Apple's initial release of iOS 4.0 only supported the iPhone and iPod touch, and users of the iPad have been eagerly awaiting its enhancements. Now, with the release of iOS 4.2, the iPad gets all of the features that the iPhone got earlier this year. Perhaps more importantly, all three devices are not running the same OS version.
Printer from the iPad
The introduction of printing support is a very big improvement. The new OS supports printing from Mail and Safari, as well as the iWork apps, which include Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. It is important to point out that it in order to take advantage of this new feature, developers must update their apps. It might be a while before all of your favorite apps will support full printing capabilities.
In most of the current apps that support printing, you can choose to print through an option in the navigation bar or toolbar. It will then present options where you select the printer you want to print to, along with more advanced options like the range of pages you want to print or whether you want to print single or double-sided (if your printer supports that).
When you have an active print job, you'll see the Print Center icon on the multitasking tray (which appears when you press the home button twice). Since Print Center is shared among all applications, you can print from multiple apps and have all the print jobs added to the single shared queue in Print Center, similar to what you're used to with Windows or Mac OS X today.
In order to support this new feature, you'll need to have a printer that supports Apple's AirPrint wireless printing technology out-of-the-box (it does not appear that you will be able to upgrade existing printers to support AirPrint). You'll find AirPrint built into the HP Photosmart Premium Fax e-All-in-One Printer model C410; HP Photosmart Premium e-All-in-one Printer series model C310; and HP Photosmart Plus e-All-in-One Printer series model B210). Another option is to have a shared printer on a Mac that is running the latest version of Mac OS X (10.6.5). As of this writing, it's currently unknown how many printers beyond the current HP lineup will be supporting AirPrint out-of-the-box, or if there will be a Windows-based solution for printer sharing.
Stream music, photos, videos with AirPlay
Apple's AirPlay technology (formerly called AirTunes) is now supported in iOS 4.2. Like the name change suggests, this feature now includes support for streaming photos and videos in addition to music. This feature can provide a seamless experience when combined with an Apple TV, Airport Express, or one of the new third-party devices that have built-in AirPlay support (like new products from B&W, Denon, and Marantz).
So what does AirPlay support mean? You can now rent a movie from iTunes on your iPad, start watching it when you're out-and-about, and then finish watching it from your Apple TV when you get back home. You can take pictures on your iPhone and display them on an AirPlay-compatible digital picture frame. You can even be streaming Pandora on your iPod, but listening to it play wirelessly on your nice stereo speakers. AirPlay breaks down the walls between where your content is and where you want to use it. For those users who are willing to build their own collection of AirPlay-compatible products, it is a very powerful feature.
Minor enhancements for iPhone and iPod touch users
For most iPhone and iPod touch users, iOS 4.2 is a relatively minor upgrade. You do get printing and AirPlay support, but beyond that, the enhancements are not very significant. You get a new icon for the Voice Memo application, some new font options for the Notes application, and support for importing .ics files that lets you add events directly into the Calendar app.
A huge improvement for iPad users
The latest version of iOS is a big deal for iPad users. The most significant new feature, and one that iPad users will love, is multitasking. It works with the built-in apps and third-party apps that have been updated to take advantage of it. Fortunately, third-party developers have been working on this, and many updated apps will be available by the time iPad users get iOS 4.2.
After using iOS 4.2 on my iPad for several days, I discovered that I was significantly more productive. In addition to the speed gains from multitasking (i.e., not having to open an app from scratch every time I want to use it), the overall performance of my upgraded iPad seemed a tad snappier and more responsive. The latter was actually surprising to me given that multitasking tends to consume more device resources.
The updated OS also lets iPad users organize apps into folders. This feature was added to the iPhone and iPod touch with iOS 4.0, allowing users to store up to 12 app icons in each folder. This is bumped up to 20 icons per folder on the iPad, but remains 12 per folder on the iPhone and iPod touch.
The new OS also gives iPad users a universal Inbox in your Mail app. This is especially useful if you have more than one e-mail account; no more swapping between separate inboxes.
Other useful iPad enhancements
The new OS also enhances the Spotlight search feature by offering better search filters, new restrictions for Location and Mail Accounts, and the flexibility to turn Spell Checking on or off. For those that have trouble reading the small text on the iPad, this upgrade also lets you increase the font sizes in Mail, Contacts, Notes, and other standard apps.
One subtle, but very interesting change involves the orientation lock switch located next to the volume control on the edge of the iPad; the new OS changes this to a mute switch. While many people have complained about this, I appreciate the change. It not only makes it easier to mute my iPad when I go into meetings, it makes the functioning of the iPhone and iPad more consistent. The orientation lock feature is still available in iOS 4.2, but it's now accessed by swiping to the left on the multitasking bar, which you get to by pressing the Home button twice. You also get the brightness and volume controls, as well as access to AirPlay settings.
From the enterprise and business perspective, iOS 4.2 now brings the iPad up to par with the iPhone in terms of device management capabilities and the ability to deploy internal applications over-the-air without having to sync with iTunes. These enhancements, combined with Gartner's recent recommendation that companies should support the iPad, should increase the momentum of iPad adoption by professional users.
Breathe new life into your iPad
The upgrade to iOS 4.2 should be available by the time you read this article. If you're an iPhone or iPod touch user, you'll definitely want to get around to downloading it. But if you have an iPad, do as soon as you can! iOS 4.2 will breathe new life into your iPad and make it feel like a whole new device.