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Apple takes steps to fix major bugs in software

SAN FRANCISCO – For years, Apple’s winning strategy for selling iPhones and Macintosh computers has been offering exclusive, high-quality software as a lure to reel people into buying its hardware.

But the quality of its software started to slip last year, when the latest versions of the iPhone and Mac operating systems both shipped with major bugs. To avoid a repeat debacle, Apple at its annual software conference Monday introduced upgrades for mobile and other computer systems with a strong focus on fixing things under the hood, such as stability, performance and battery life.

For the first time, Apple showed the results of several other acquisitions it made in 2013 that were related to mapping. Apple announced it had added features that had long been missing from its maps app: public transportation directions. The changes will allow Apple to take a few steps toward catching up with its chief rival, Google, which has offered similar features in its mapping service for many years.

Apple also expanded Apple Pay, its mobile wallet program. The mobile wallet will include a loyalty and rewards programs for merchants. Users paying with Apple Pay at Walgreens and Dunkin’ Donuts can redeem points they have accrued through the rewards program.

Apple also announced that its mobile wallet service would be available in Britain next month.

“We couldn’t be happier with our progress,” said Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple’s Apple Pay business.

Apple also demonstrated a news-reading mobile app called News, which allows users to load articles from media outlets including the New York Times, ESPN and Wired. The app reformats Web articles into magazinelike formats, similar to Flipboard, the popular reading app offered on Apple and Android devices.

The new version of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, focuses on improving existing features, such as Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant. The updated assistant can respond to commands like “Show me photos for last August” to load the specific photo roll taken that month.

When a user is receiving a phone call from an unfamiliar number, a user can ask “Who is calling?” and Siri will search emails for that phone number to identify the caller.

Apple made changes to iOS that will significantly change the way iPads perform. The company introduced a split-screen mode that allows multiple apps to run side by side, a big change from the current interface, which loads one app that takes up the entire screen.

Apple made the change in anticipation of releasing a jumbo-size iPad that it plans to market as a device for professionals, according to a person briefed on the product.

The new Mac system, called El Capitan, focuses on refining existing features such as Apple’s Safari browser and its search tool, Spotlight. The Web browser now includes a button that mutes sound that unexpectedly starts playing from a Web page.

The Spotlight search feature has been expanded to allow smarter searches in a simple tool bar. Typing “SF giants,” for example, will bring up the game scores and coming games schedule for the San Francisco Giants baseball team.

El Capitan also has an emphasis on improving performance. Apple said apps would start about 1½ times as fast as in the previous version of OS X, and switching between apps would also be much snappier.

The free upgrade of the operating system is expected to be available in the fall.