iOS 4.3 - iOS 4 redux

Those of you hoping to get some information on iOS 5 today are out of luck - you'll probably have to wait for the iPhone 5 announcement before you see the true next-generation iOS. iOS 4.3, which requires the newly released iTunes 10.2, adds some new features to the now-familiar iOS 4 without changing much else.

The first thing you should know about the next iOS update is the list of supported models - Apple lists, in additon to the iPad 2, the original iPad, the iPhone 3GS and 4, and the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch. Missing from this list are the iPhone 3G and the second-generation iPod Touch, which won't be supported by any iOS update past 4.2.1. The CDMA iPhone 4 is also excluded from the 4.3 list, although Apple hasn't provided any reason as to why it's not included.

This information might sting a bit for owners of these devices, but it certainly isn't surprising. The iPhone 3G missed out on many of iOS 4's banner features - multitasking and home screen wallpapers being chief among these - and performance has been notoriously poor on these older devices, though the 4.1 and 4.2 releases did improve the situation to some degree. It's too bad that Apple can't deliver new software updates to all of its users indefinitely, but it's understandable that they don't want to hamper newer devices' feature sets in order to maintain support for devices with 128MB of RAM and sub-500MHz processors.

Now that you know what devices won't be supported, let's talk about the features that supported devices should see when the new update hits on March 11th.


All supported devices should see a tidy increase in JavaScript performance in Safari - Apple claims that its new Nitro JavaScript engine is twice as fast as the old one. It's not a consolation for those hoping for Honeycomb's true tabbed browser, but it should improve the experience for anyone already used to Web browsing in iOS.

AT&T iPhone 4 users will also get the Personal Hotspot feature included on the new Verizon iPhone - contingent on AT&T's support for the feature, they'll be able to share their phone's 3G data connection with up to five wi-fi enabled devices. AT&T's GSM/UMTS network should allow this feature to work even if the phone is being used to make calls, which will be a nice feature for the AT&T faithful.

Next up, users who were discouraged to see the iPad's orientation lock become a practically useless mute switch at the onset of iOS 4 will now have the option to make it an orientation lock once again. There's not much else to say about this one.

The last feature I want to talk about is the one that I'm the most excited about, personally - people will finally be able to stream their iTunes libraries to their iOS devices over their wi-fi networks, just as they've been able to share their libraries with other iTunes users for years now. It may not matter much to users with higher-capacity devices, but this forehead-slappingly simple feature is going to be awesome for me - I can finally access all of the music from my 40+ GB iTunes library on my 16GB iPhone while I'm wandering around the house, and I couldn't be happier about it.

iOS 4.3 further improves iOS 4, but it doesn't really address the underlying problem with iOS - it's becoming a bit dated, and that some of Honeycomb's interface improvements make Android tablets more usable for heavy multitaskers without negating the elegance of an all-touch interface. This is understandable, for now - many Apple users are perfectly happy with iOS 4, so why rock the boat? - but I'd like to see some more drastic changes in iOS 5, especially given how multitasking-oriented the new hardware is.

GarageBand and iMovie - iLife for iPad

One of the most common criticisms of the iPad is that it is designed for media consumption rather than creation - if you want to look at web pages or photos or movies, it's great, but if you're in the business of making any of those things, it leaves something to be desired.

I believe that this problem is endemic to tablets - any device that is mostly screen is going to lose to something that accepts more versatile input devices - but Apple is moving to remedy some of those complaints with new apps based on its iLife suite.


iMovie appears to be a relatively full-featured movie editor that can work with movies stored on your iPad or with movies you capture with the device's built-in camera. 

iMovie for iPad supports exporting to YouTube and to iTunes, among other services, and gives you access to a range of transitions and sound effects, to boot. Expect it to deliver a good amount of the Mac version of iMovie's functionality, though you certainly won't be able to replace your MacBook with a tablet just yet.

Most of these statements also apply to the iPad version of GarageBand, a simplified version of the iLife app. The iPad app can record up to 8-tracks from recorded audio, loops, or from the app's simulated instruments (touch versions of a drumset, keyboard, guitar and bass guitar are all represented). As with iMovie, serious users will still want to use the desktop version of GarageBand, but the iOS app goes some way toward making the iPad a more usable prodution device.


The Hardware Conclusions
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  • Chloiber - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    To be honest, using widgets on small, <4" smartphone screens isn't very good, because you can only place like 1, maybe 2 on one single homescreen.
    But it's still pretty useful. Example:

    On my main screen, I immediately see my upcoming appointments, the weather. Swipe to the left and in the next second I see my full calendar, with every appointment. Swipe to the right and I see a scrollable list of all my mails, messages, calls. If you are a very social person you can also include facebook and twitter messages.

    Yes, you can do the same things with apps, but it takes longer and is just more troublesome.

    And now, on a tablet, you can have everything I mentioned before and MORE on one single screen. Using the AppLauncher (the only thing "apple people" know) is kind of pathetic nowadays - you only use it for rarely used apps.

    And as Juzcallmeneo says: you don't have to use them and can fill all of the precious space just with icons, like on the iPad or's up to you.
  • Azsen - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Can Skype or Google Chat make use of the front facing camera on the iPad 2 or iPhone 4?

    Would be a real shame if everyone was forced to use Apple's Face Time app. I'd rather use Skype as I have a larger contact list on that. I don't see why Apple should be allowed to block access to the camera for this use, would be pretty anti-competitive.
  • RaggedKarma - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Skype for the iphone can use it, so it would make sense that they would port this to the iPad too.
  • jcandle - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    No, the iPad 2 isn't overspecced or even revolutionary in specs. But as tech minded people we need to consider why the iPad was popular in the first place. If it was all about specs, convertible notebook tablets of many years past had the iPad dead to rights. It's not about the flexibility or customizability of the underlying OS. When Jobs trotted out on stage to give his presentation he clearly reinforced Apple's commitment to combining the liberal arts and technology. Apple is introducing the experience top to bottom with everything from standout store fronts and best-in-class customer service to fashionable aesthetics and underlying utility in the product. Apple doesn't compete on true specs, they compete on faux marketing specs. You may find that deceptive, but Joe public doesn't even understand what a pixel is; only perhaps that screens contains them. You can ask any non-techie friend why their iPhone 4 screen is so awesome and they won't quote you some ppi spec because frankly they don't remember it and it just isn't important. The screen is decently readable in sunlight, has razor sharp text and graphics, and has a cool sounding name like Retina Display. Now they may have even forgotten about the last part but they're constantly reminded of how nice the product looks overall. But then why even trot out a new product every so often to meet competition? It's a fair question that you might ask. The answer would be the same as why your son or daughter has 5 iPods. Its likely because it's new and in-style.

    Apple competes the same way a fashion designer releases the new spring collection. Apple keeps it's products at the forefront of style; always trotting out a feature or two that sure to ooh or awe, but only serves to provide an excuse for consumers to drop bills on a brand new fashion accessory; because that's exactly what they are. And to that effects that's why apple has certain design standards that they even hold their developers to. They also don't allow you to customize as that would go against the predetermined color, shape, and design of the year. So, no widgets for you! Apple doesn't think they're in style. And it's not like they haven't given it some though. That calendar app that comes with iOS devices is a clear indicator it was investigated and dropped. Perhaps it's just not it's ready for the spotlight.

    But more than simply create an expensive paperweight the second part of the equation requires that Apple fulfill the devices utilitarian purpose. In that goal it's not about how many widgets you can cram on screen, how can stack windows, or multitask them as cards. The interface is simple because it's unobtrusively designed to let you complete your task. If you want to play a game it gets your there quickly. If you want to chat it let's you quickly launch your app. The user experience is also refined so that it flows and appears smooth and natural. Unlike most competitors, the only one that really picked up on these elements is Microsoft with Windows Phone 7. While power users and techies will flock to the logical, customizable, spec driven devices that are most similar to their beloved computers, Apple themselves stated they want to move beyond the tradtional PC experience. And for most consumers that's exactly what they want-- a device that's not a device. If they can forget they're even using something akin to a pocket computer that is a true meter of success. In fact, the most ideal device is likely something that is ubiquitous and simply carries out whatever task you ask of it. No buttons, no fidgeting, and no artificial human interface layer. Natural human communication and transparent augmentation is utimately the goal. Who doesn't want the Star Trek computer for some Q&A or the Holodeck for games and recreation? But since we're not there yet, Joe and Jane will just have to settle for a device that a monkey could figure out and one that just works.
  • maxxl - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "The iPad still lacks a dedicated keyboard, which will probably always hamper its utility as a content creation device for me"

    What are you talking about? There's Apple iPad Keyboard Dock, and Apple Wireless Keyboard as well.

    You really should do research, before you write about something:
  • Andrew Cunningham - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Sorry, let me clarify:

    If I'm sitting down at a desk (the situation in which the dock would be most useful), I'm going to sit down at the full-sized computer I already have, since it's a dual-monitor workstation with a full range of productivity apps and more capable browsers (don't get me wrong - the iPad browser is fine, but it defaults to HTML editing in Wordpress and Blogger and a lot of the sites where I spend my time, which is just annoying enough to keep me from using it unless there's an emergency).

    I actually have and use the bluetooth keyboard sometimes, but again, if I'm out travelling I'm more likely to bring my laptop than my iPad. The nice thing about the keyboard is that you can put it away when you browse and bring it out when you work, but for all of the stuff I have to do, it's easier for me to work on a full-size laptop and put up with the extra bulk.

    It's also worth noting that both of these peripherals add to the price of the iPad.

    I'm not saying there aren't keyboards available and I'm not saying that it's impossible to work on the iPad, I'm just saying that at this point I prefer working on more traditional computers when given the choice. I could have said this in the article but it's a bit off-topic. :-)

    Does this help clarify?
  • maxxl - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Yes, it helps me understand what you mean. But then again, in your article you just pointed out the lack of dedicated keyboard for iPad in wrong perspective. The conclusion is, that every tablet is not for you as content creation device, not just iPad 2. Lack of integrated phisical (not dedicated!) keyboard is one of these things which makes tablet... a tablet, you know ;) It's a feature, not a flaw. To make things worse, there are dedicaced keyboards for iPad, so your statement in above article is just misleading in my opinion.
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    There was a rumor that it would use the SGX 543MP2, the dual-GPU version of the 543. If they are claiming 9x the graphical performance, isn't that more likely than the single GPU version?
  • vol7ron - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "up to nine times as fast as the original iPad"

    So if it's as fast, does it make it the same speed? Perhaps you meant faster?
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    His sentence was semantically correct, if your going to break in the new guy at least find a real mistake.

    If I have twice as much money as you, do I have exactly as much money as you, by your logic?

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