iOS 4.2 beta has some great new features for all three of the main touch devices, meaning that you can expect the following on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad come November:
- AirPlay: Demoed by Steve Jobs at the keynote on September 1st, AirPlay gives the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch the ability to stream music to the Airport Express and movies, photos, and music to the new Apple TV with the touch of a button.
- AirPrint: As wireless printing has been one of the most commonly requested features of the iPad since its launch, it's no surprise that Apple has once again put pressure on the netbook market by granting consumers' wishes for full over-the-air printing from Safari, Photos, Mail, and more (provided you have a printer that is part of the admittedly limited compatibility list). Your print queue can be managed from a new "Print Center" icon that appears in the multitasking bar. The biggest surprise? You'll be able to print from your iPhone and iPod touch, too.
- Changing fonts in the Notes app: In what designers and artists may hail as the greatest single advancement ever made on the platform, Apple has given users the option to change the font that the included Notes app displays. Your choices now include Apple's original "Marker Felt," the equally ugly "Chalkboard," and the wonderful, majestic king of typefaces known as "Helvetica."
- 'Find In Page' Search in Safari: A small but incredibly useful feature makes its debut on all devices in iOS 4.2 beta. 'Find In Page' appears below the Google Suggest search results when the user activates the search box, and it works quite similarly to Safari for Mac.
As tech blogs have been reporting, iOS 4.2 is all about making the iPad even more appealing to the average consumer. Apple hasn't disappointed, and it's added a metric ton of new features to bring the iPad up to snuff with the iPhone and iPod touch. Here's what you'll be seeing on your iPad once iOS 4.2 drops:
- Multitasking: Yes, it's here, and it works just like it does on the iPhone: really well. Double tapping on the Home button will reveal the fabric toolbar that we know and love. The most notable changes, however, are only apparent when swiping the bar to the right. This reveals a new brightness adjustment slider (thank you, Apple!) and a dedicated icon for locking and unlocking the iPad's orientation. Speaking of which...
- The orientation switch is now a mute switch: It's obvious that Apple has realized their apparent mistake in changing the function of the side switch just weeks before the iPad launched. It now acts just like it would on an iPhone: muting and unmuting the device. Previously, the volume rocker buttons had control over the iPad's mute function, leaving the side switch to function as a dedicated hardware toggle for the most frequently changed setting on the device. People who got used to the switch acting as an orientation lock may end up disliking this change, but it's a good move. It standardizes functionality across all iOS devices, meaning users don't have to get used to switches doing different things on different devices.
- Game Center: Apple's much-anticipated social gaming network is already a hit on the smaller devices, and I expect it to be just as popular on the iPad. Game Center for the iPad is adorned with the same gorgeous coat of emerald green felt, polished wooden framing, and golden tokens that look so great on the iPhone and iPod touch. Apple made some unique additions to take advantage of the iPad's larger screen, such as the new login screen that showcases featured games in a style reminiscent of poker chips on a game table.
- Folders: It shouldn't have taken this long, and the iPad probably should have shipped with the feature, but we can finally rejoice in the arrival of folders on the iPad's homescreen. Unlike the iPhone and iPod touch with their 12-app maximum, the iPad can hold up to 20 apps per folder. With six folders containing 20 apps each, you can easily store 120 apps on your dock. Well, provided that you have 120 apps and a four-hour block of free time to reorganize them all.
- Unified Mail inbox & threaded messages. The iPad can now handle multiple email accounts with the style and grace of a thousand figure skaters by merging all of your inboxes into one easily readable list, organized by message threads. These features are already available on the iPhone and iPod touch, and they are welcome additions to Apple's tasty tablet computer.