the outlined geofencing indicator instead of the standard indicator if only geofencing apps such as Reminders are using location services.

Redesigned Camera app for iPad

On the iPad, iOS 5.1 now includes a redesigned camera app, notably placing the capture button on the right side of the screen to better reflect how users are likely to hold the iPad when using the camera.


Camera Face Detection

The Face Detection feature in the Camera app will now highlight all detected faces.

Podcast controls on iPad

For podcasts, the iPad now gains the playback speed and skip-back controls that have been available on the iPhone and iPod touch since iOS 3.0.


Audio Improvements for iPad Video Playback

Movies and TV Shows played on the iPad now sound noticeably better with iOS 5.1 than they did in the past. The increased volume definitely helps for watching video content on the iPad at a reasonable distance.

AT&T 4G Indicator

AT&T customers will notice that as of iOS 5.1 a “4G’ indicator is now displayed on their device. It is unclear under what conditions this appears in place of the standard “3G” indicator, but to be clear this is definitely not an indication that the iPhone 4S has suddenly acquired LTE capabilities. It seems likely this is being used to indicate the presence of an HSPA+ network, however the indicator is exclusive to AT&T; iPhone users on HSPA+ networks in other countries will still see the standard 3G indicator, even if they’re on a network with equivalent—or better—performance.


Note that the new iPad appears to use an “LTE” indicator when connected to an actual LTE network, suggesting that a future LTE-capable iPhone may use a similar designation to avoid confusion now that AT&T has usurped the “4G” indicator.

Battery Life Issues

While iOS 5.1 promises improved battery life, the actual practical results from the experiences of our own team have been mixed, suggesting that external factors such as cellular network conditions may still be having some effect.

It is also unclear whether battery life issues may be a holdover from iOS 5.0.x configurations and additional steps such as a restore may be required to actually see any improvement with iOS 5.1.


Despite a few relatively minor “feature” additions, iOS 5.1 is really just the quintessential maintenance release designed to address problems and limitations in the original iOS 5.0. Larger changes such as the ability to now delete photos from Photo Stream are features that clearly should have been in iOS 5.0, and perhaps were even supposed to be there but simply missed the deadline. Similarly, iTunes Match has evolved from being a virtually unusable mess for many users in iOS 5.0 to a relatively stable feature.

The bottom line is that iOS 5.1 is basically what iOS 5.0 should have been in the first place. Even if it doesn’t fix every problem, it’s definitely an improvement and worth the update.



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Hooray for podcast controls. I could be wrong, but I think the iPad had those controls prior to 5.0. Getting them back will be very welcome.

Posted by Rob E. in Toronto on March 9, 2012 at 2:02 PM (CST)


One thing 5.1 fixed for me was incorrect meta data on mp3’s. What happened before 5.1 on my 4S was, I changed an artist or genre on an mp3 that was on my phone using itunes while my phone was connected (I manually manage music) and when I’d disconnect the phone from the PC the changes I made were NOT noticeable when navigating music on my phone! I would reconnect my phone to the PC and clearly see the CORRECT meta data on my phone mp3’s, however when my phone is not connected to the PC it showed the old INCORRECT data. It appears there are at least 2 databases of meta data and the incorrect one was being used on my phone! My girlfriend had the same issue on her 4S also. Well, thankfully with 5.1 this issue is now resolved.

Posted by yoos in Toronto on March 13, 2012 at 11:46 AM (CDT)


The Music app on the iPad is more stable with 5.1, but still a disgrace from a UI standpoint:

No lyrics; No Compilations menu; Can’t shuffle all songs by an artist without major workarounds; No indication of what track number of total tracks is playing; The speaker icon that indicates which track is playing comes and goes at random; I’ve given up that Apple will ever support SPL Live Updating on the device like they used to.

Posted by rockmyplimsoul in Toronto on March 15, 2012 at 5:08 PM (CDT)


My Camera LED has started to flash on incoming calls and messages since the update.

Has anyone else noticed this? Is there any way to switch it off?

Posted by shakini in Toronto on March 16, 2012 at 6:00 AM (CDT)


@4: Check Settings/ General/ Accessibility/ LED Flash for Alerts

Posted by rockmyplimsoul in Toronto on March 16, 2012 at 11:04 AM (CDT)


@3: The real joke of the no SPL updating on devices in terms of Apple’s recent hype machine is that, so long as this remains true, the promise of a post-PC world is empty spin. The current iPad and iPhone are considerably more powerful with more RAM than many computers were in the early days of the iPod and iTunes, yet Apple can’t be arsed to do something as common sense as simply meet the capabilities of the iTunes application on iOS devices.

Posted by Code Monkey in Toronto on March 16, 2012 at 11:06 AM (CDT)


@rockmyplimsoul (#3) & Code Monkey (#6): Sadly, certain deficiencies aren’t even worth writing about any more as it’s become clear that Apple has no intention of fixing them.

SPL’s very theoretically work now with iTunes Match, but since metadata doesn’t update reliably in the cloud, they’re broken for that reason.  Further, if you’ve enabled iTunes Match, you may notice that there are certain types of criteria that will exclude an SPL from iTunes Match entirely—a big one being “In playlist.”

Also, FWIW lyrics seem to be fine for content synced from iTunes in the old fashioned way, but are not available with iTunes Match.  My guess is that iTunes simply doesn’t include them in the cloud in the first place, so there’s nothing there for the iOS device to pull in.  You’ll notice them missing from secondary iTunes libraries when imported via iTunes Match as well.

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on March 16, 2012 at 1:01 PM (CDT)


iTunes Match improvements? Really? Even in iOS 5.1, the Music app on both the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 still hangs up if the next track is one that isn’t already downloaded from the “Cloud.” I’ve also had the Music app on the iPad crash a couple of times while trying to access iTunes Match.

And the ordering of playlists and songs on these devices is still a mess that in no way resembles that which is on my Mac (running iTunes 10.6).

I continue to be unimpressed with iTunes Match and am closer to disabling it until it comes out of what appears to still be Beta-testing.

Posted by Farnsworth in Toronto on March 16, 2012 at 1:54 PM (CDT)


I believe due to these bug fixes and no major or redesign of the new iPad, hence Apple decided just to called is the new iPad. Meaning its just like the old one (iPad 2)

Posted by Oheneba Quame in Toronto on March 18, 2012 at 7:54 AM (CDT)


ois 5.1 cant use my viber on ipad 2 wifi now and multitasking gestures and side switch mute and rotatios are not working at the same time anymore.:( why?

Posted by luzbert in Toronto on March 18, 2012 at 9:39 PM (CDT)


why won’t my iphone with iOS 5.1.1 interface my emails with my 2012 BMW 528i connectdrive?

Posted by guy pedicone in Toronto on May 21, 2012 at 12:58 PM (CDT)


Hey I upgraded to 5.1.1 but still unable to figure out how to enable the Face detection on my iPhone 4. Is it a feature limited to iPhone 4S?

Posted by Sanju in Toronto on May 30, 2012 at 6:32 PM (CDT)

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