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iOS 4.2: An 'ace' for iPad, a 'meh' for iPhone

Printing still strangled

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Playing and printing in the air ... for some

Apple also trumpets the AirPlay feature of iOS 4.2, which lets you stream content from your iOS device to your Apple TV. Unfortunately — well, not all that unfortunately — we have seen no need to add an Apple TV to our collection of gadgets, so we couldn't test that capability.

Nor could we test AirPrint, iOS 4.2's much-needed addition of allowing you to print from your iOS device. Again, The Mind of Steve™ is inscrutable: AirPrint allows you print to only a small number of AirPrintable printers, such as a handful of HP offerings.

Yes, there are ways to print to other printers — Macworld can provide you with some help on that score — but the inability for your iOS device simply to be able to wirelessly send a print job to a printer-sharing PC or Mac (System Preferences > Sharing > Printer Sharing) is a stone drag.

One new feature of iOS, however, we greet with unreserved appreciation — although, it must be admitted, with a bit of a petulant "What took you so long?" That's the ability to search for words or phrases in Safari.

iOS 4.2 - Safari search

Finally on-page searches come to Safari — better late than never

Unfortunately, the UI for this feature is less than intuitive. To search for a term on a web page, you enter that term into the standard Google search box — which, yes, still says Google (or Yahoo! or Bing, if you've changed the default) — and the search results will show up at the bottom of the suggested-results list. Tap it, and you go back to the web page, which is now adorned with Next and Done buttons to lead you to your searched-for term. Kludgey, yes, but welcome nonetheless.

There are other additions in iOS 4.2 as well. Some have been available on the iPhone since iOS 4.0, such as a unified Mail inbox, and some are new to all iOS devices, such as 25 more languages for keyboards and dictionaries; the ability to respond to invitations from Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft Exchange users when in the Calendar app; and a few other minor niggles such as a choice of fonts in the Notes app.

iOS 4.2 - orientation lock

In addition to orientation and audio controls, the iPad one-ups the iPhone with a new display-brightness control

Apple also promises "enhanced enterprise support," which we haven't yet been able to test, but which they contend offers "stronger security features, new device management capabilities, and improved enterprise integration."

One other tiny change: the hardware orientation-lock switch has morphed into an notification-mute switch. But if you've grown accustomed to locking your iPad's orientation, fear not — control over that capability has merely moved into software: just swipe the mutitasking bar to the right, and a panel that includes an orientation button will eventually appear, along with audio and screen-brightness controls. Tap it, and you're locked.

Although 4.2 won't change an iPhone user's world all that much — unless they happen to have one of those HP printers — an iPad user will welcome the benefits of iOS-style multitasking and those helpful-but-limited folders. We thought those two features would be minor when we upgraded our iPhone to iOS 4, but found ourselves missing them when we picked up our iOS 3.2.2-lumbered iPad

And all of this upgrade goodness and media attention comes "just in time for the holiday season," as Jobs said in Apple's press release announcing the upgrade. ®

Bootnote

Jobs also said: "Once again, the iPad with iOS 4.2 will define the target that other tablets will aspire to, but very few, if any, will ever be able to hit." Which begs the question: can one "aspire to" a target?

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