Apple makes good on CEO's promise to expand iPhone 5's 4G carriers

iOS 6.1 patches 27 bugs, adds 36 LTE providers in U.S., Europe, Middle East

iOS 6.1 patches more than two-dozen security vulnerabilities and adds three-dozen LTE carriers to the supported list for the iPhone 5. Apple today released iOS 6.1, the first major update for the mobile operating system since its September 2012 launch, patching 27 security vulnerabilities and adding three dozen LTE carriers to the iPhone 5's support list.

At the top of Apple's list of improvements was an expansion of the LTE networks compatible with the iPhone 5, a move announced last week by CEO Tim Cook during a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts.

"Next week, we are adding 36 more carriers for LTE support," Cook said Jan. 23. "And these carriers will be in countries that were currently not supporting LTE."

Among the iPhone 5 markets where customers now can connect to an LTE carrier are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and South Africa.

iOS 6.1 also added carriers in countries already served by LTE. In the U.S., for example, the update expanded the list from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to add Alaska Communications, Bluegrass Cellular and Pioneer Cellular.

A complete list of all iOS 6.1-supported LTE carriers can be found on Apple's website.

Other enhancements in iOS 6.1, according to Apple's typically terse note, included Fandango movie ticket purchases using Siri (U.S. only) and individual track downloads from iCloud for iTunes Match subscribers.

iTunes Match is the $25-per-year service launched in November 2011 that acts like a music storage locker in the sky, storing tracks purchased via iTunes or ripped from CDs in iCloud, then making the library available on all of a user's iOS, OS X and Windows devices.

Prior to today's update, iTunes Match automatically downloaded all tracks in an album, making it difficult to grab just a single tune to place, say, on a storage space-strapped iPhone.

iOS 6.1 also included patches for 27 security vulnerabilities, most of them labeled with the phrase "arbitrary code execution," Apple's way of saying they are critical.

Of the 27 total, 22 were in WebKit, the browser engine that powers Safari in iOS and OS X, as well as Google's Chrome. Not surprisingly, most were reported to the WebKit open-source project, and from that to Apple, by Google security engineers.

Eleven of the WebKit bugs were uncovered by the prolific Abhishek Arya, a Google engineer who goes by the nickname "Inferno."

The update also revoked several digital certificates improperly issued in mid-2011 by TurkTrust, a Turkish "certificate authority," or CA. While Google, Microsoft and Mozilla had previously revoked those same certificates, this was Apple's first move. It has yet to update Safari for OS X to do the same.

Today's update was the third for iOS 6, although the first two were minor refreshes that either fixed a handful of security flaws (November's iOS 6.0.1) or addressed a single issue ( December's iOS 6.0.2).

Owners of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5; iPad 2, third- and fourth-generation iPad, and iPad Mini; and iPod Touch fourth-generation and later can retrieve 6.1 over the air by tapping the "Settings" icon, then the "General" tab, and finally "Software Update."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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