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Apple releases iOS 10.1 – here’s what’s new, what’s fixed, and whether you need it

Apple has released its first iterative updated to iOS 10. Version 10.1 is now available to all users with an iPhone 5 and later, iPod Touch (6th generation), iPad Air or later, iPad Mini 2 or later, and the iPad Pro range.

Users will need some free space to upgrade, which varies depending on the device. It ranges from around 2GB for the iPod Touch, to 2.4GB for the iPhone 7 Plus and about 2.2GB for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

What’s new

The big feature added to iOS 10.1 is Portrait Mode. The feature was announced at Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement event in September, with a release expected shortly after the release of the new devices.

An example of the iOS 10.1 Portrait Mode

An example of the iOS 10.1 Portrait Mode

Unfortunately this feature is only available to users with an iPhone 7 Plus device as the camera mode uses the device’s dual camera to create a depth of field to images. This bokeh effect works best with individual subjects, bringing them to the forefront of the images in an effect similar to what can be achieved with more higher-end DSLR cameras.

The feature has been present in developer and public betas of iOS 10.1 – check out some of the results and initial reactions here.

It certainly feels as though the feature has been improved over the course of the betas. When it first featured, it would only achieve good results if it featured a human subject in plenty of light. However, even low-light shots of inanimate objects produce good results now.

An example of the new depth of field effect still working well with lower light and non-human subjects

An example of the new depth of field effect still working well with lower light and non-human subjects

The feature can be accessed in the Camera app. Simply swipe to the left on the viewfinder to select ‘Portrait’. It will give you instructions on whether more light is needed, or if you need to mover closer or further away.

The mode also saves a regular shot so you’ll still have the image even if the blurring effect doesn’t come out as desired.

It’s also worth noting that there are apps on the App Store that can provide a similar effect for users on other devices. One of the latest is FabFocus [$1.99 / £1.49]. It’s not the first to allow you to manipulate your photos to create a depth of field, but it’s one of the latest to do so automatically, just like Portrait Mode. It’s not quite as accurate, but unlike Apple’s tool, edits can be made and it’s certainly worth checking out if you’re on an unsupported device.

iMessage tweaks

Elsewhere, Apple has tweaked the new iMessage updates. First, it’s now possible to turn on the Reduce Motion feature (which removes parallax animations and other animated features in iOS’ design), yet still retain the ability to send, receive and view iMessage effects.

Previously, the setting would remove this ability, but now if you go to Settings > Accessibility > Reduce Motion, you’ll see a new toggle called ‘Auto-play Message Effects’ which will retain their motion.

Elsewhere, the App Drawer has also been tweaked so that installed extensions are scrollable, rather than having to swipe through pages of apps.

That’s pretty much it for the major new features. However, if you’re based in Japan, then transit directions have also been added to Apple Maps.

Bug fixes

As usual, these updates are also used to fix a bunch of bugs and patch any security holes. As noted with Portrait Mode, many things just seem to work that little bit more smoothly. Another area we’ve seen work a little better is Rich Notifications.

These could be pretty laggy, but now when deep pressing on received notifications, any interactive functionality is solid.

So, is iOS 10.1 an essential update? Apple advises users to always download its iOS updates, but in terms of new features, unless you’re on an iPhone 7 Plus it’s far from essential and many users won’t wish to spend time freeing up the space for the update. However, it’s up to the user if they wish to take a risk on not installing the security-tested update.

iOS 10.1 is available now as an Over-the-Air update, meaning it can be installed wirelessly over Wi-Fi. If you don’t have automatic updates turned on, go to Settings > General > Software Update and follow the instructions to install.