We get the sense that this update is going to be a huge improvement for general navigation, but there's also going to be a learning curve because it changes the overall feel of the iPad (for the better, of course). The device has gone from seeming bulky and sluggish to something far more sleek. With the addition of multitasking and folders (along with sizable usability improvements) the iPad finally begins its evolution into the product it's seemed destined to be -- the middle ground between netbook, game device, and media hub. Keep on reading after the break for a look at some of the major changes in 4.2, as well as a quick walkthrough video of the OS in action.
Overall look and feel: In general everything works just about the same as the iPhone 4. Surprisingly (and perhaps due to the A4 purring along at 1GHz), it doesn't feel like the device is hurting due to RAM deficiencies or CPU strain. Flipping in and out of apps is generally smooth, though we did have one major crash when trying to forward a message in Mail. Just Mail crashed out, but it was extremely jarring. We also noticed some scrolling issues with moving from Spotlight search back to our icons on the homescreen. This is a beta, so we're not surprised to see a few hiccups. What's surprising is how few we're seeing overall.
Multitasking: Here's some good news -- apps that are already taking advantage of multitasking on iOS 4 for the iPhone will work here just as you'd expect. Our family favorite Colloquy was all set to go when we loaded up 4.2 on the iPad, and a handful of other universal apps which do backgrounding worked as well. As we said in the opening paragraph, halving the amount of RAM iOS has to play with doesn't immediately seem to cause multitasking issues. We'll chalk that up to some boss management.
AirPlay / AirPrint: AirPlay and AirPrint are both active on the device, but you need the right configuration to get them working. For AirPrint, that means having a compatible printer or sharing a printer with 10.6.5 running on your system. You'll see the dialog in Safari, Mail, and a handful of other native apps. As far as AirPlay is concerned, some readers have seen the dialog pop up, but we're not getting it on our iPad. It looks like device is looking for an Airport or Apple TV on your network -- it's certainly not seeing the Time Capsule we have here. Regardless, both appear super simple to get going with, and it's obviously a huge gain to be able to push content out to other sources. These are two feature we're seriously looking forward to exploiting. Now, if Apple would just give us a real file system...
Folders: You can now add more than 12 items to a folder. Up to 20 -- a big relief for those of us with a lot of apps hanging around our iPad Springboard.
On This Page: "Find in page" as you know everywhere else is now active in the browser. The option is all but hidden in the Google search menu within Safari, but it works just about like you'd expect it to, highlighting each instance of your search.
Music widget / brightness / orientation: The orientation switch no longer controls orientation. It's a mute / unmute switch now! We were pretty surprised to see the change, but it actually makes far more sense (orientation is now controlled with a button on the music / brightness widget). It's almost like Apple is taking a page from the jailbreak favorite SBSettings, which lets you access a whole mess of controls from one simple place. Of course, Apple isn't giving us nearly the kind of toggles we'd like. Bluetooth, WiFi, and 3G anyone?
Game Center: The app is present here, and looks pretty good on the big screen. There aren't a whole mess of differences, but any apps that have been tuned to play nice with the network should be taking here.
Notes: As John Gruber of Daring Fireball fame has pointed out (via Twitter), you're finally able to change the font settings in the Notes app, thus saving your eyes from the hideous contours of the Marker Felt font. Helvetica and Chalkboard are available in its place. Really, Chalkboard?