The iPad gets its biggest update yet with more than 100 features introduced. We highlight the major ones.
Apple has finally released iOS 4.2.1 for the iPad, bringing the operating system in line with the OS on the iPhone 4.
While the iPhone users have already had iOS 4.1 on their devices for some time, which comes with multitasking and Game Centre, iPad owners have had to live with iOS 3.2 which has none of these features.
So, while iPhone users probably won’t see many new features by updating their phones to the latest operating system, iPad users will have a lot to enjoy.
We take a look at some of the more interesting features from the more than 100 new ones and bug fixes that Apple has added into the new operating system.
The most major change for iPad users has got to be mulittasking and now iPad users can run certain application services in the background.
For example, a clock radio application will still stream audio when you’re browsing the Net with Safari, an in-app download will continue even when you’re not in the application and games will start exactly where you left off.
Switching between applications on the iPad is done the same way as on the iPhone — a double-click of the Home button opens up a small side-scrolling menu showing your open applications.
Quick settings menu
Accessing the multitasking menu and scrolling all the way to the left also allows quick access to a number of often-used settings, namely brightness, volume and iPod playback controls.
Also housed in this menu is a rotation lock control to lock your screen orientation in either landscape or portrait.
In fact, by moving the screen rotation control to the multitasking menu, Apple has also changed the hardware slider switch on the side of the iPad which was used to lock orientation to a volume mute switch. There is no option in the settings to change the slider switch back to an orientation lock, so like it or not, users will just have to get used to locking orientation by going into the multitasking menu.
Another major feature which iOS 4.2.1 brings to the iPad is folders. Like on the iPhone, you can now group applications together into a single folder and are not limited to the twenty-applications-per-screen limit.
To create a folder, simply touch and hold on an app for about two seconds until the icon wobbles, then drag the app on top of another app to put them together in a folder.
You can store as many as 20 apps in a single folder and can name each folder anything you want, although the iPad intelligently names the folder according to the types of apps you put in.
Unified, threaded e-mail box
Users who manage multiple e-mail accounts (like this writer) will be happy to know that iOS 4.2.1 brings with it a unified inbox in which you can see e-mail messages from all your accounts.
With the unified inbox, users no longer have to switch between e-mail accounts to check their incoming messages.
If you like to see a separate view of your various e-mail accounts, you can still organise it that way.
Along with the unified inbox, iOS 4.2.1 introduces threaded e-mail, where e-mail messages with the same subject line are grouped together for a cleaner inbox and easier reading.
Game Center is a new application that comes with the operating system and is meant to bring gamers on the system together.
Much like Xbox Live on the Xbox 360 console, Game Center is meant as a central location where you can connect with other gamers, see what games they are playing and compete by earning achievements.
Game Center is a nice idea, although the number of supported games are not as extensive as one would like.
New in iOS 4.2.1 is AirPrint, which ostensibly allows a user to wirelessly print documents, webpages and photos directly from the iPad.
In use, however, AirPrint isn’t so useful because the feature only works on printers connected to your local network and supported by AirPrint, which isn’t that extensive at the moment.
We tried to print from the iPad to the network printer at the office but did not manage to find the non-supported printer at all.
Currently, the list of AirPrint capable printers are small, notably a few Hewlett-Packard printers listed here: bit.ly/hEPsUV.
On paper, AirPlay promises seamless streaming from the iPad to other entertainment devices, like a HDTV connected to your home network.
This means that you can watch movies and listen to music resident on the iPad, and then, when you’re in front of your HDTV, to switch from the iPad to the HDTV and seamlessly watch or listen exactly where you left off.
In practice, however, the feature is a bit more limited than that. AirPlay only allows streaming of video from the iPad to devices connected to the Apple TV or music to a sound system connected to the AirPort Express.
So unless you own the Apple TV or an AirPort Express, you won’t be able to enjoy this feature.
There are a number of tweaks that have been added to Safari, from small ones to a few major ones.
An interesting and certainly welcome feature for the power user is a “search on this page” function which allows you to search for words on the current webpage.
This function is found in the search bar in the browser — typing a search query will now open a drop-down menu, giving you the option to search in Google or to search words within the webpage itself.
Another tweak to Safari is the “open new page” icon, which now has a number overlaid on top representing the number of pages you have open in the background.
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