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iOS Upgrade Slides In, Jailbreakers Bust Out

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 9, 2010 8:43 AM PT

As promised last week, Apple delivered the first major upgrade of its mobile operating system, version 4.1 of iOS, and true to form, hackers found a way to jailbreak the software less than 24 hours following its official release.

iOS Upgrade Slides In, Jailbreakers Bust Out

The major fun features of iOS 4.1 were revealed last week when Apple rolled out its latest line of iPods. Those features include:

  • Ability to automatically create high dynamic range (HDR) photos. HDR is a technique for adding detail to images by melding multiple shots taken at different exposures.
  • Addition of Apple's Game Center, which allows the owners of the iPhone 3GS and 4 and the second, third and fourth generation iPod touch to play multiplayer games on those devices. The feature was originally announced with the introduction of iOS 4.0, but Apple hasn't been able to deliver it to the iPhone until now.
  • Access to FaceTime, Apple's video chat feature, to be accessed from the "favorites" tab.
  • Access to Apple's social network for music lovers, Ping.
  • Uploads of HD movies to Apple's MobileMe and YouTube.
  • Rental of commercial-free TV shows from Apple's iTunes store for 99 US cents.

Better Bluetooth

The upgrade, which is available free from the iTunes store, also addressed some defects in the previous release of the operating system. One of those corrections improves the iPhone's interaction with Bluetooth devices.

It has added support for the AVRCP Bluetooth profile. "Historically, Apple has not impressed me with its adoption of state-of-the-art Bluetooth, but this is a nice little addition," Mobile Devices Analyst Michael Morgan of ABI Research told MacNewsWorld. It allows an iOS 4.1 device to be controlled directly from a Bluetooth device.

The upgrade also fixes a problem with the proximity sensors in iOS devices. The sensors shut off the screen on an iPhone when it's placed close to a operator's face for talking or placed in a pocket when not in use. Some users had reported to Apple that the sensors were causing a range of problems from hanging up the phone in the middle of calls and inadvertent three-way calls to accidental launching of FaceTime calls and muting of calls.

Owners of the iPhone 3G should see a performance boost with this version of iOS. Release 4.0 was painfully slow on the 3G, according to some users. "iOS 4.0 was so slow on our 3G, we promptly downgraded after updating," Adam Dachis wrote at Lifehacker, where he conducted an informal speed test between 4.0 and 4.1.

Glitches in the Nike+iPod sports kit were also addressed in 4.1. Nike+ running shoes have a pocket for a sensor that sends information about a run to an iOS device.

Flaws Closed, Jailbreak Opened

A number of security issues were also addressed in the upgrade. Most of them addressed flaws in WebKit, the browser engine used by Apple's Safari software, that could lead to execution of malicious code by the operating system. "That's a fairly serious attack, so it's good that they've patched up all these holes," Richard Wang, manager of Sophos Labs U.S., told MacNewsWorld.

Apple's security focus on WebKit is good idea, he noted. "Most attacks on pretty much any platform now are going to be delivered through websites in one way of another because that's how people interact with a lot of the world around them," he explained.

In addition to the WebKit fixes, Apple also fixed a flaw that could be exploited to redirect FaceTime calls without authorization and bugs in the handling of TIFF and GIF image files that could result in the unexpected termination of applications or the arbitrary execution of computer code.

When iOS 4.1 was announced, some hacker groups, including the master jailbreakers of the iPhone Dev-Team, recommended users not upgrade to the new system because it prevented jailbreaking iPhones. Jailbreaking allows software not approved by Apple to run on the phones.

Yet less than 24 hours after 4.1 was released, it was reported that a Dev-Team member, pod2g, had found a way to jailbreak the software. Moreover, the hack attacks such a low level of the operating system that the only way to block it may require significant hardware changes.

However, the Dev-Team acknowledged that its exploit needs some fine tuning. Until the kinks have been ironed out, it recommends that would-be jailbreakers forgo upgrading their iPhones.

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