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Apple releases iOS 4.1 into the wild

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Apple has released iOS 4.1, which Steve Jobs outlined in his presentation one week ago, during which he also introduced Cupertino's new iPods, revamped Apple TV, and iTunes-based music sales social networking effort, Ping.

Although the update can be installed on the iPhone 4, 3GS, and 3G, plus the iPod touch second-generation or later, one marquee feature — Game Center — isn't available to iPhone 3G users.

Game Center, according to Apple, "lets you expand your social gaming network. Exponentially." The service is accessed from a home-screen icon, and lets you choose someone with whom to play a multiplayer game, or let the service match you up with a stranger somewhere in the iOS 4.1 universe.

Leaderboards and achievements are also offered, both in the Game Center itself and in individual games. Although Apple has said that in-app game purchases will be possible in Game Center, tapping the Find Game Center Games button currently only takes you to the service's promo page on Apple's website.

Also available in iOS 4.1 are two iPhone 4–only upgrades: high dynamic range imaging, which melds photos shot at different exposures in an attempt to improve image quality, and the ability to upload HD videos to YouTube and Apple's cloudy MobileMe service. As might be expected, the HD video–upload capability is offered only over Wi-Fi.

Apple also claims that iOS 4.1 fixes the iPhone 4's pesky proximity-sensor problems, improves Bluetooth capability, and boosts iPhone 3G performance. There are also unspecified fixes to the Nike+iPod runners' service.

Other iOS 4.1 enhancements include the support for TV-show rentals on iTunes, additional support for AVRCP (audio/video remote control profile) Bluetooth accessories, and the ability to launch FaceTime video-conferencing sessions directly from Favorites — a feature, of course, that's only available to Apple's two FaceTime-enabled handhelds, the iPhone 4 and new iPod touch.

For our iPhone 3GS, the upgrade was a hefty 382.1MB, and installed without a hitch. Apple's Software Update notification says that "feature descriptions and complete instructions" for the iOS 4.1 update for the iPhone and iPod touch are available for download, but as of 11:15am Pacific Daylight Time, only the iPod touch manual had been updated to iOS 4.1. ®

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