Ultimate Guide to iOS 4.2 Features: What’s New?

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During Apple’s September 2 press event, which was all about iOS devices and the Apple TV reboot, Steve Jobs took a few minutes to show off some of the features of iOS 4.2, the newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system for iPod Touch, iPad and the iPhone.

This is a major upgrade for the iPad especially as it brings a load of new features to Apple’s tablet computer.

We know it’s coming very soon, perhaps within the week. This is essentially the upgrade that iOS4 was for the iPhone and iPod Touch, only formatted for the iPad and given a few new bells and whistles.

Let’s Take a Look at What’s New on the iPad

1) Multitasking

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This feature was introduced with iOS4 and gave the later iPod Touch models and the iPhone 3GS multitasking. This will give the iPad the multitasking capabilities we have needed all along. Users can quickly switch between Apps rather than having to relaunch one after exiting the other.

2) Orientation Lock

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Those of you who used an iPad before probably know that the device orientation can be locked by flipping a switch located on the side of the unit. That has changed, and you must now access the multitasking dock and swipe over to the iPod controls to find the lock icon. In other words, it works just like it does on the iPhone and iPod Touch with iOS4.

As for the old orientation lock? That’s become…

3) The Mute Button 

We don’t actually know why Apple decided to turn the old orientation lock into a mute button. Those who use their iPad extensively probably know that the holding the volume down for one second auto-mutes the device. Well, those of you who love mute buttons will be happy that the iPad now has two of them.

4) Game Center

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The iPad welcomes Game Center, which was available originally for iPhone devices with the iOS4 update. The iPad seems like a great match for the new application, which gives iOS device owners who game the ability to meet up with other gamers online. They can compete against each other, earn achievements a la Xbox LIVE or be ranked on the online leaderboards. We’ve talked about Game Center before, and we are happy to see it finally make its way to the iPad.

5) AirPrint

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Wireless Printing brings the device closer to being a productivity device, for those who want that. Those who use their iPad’s word processor, or stumble onto an article they find interesting, can now print with iOS 4.2. We can see this being practical for work environments, where people may be browsing on their iPads for relevant research information and want to print on the fly.

6) AirPlay

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AirPlay is the next evolution of Apple’s AirTunes. It lets the user stream audio and video content to different devices throughout the same wifi network. These devices can be anything from a set-top box like Apple TV to third-party speakers setup around the house. One of the features that Jobs showed off at the Apple event in September was one in which a user could be watching video on their iPad or iPhone and quickly beam it over to their Apple TV over wifi, with controls now available on their iPad’s touchscreen. Note, however, that the iPad or iPhone would no longer be playing back the video at this point.

7) Archive Mail

We are a bit mixed on this one. Some of us at iSmashPhone prefer to delete old email. Others like to archive their old emails in order to always have a record of everything they receive. Different email management methods work for different people, and that’s why the iPad now archives mail rather than only giving the option to delete. Note that those who still like to delete can change the setting by checking out the following tutorial (it’s for the iPhone, but it works the exact same way on the iPad): How to bring back the delete mail option

8) Folders

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Folders couldn’t have come soon enough for the iPad. The iPad is one of those devices that many of us use as a netbook replacement just because it serves us well for the purpose of skimming through email or casually browsing the internet. However, the homescreen tends to get a little crowded after a little bit of use, even for the average iPad owner. The new Folders feature helps clean things up by letting us organize our Apps according to type, frequency of use or just about any other way we find practical.

9) Unified Inbox

The Unified Inbox we loved in iOS4 is also coming to the iPad. Before this came along, the mail management was very sloppy on iOS because email threads would just be sorted in your inbox in the order they were sent/received. This isn’t very useful if you are looking for a particular conversation.

10) Better Spotlight Search

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This improved spotlight search was available with iOS4, but the iPad never saw those enhanced search functions. With this search, users can find a search term they are looking for through Wikipedia or the internet, much like they were able to do 

11) YouTube Like and Dislike Added

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You can now see how “Liked” something is within the YouTube app, or give your own thumbs up and thumbs down to videos. Doesn’t seem to be working with comments yet as it does on the actual website. In truth, it’s probably nothing we’d be paying much attention to anyway, but it may be practical to someone.

12) Brightness Setting Within the Dock

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This is kind of handy, you can adjust the brightness from within the iPad’s iPod controls dock. The slider is located right next to the orientation lock icon, and does pretty much what the brightness setting in the iPad Settings menu will do.

13) Midi Out (Also on iPod Touch and iPhone)


Midi Out is actually one of the most awesome features added to iOS 4.2 and it seems to go relatively unnoticed. It’s literally a midi out function that can be used to control external synthesizers and midi devices. The video above shows it being used, and it’s really awesome. Just sequence something out on your iPad and play it back on an external synth via USB. Pretty neat, huh?

14) Safari Page Search (Also on iPod Touch and iPhone)

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We missed this feature. It’s something that’s available on desktop browsers by hitting “Control+F” or “Command+F” and will search the current page for the word you are looking for. To access it on the iOS browser simply go to the Google search field in the top-right corner and type in the term you want to find. In the pop-up menu, you will see “On This Page” and that will take you to a search within the page you are on. Very nifty.

15) Additional Functionality Aimed at Business

The iPad, like the iPhone, is one of those devices that can be used at the consumer level and at the enterprise level. Many of the changes that come with the new version of iOS for the iPad will help increase security of the device and management through third-party applications. Features like these help businesses by letting them insure that the platform is secure and can be managed by the higher-ups who may need to enforce certain kinds of restrictions on the device. 

16) “Get More Episodes” in Video App

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When looking at the list of available videos in the iPad’s native “Videos” App, you will see that at the end of the list is the “Get More Episodes” link, which will take you directly to the iTunes store to purchase/download more episodes of the show or video podcast you are watching.

iPhone owners need not to worry, they are also getting a handful of new features that should make iPhone use more convenient. Here are  some of the more significant ones coming with the release:

1) FaceTime through SMS 

Now you can initiate a FaceTime conversation through an SMS chat. This, if anything, just furthers Apple’s strong push towards FaceTime and its use with their various devices.

2) Adjust Ringtone Volume

Ringtone volume can now be adjusted for individual contacts in iOS 4.2. Before, the extent of ringtone customization was choosing a ringer for a contact. The new feature adds a little more to that, may be good for ringtones that tend to sound louder than others.

3) Improvements to 3G Perfomance


Initial tests seem to indicate that Apple has strived for even better performance from the iPhone 3G, with the upcoming 4.2. If this is true, many users will be happy. There are many who still use the 3G, because they may have picked it up in the months before the iPhone 4 was announced and were dissatisfied with its initial performance on iOS4. Apple improved it immensely when they launched 4.1, but some still felt it wasn’t as responsive as it should be. Apple is trying to make this upgrade much better for iPhone 3G owners. 

4) AVRCP Audio/Video Remote Protocol for Bluetooth

This feature lets users control multimedia playback through a Bluetooth headset. With this, users can skip tracks and control volume of playback with their Bluetooth device. This is handy for those who drive while jamming to their favorite tunes.

Some Subtle Changes

– Next to your battery indicator, you now get the little arrow that indicates when location-based applications are running. 

– Indicator of when a background voice over IP app is running.

– Ability to Change Fonts in Notes App under the Settings


The Best is Yet To Come… 

We’ve highlighted a few noteworthy features that will be introduced with iOS 4.2. Many of them are features we found through messing with the software while others are features we read about. Still, what’s most awesome to us is that some of the coolest, best-hidden features may not even be discovered yet. Once it’s put in the hands of millions of users, we will see what kinds of new discoveries people make.

All we can say is: It’s about time the iPad gets iOS4. It’s an update it really needed.

Check out our other iOS 4.2-related posts for more info:

iOS 4.2 on iPad our First Hour

iOS 4.2 on iPad 24-Hours In

How To Install iOS 4.2 On Your iPad Right Now

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