Apple released iOS 4.2.1 today for iPhone, iPod touch, & iPad (indeed, 4.2 itself never publicly graced an iOS device).
Apple, of course, has a nice page detailing all the features of the iOS 4.2 update.
For iPhone and iPod touch owners, the two keystone features are AirPrint and AirPlay. Other than that, there are many little tweaks and polish to iOS.
The real news surrounding the 4.2 update is the ipad. Back when the iPad was released, iOS 4 hadn’t been announced yet. Instead, the iPad received its own special branch of iOS 3 — 3.2 to be exact. So iOS 4.2 is the iPad’s first encounter with the features its smaller sized siblings have been enjoying for months. To name a few: multitasking, folders, Game Center, & Mail improvements. For the first time, the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad are on the same iOS.
Multitasking has been enjoyed by iPhone and iPod touch users for a while, and any of your universal apps that have multitasking support will work automatically with multitasking after the update. Standalone iPad apps will need updates to work with the new feature, and those have been trickling into the App Store steadily over the past week or so.
Multitasking works as advertised, just like on the iPhone and iPod touch. The only hindrance I can foresee being a problem for heavy multitaskers is running up against the iPad’s limited 256 MB of memory. It really hasn’t been much of a problem for me (I’ve had 4.2.1 since the weekend, so I’ve had time to play). It would be nice if the next iPad hardware had at least 512 MB of memory (1 GB would be even better).
Folders is the feature I’ve been wanting on the iPad since I bought my iPhone 4. I’ve easily consolidated my homescreen count from five to two, which is much nicer. Once again, if you’ve used folders on iOS 4 before, you’ve seen this already. It’s just nice to have congruency across my iPhone and iPad.
Game Center is Apple’s built-in achievements, leader board, and multiplayer platform for iOS. Now it is on the iPad. Like some of the other iPad apps, Game Center has an expanded user interface to accommodate the larger screen size.
Hallelujah, Mail now has unified inbox and threaded messages! These features are things I’m amazed weren’t shipped with iOS 1.0, but it’s good to have them. I’ve loved them on the iPhone, and it’s great to have them on the iPad, especially since the iPad is a great experience for dealing with an unruly inbox.
iPhone and iPod touch
The changes that are new to the iPhone and iPod touch are less noticeable. There are new sounds for SMS/MMS alerts to choose from. They honestly sound as if Apple hired a composer from Looney Toons. There are new parental controls, including disabling some of Game Center and one I about did a backflip over — disbaling the deletion of apps. My son just loves to delete all the toddler games from his iPod touch on a long roadtrip. Trust me, I could high five the Apple employee that added this.
Also, the birthday calendar now sports a wrapped gift icon, helping to make someone’s special day stand out a little more against your busy schedule. Voice Memos got a new icon, somehow even uglier than before.
Another nice feature is font choices in the Notes app. Marker Felt is still there, but is now joined by Chalkboard and the ever-wonderful Helvetica.
AirPrint and AirPlay
AirPrint allows your iOS device to print wirelessly. When the feature was announced, it was revealed that it would work without additional setup with select HP printers, and then with a little extra work, your existing printer that is shared with your Mac or PC. Unfortunately, only the former found its way to the release. It is unknown if the latter is delayed temporarily or indefinitely.
AirPlay, on the other hand, is something I am extremely excited for. AirPlay allows you to stream audio, video, or photo content to your TV from an iOS device via Apple TV, or audio to AirPlay-compatible third-party speakers. It works today with the new Apple TV, and third party speakers, such as the iHome iW1, will be available around the holidays. I definitely plan on putting a couple iW1’s around the house.
That’s about all that is worth mentioning. If you find any other gems in the release, drop a note in the comments.
iLounge wrote up an exhaustive overview of pretty much every change in iOS 4.2.1. As usual, their Instant Expert article is extremely well done.