Apple iOS 4.2 Review: Refinement and Enablement

Introduction: What's New With iOS 4.2?

As far as iOS releases go, this is just about as big as they come. Not since the iPhone OS revision that introduced Apple's App Store to the original iPhone has there been a buzz surrounding one of Apple's iOS releases, and for good reason. Much in the same way that Android 2.2 had significant impact on the path of Android's future, iOS 4.2 will surely dictate some of iOS' future. iOS 4.2 is significant in that it's the first major operating system update for the iPad, which was released in March. It's also timely. iOS4.2 is brings true, native multi-tasking to the iPad just in time for the holidays, and that fact alone just might push a few Secret Santas into springing for one.

It also shows that Apple is serious about innovating their mobile OS platform. Some features that were missing in earlier builds, but patched via third-party solutions, are now being addressed head-on by Apple in iOS 4.2. Granted, the OS is made for iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, but it obviously has the greatest impact on the latter. The iPod touch and iPhone have enjoyed some level of iOS 4 (and thus, multi-tasking) for months now. The only hand-held left out of that party was the iPad. But with this release, everything changes.

Here's what iOS 4.2 delivers:

  • True, native multi-tasking on iPad
  • Folder support on iPad
  • Unified Inbox for iPad (see multiple e-mail accounts in one, main view)
  • Game Center (think Xbox LIVE integration, but for Apple's App Store)
  • AirPlay (enables iPad-to-TV streaming over the Apple TV, or music/media streaming to any other AirPlay-certified receiver, speaker set, TV, dock, etc.)
  • AirPrint (lets your print to AirPrint-certified printers right from your iPad, over Wi-Fi)
  • Updated Safari (support for accelerometer-based actions)
  • Large Text option & "Web Rotor" (added Accessibility improvements)
  • Support for Multiple Exchange e-mail accounts
  • "Find my iPhone" (or iPad) service is now free (previously required $99/year MobileMe subscription)
Do these updates make the iPad worth re-visiting if you skipped over it the first time? If you'll recall, we actually stated in our original iPad review that the iPad's potential was greater than its current level of execution. We knew that a more robust version of iOS could turn the iPad into a true tablet powerhouse. Is iOS 4.2 the OS build to finally do that? And does it make the already-hot selling iPhone 4 and iPod touch any more attractive than the already are? Let's find out.

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