Apple has released the long-awaited iOS 4.2 update for iPad today, the first major software upgrade for the iPad since its launch earlier this year. For iPhone users, the majority of the software’s features are nothing new – multitasking, app folders, threaded messages, fast inbox switching, a Unified Inbox and Game Center are now old-stanby’s for most.
But 4.2 does bring a few new features – AirPrint and AirPlay, mainly – as well as one big surprise.
For more details on the iOS 4.2 feature line-up, check out our previous coverage of the update from earlier this month.
Features Ported from iPhone
The updated software allows iPad users to better organize their applications by using folders, a handy feature given Apple’s ever-growing list of “must-have” apps, now totaling 300,000 with 40,000 designed just for iPad. (The iPad can, however, run iPhone apps, although it’s not the best experience).
For those who utilize iPad for email, the Unified Inbox is a welcome update, as it lets you see all your mail in one inbox when syncing multiple accounts. Gmail users also now have the option of archiving emails instead of just deleting them. Additionally, threaded messaging brings a “conversation view” to the Inbox, allowing you to follow the back-and-forth’s of email replies by keeping related conversations together. But if you prefer the old way, you can switch this one off in the settings.
The Game Center is Apple’s own social gaming hub, allowing users to play their friends or be matched automatically to other gamers on iOS devices. The only new feature here is that the Game Center homepage now showcases the “top” Game Center games, each linked to the App Store for purchasing.
What’s New New
The main new features in iOS 4.2 are AirPlay and AirPrint. The former is an update that connects Apple’s mobile devices to Apple TV, Apple’s AirPort Express and any third-party AirPlay-compatible devices. With AirPlay, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users can stream pictures, videos and music to supported hardware.
AirPrint, like it sounds, allows for wireless printing from iOS devices. At this time, not all printers are AirPrint-compatible, but Apple says HP’s Photosmart, LaserJet Pro and Officejet printers will be among the first to officially support this new feature. However, a new software program called “FingerPrint” claims to fill the void by enabling AirPrint for a large number of non-compliant OS X printers. TUAW has a review, if you’re interested.
One slightly more controversial feature (and quite frankly, a personal pet peeve) is the update to the iPad’s orientation toggle switch. On the top right of the device, the hardware switch previously would lock the screen’s viewing mode as either “portrait” or “landscape,” so you wouldn’t accidentally change modes while viewing content. Now that switch will be turned into a “mute” button. You’ll still be able to lock the orientation, though – it will just require a few more steps. Going forward, you’ll need to double-tap the home button to bring up the multitasking bar, then swipe to the right to see the music controls. The far right button with the lock icon will now function as the orientation lock.
Other new features include support for TV show rentals from the iPad, the ability to find and highlight text within Safari, the “+” plus sign in Safari has become a “Share” button, plus enhanced enterprise support, new fonts for the Notes app and support for 25 additional languages,
Surprise! “Find My iPhone” Goes Free
In typical Apple fashion, the 4.2 update rolled out with just “one more thing,” that surprised everyone. The “Find My iPhone” feature, previously a part of Apple’s MobileMe subscription software, is now available at no charge. The standalone application can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store onto any iOS device (not just the iPhone), allowing users to track their lost, missing or stolen devices by locating them on a map. You can also configure the device to display a message or play a sound. If you realize the device isn’t just “missing,” but lost or stolen, you can also remotely turn on a passcode lock to protect your content and in the worst case scenario, you can perform a remote wipe to delete all data.
Jailbreaks are OK to Update
Finally, a quick word to iPhone/iPad jailbreakers out there: it’s OK to update to this latest version of the software. The 4.2 update was jailbroken prior to launch. After updating to the new firmware, you’ll have to re-jailbreak your phone. Both redsn0w and Pwnage Tool support jailbreaking the new software. iPhone unlockers, however, should stay away for now.