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Apple posts dev-only iOS 4.3

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Apple posted a pre-release version of iOS 4.3 last night. Almost immediately, juicy snippets from the developer-only download have leaked out.

Firstly, and perhaps least surprisingly, the software contains coded references to the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5. Apple has so far refreshed its smartphone every year in June, and it seems unlikely to buck the trend this year. Likewise it is expected to announce a second-generation iPad very soon. Given both products' timelines, it would be odd indeed if iOS 4.3 didn't refer to them.

iPad users - whichever version of the tablet they have - are set to get some extra multi-touch gestures, all primarily geared toward navigating around the tablet. Leaks refer to swiping up to reveal the multi-tasking bar then swiping sideways to switch between apps. Swipe with four or five fingers to access the home screen.

Some of these gestures will clash with those used by apps themselves, which is why Apple is referring to these features as a "preview". Essentially, it's serving notice on developers that it is considering implementing these and that they need to adjust their applications accordingly.

As such, they may not make it to the final release of iOS 4.3. If not, they'll probably comes in iOS 5. Either way, the iOS 4.3 beta includes a switch to turn them on or off.

Useful stuff, these multi-touch additions, but not as handy as the new ability to choose whether the switch on the side of the iPad acts as a screen-rotation lock, as was originally the case, or the volume mute switch introduced with iOS 4.

As forecast, iOS 4.3 will introduce the Personal Hotspot Wi-Fi sharing feature that will debut on the Verizon iPhone 4 next month. There is also a new master switch for Location Services.

Pre-programmed string variables in the Mobile Me settings panel show a new entry: Find My Friends. Undoubtedly, this is a location-based service tied into social media - Apple's version of Google's Latitude.

AirPlay, Apple's media streaming tech, becomes more widely accessible in iOS 4.3. Developers can now support it in their own apps. Games on the iDevice appearing on your HD TV? Potentially, yes. ®

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