iOS 8.1 available to download now: What's new?

iOS 8.1 is finally available to download for free. Here we run through what the latest version of the mobile OS has to offer

Apple used its iPad Air 2 launch to confirm the final version of iOS 8.1 will be released to iPad and iPhone users on Monday 20 October, and now that day has been and gone we take a look at the new features it has to offer. 

The update is designed to build on the mobile operating system Apple introduced with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

iOS 8 was released in September and was warmly received, until a couple of concurrent bugs emerged, resulting in people losing signal and rendering the Touch ID biometric fingerprint scanner useless. 

Apple sought to resolve these via a series of minor updates, but has now pushed out iOS 8.1 to enhance the functionality of the operating system.

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The iOS update was officially released yesterday as an over-the-air update or through iTunes.

As is tradition whenever a new Apple mobile operating system drops - some users reported problems while trying to download and install it.

Most of the problems seem to stem from the sheer number of people rushing to download the update all at the same time, with many encountering download delays and interruptions. 

Even so, there's no denying that iOS 8 has a lot to offer iPhone and iPad users, as our list of some if its main new features and bug fixes below shows.

Before we start our run through, it's worth remembering that iOS 8.1 is only compatible with the iPhone 4S and higher, the iPad 2 and later, as well as fifth generation iPod Touch devices and above. 

Apple Pay

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While Apple Pay - the firm's NFC payment system - is only available to US iPhone and iPad users at the moment, the iOS 8.1 update makes it possible for iPad and iPhone users to pay for goods and services using their devices.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both contain an NFC chip allowing users to pay for items in stores by tapping their devices against a compatible point-of-sale sensor, while Touch ID allows them to verify the payment.

iPhones and iPads without NFC technology can still be used to pay for products online using Apple Pay, as the firm has partnered with more than 200,000 US retailers to make this possible.

SMS Continuity with Yosemite

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One of the standout features of Apple's reworked desktop operating system OS X Yosemite was Continuity, which allows iPhone and iPad users to open documents stored on their smartphone or tablet remotely from a Mac and take calls. 

With the launch of iOS 8.1 this functionality has been extended to SMS text messages. So Mac users can now read text messages from their friends, family and work colleagues sent to their smartphones on the Apple laptop or desktop.

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Connectvity improvements

In the release notes for iOS 8.1, Apple claims to have resolved some unspecified Wi-Fi performance issues, as well as another pertaining to problems users have experienced while trying to pair their devices to others via Bluetooth.

Further to this, users now have the option to switch between 2G, 3G or 4G networks when downloading mobile data.

Photos and video enhancements

As discussed at the iPad Air 2 launch last week, iOS 8.1 introduces the iCloud Photo Library as a beta service. 

This offering will sync and store any photos and videos users capture on their iPad or iPhone in iCloud, which should - one assumes - free up space on their devices. 

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The iOS update also introduces a feature that will alert users when space on their devices is running low before they embark on Time Lapse videos, and also fixes an issue that sometimes prevented videos from playing in Safari. 

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