Of tremendous interest to iPad users in particular, Apple debuted the beta version of iOS 4.2 today after a teaser revelation of the update at a media event in San Francisco earlier this month. Based on photos and details submitted by an anonymous source, we’ve compiled a collection of changes and improvements that have been made to the iPad version of iOS. Here’s what’s new and notable.
Home Screen and Game Center. Game Center has been added to the iPad home screen for multiplayer game matchmaking and tracking of achievements within supported iOS 4.1 and later games. No other icons have been added to the Home Screen.
The Game Center application preserves the general look and feel of the iPhone/iPod touch app that was in testing with iOS 4.0 and released to the public in iOS 4.1, with the same four tabs at the bottom of the screen.
Multitasking and Folders. iOS 4.0 features have been brought over to the iPad for the first time, with a double-click on the Home Button calling up a scrollable dock at the bottom of the screen for multitasking—now up to seven icons at once rather than four (iPhone/iPod touch)—and with play/track controls, whatever music application you’re using, and screen orientation lock buttons found off to the left of the multitasking dock. What looks like a volume slider is actually a brightness adjustment tool for the screen, now accessible without going all the way back into the device’s settings.
Notably, at least in this version of the iOS 4.2 beta, the iPad’s side orientation lock switch has regressed to the feature Apple originally said it would have: turning the audio on and off. The orientation lock button in the multitasking dock works to lock the iPad in either landscape or portrait orientation, whereas the iPhone and iPod touch can only be locked into portrait orientation. It’s odd that Apple shows the repurposed icon, which has been freshly redrawn for the iPad, as a crossed out bell—the same “turn off the ringer” icon used for the iPhone, rather than a muted speaker. Why the switch was changed to this purpose at this point, and the concept of the ringer, may point to disabling ringing within VoIP or future FaceTime-capable iPads.
Folder support works almost exactly as it does on the iPhone and iPod touch running iOS 4.0; drag one icon atop another to create a folder, then tap on the folder to open it, splitting the screen into panes to reveal its contents. Folder names are automatically generated and easy to change with the on-screen keyboard as you prefer. One surprise: you can have up to 20 icons in a folder on the iPad, up from 12 on the iPhone and iPod touch.
AirPlay and iTunes. Apple’s new wireless audio/video/photo streaming and driverless printing features are just beginning to see the light of day in the iOS 4.2 release.
AirPlay lets you stream audio from your iPad to AirPlay-capable devices, including the AirPort Express and new Apple TVs. Support for old Apple TVs is apparently not included, at least in this version of the beta, and possibly not forthcoming. Accessing AirPlay is handled through the iPod application using the new AirPlay button at the top of the screen.
The icon remains regardless of whether you’re in the Now Playing screen or within the browsing screen of the iPod app.
Notably, the iPad version of iTunes does not yet support Ping, Apple’s music social network, but the feature could easily be pushed into the application at any time as it was with the iPhone and iPod touch.
AirPrint, Mail and Safari. Mail has gained the unified mailbox and threaded view features found in iOS 4.0 for iPhone and iPod touch.
It has also gained a print feature, which Apple now refers to as “AirPrint,” though the word Print is used within iOS 4.2 for the time being.
The options are dead simple: select a printer and the number of copies, then hit print. You’ll need an AirPlay compatible printer or a printer on an existing wireless network to make it work.
Safari gets the print feature, too, along with an updated icon that lets you know how many Safari pages are open (or, at least, being semi-cached) at once.
Print jobs are managed through “Print Center,” an application that runs in the background to provide status on each queued printing task, a delete option, and a small preview of what’s being printed.
Safari also includes a new “On This Page” search feature, which is initially implemented using the top-of-screen Google search bar, providing both Google search results and in-page search results. If you bring up the keyboard, you can hit a “next” button to move through the yellow-highlighted search terms, and enter a new search term.
Notes. Hate Marker Felt? So do we. So we were excited when the screenshots arrived showing support for two more fonts: Helvetica and Chalkboard. Apple sure seems set on making the selection of fonts look weak here by comparison with Pages, but Helvetica will do nicely for the time being.
You choose the font under Settings, not within the Notes application itself.
Settings. There are lots and lots of subtle changes here. We’ll just briefly mention what the screenshots show.
Events have been added as another option for Picture Frame. You can also set the number of seconds before photos change.
There’s now a way to disable 3G in favor of EDGE, reducing battery drain and data speeds.
A proper location services menu now provides iOS 4-standard control over notifications and permissions for the location hardware in iPads.
Large text has been added to the Accessibility settings to make the iPad’s screen easier for visually disabled users to read.
A bunch of new keyboards have been added.
The new spellchecker has been added to the iPad.
Parental restrictions have been expanded to add controls over deleting applications and changes to e-mail accounts, as well as disabling multiplayer games over Game Center.
Content ratings have been added for additional countries.
Controls over the types of content searched by Spotlight have been added.
And calendar display options to use either the Buddhist or Japanese (imperial) date systems have been added to the prior Gregorian calendar as options, as well.
iPhone/iPod touch Games on iPad. At least for now, games with high-definition Retina Display support do not appear to be capable of running in Retina Display mode on the iPad. They still display with 1X/2X buttons at lower 480×320 resolution.
iPhone + iPod touch Changes. Though iOS 4.2 will be of greatest interest to iPad owners because of the major changes it makes to folder, multitasking, and other features of the previously restricted device, this release of iOS is designed to more or less unify features across all of Apple’s portable iOS devices, so features such as AirPlay and AirPrint are coming to the iPhone and iPod touch, as well. The screenshots above show AirPlay devices available for audio streaming in iPod video playback mode, while the ones below demonstrate how the AirPlay button is available in photo playback mode, enabling you to stream photos from these devices to an AirPlay-compatible video device such as the second-generation Apple TV, as well as the AirPrint feature that lets you print photos to a wireless printer.
Multi-photo selections can be printed simultaneously using the printing interface, which consumes the entire iPhone/iPod touch screen.
As on the iPad, Print Center is available to manage the queued print jobs and provide status updates. Multiple discovered wireless printers can be selected individually for print jobs.
FaceTime is now accessible from within the Messages application, via a new button that appears between the prior “Call” and “Contact Info” (now “Add Contact”) buttons at the top of a messaging window. Notes gains the new Chalkboard and Helvetica font options, as it did on the iPad.
Settings for applications are mostly the same between the devices, now, save for a new “Ringer and Alerts Change with Buttons” feature, which lets you determine whether you want the physical volume buttons on the device to be able to control the ringer and alert volumes, or have the ringer and alerts stay at a software-adjusted level without button modifications. iOS 4.2 for the iPhone and iPod touch also brings other settings tweaks found in the iPad screens above.
Surprisingly, the Voice Memos application icon has been changed to look identical to the simpler blue icon introduced on the sixth-generation iPod nano, and away from the photorealistic black and red image of an old-fashioned microphone that has previously appeared in iPhone OS/iOS releases.
We’ll update this article with additional details as we receive them. iOS 4.2 is expected to be released for general consumption in November. Thanks to our source for the screenshots and details.