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Apple iOS 4.2 for iPad Review

Our Verdict

Multitasking, AirPlay streaming, and a bevy of other enhancements make the best tablet platform even better.

For

  • Intuitive multitasking
  • AirPlay streams easily to Apple TV, other devices
  • Folders better organize apps
  • E-mail enhancements include unified inbox
  • Find My iPad now free

Against

  • AirPrint doesn't always work
  • AirPlay only works with a few apps

iPad owners have been eagerly awaiting the release of iOS 4.2, the updated software for Apple's tablet that brings with it a number of improvements, including multitasking, folders, and wireless multimedia streaming and printing. This new version of the OS turns an already excellent device into something you'll use even more often for work and play.

Multitasking

This is perhaps the most anticipated feature of the iOS 4.2 update, allowing you to have more than one app running at a time. Now, you no longer have to, say, quit streaming Pandora in order to check your e-mail. Double-tapping the Home button replaces the dock with a row of icons showing the apps currently running. A quick tap on an icon opens that app; pressing and holding allows you to close apps.

This feature worked well, and we noticed little, if any, slowdown with multiple apps running. We were able to listen to our tunes while checking out friends in the Friendly app, browsing the web, or reading news in the New York Times app. However, not all apps can run in the background. Our song halted when trying to edit a Google doc in the Google Mobile App; strangely, we didn't encounter the same issue when we edited the Google Doc using the Safari browser.

Music, Brightness, Screen Orientation Widget

With the multitasking bar open, swiping all the way to the right brings up controls to lock the screen orientation, adjust the brightness of the screen, and control the music playing. This is a nice feature to have, but it feels as if you have to make one too many gestures to reach these controls. In addition, what was once the screen lock switch is now used to mute the iPad, and you can't customize what it does.

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AirPlay

The most fun feature of iOS 4.2 is AirPlay, which makes the entire Apple ecosystem work nicely together. It lets you stream multimedia from an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to an Apple TV. In certain apps--such as photos and videos--a small icon gives you the option of displaying content on the iPad or on a TV. We connected our iPad to an Apple TV device, and, after waiting anywhere from a few seconds to a minute, streamed music, photos, and videos seamlessly. Using the multitasking feature, we were even able to play music (and control volume, too) while scrolling through our photos.

There are a few caveats, though: Images and videos that look good on the iPad aren't as impressive when blown up on a 32-inch HDTV. If your network is bogged down--say, you're torrenting a bunch of music--AirPlay won't work well, if it works at all. Also, AirPlay only works with a few apps (Photos, Videos, and YouTube), and you can't stream videos shot on your iPhone. Hopefully, these issues will be resolved soon, but the bottom line is that AirPlay makes sharing content as simple as it could be.

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AirPrint

The new AirPrint feature in iOS 4.2 lets you print photos wirelessly across a network to an approved printer (such as HP's Photosmart line). When it worked, the iPad and iPhone saw a HP Photosmart D110 printer almost instantly on the network, and were just as quick to send photos. However, it was a little erratic--we were able to print one or two photos before the printer would stop printing, and we had to restart it. We wish you had a little more control over how you could print (such as the size of paper, cropping, etc) as you can with the HP iPrint app, but we liked that in the dock, you can see your print queue.

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Unified Inbox

As with the iPhone 4's update a few months ago, you now have a unified inbox that aggregates all your e-mail. Personally, we prefer separate inboxes, so as to not confuse work and personal messages, but it's nice that this option is now available.

Folders

The iOS 4.2 release also gives you folders, each of which can store up to 20 icons. We found this feature especially useful for organizing games, news-oriented apps, and productivity apps in their own silos.

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Find on This Page

In Safari, you can search for a word or phrase contained on a web page by using the Google search bar. As you type the word you want to find, the bottom of the window shows how many times that word appears on the page. Selecting "Find" highlights that word on the page.

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Find My iPad

iOS 4.2 now includes the convenient Find My iPhone feature for free, which works with the iPad and iPod Touch, too. Once you set up a MobileMe account in the settings menu, you just turn on the Find My iPad feature. When you sign into me.com, you can locate your device on a map and write a message to appear on the iPad's screen. You can also have your iPad play a sound for 2 minutes. If you don't want to take any chances, you can remotely lock or wipe the tablet all from this map interface.

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Verdict

All in all, the improvements that iOS 4.2 brings aren't ground-breaking, but they are very welcome. With multitasking and folders already on the iPhone, not having those features on the iPad made it seem like the tablet was somehow inferior to its smaller sibling. However, other new features, such as AirPlay and AirPrint, really make the iPad stand out from other slates. While we wish AirPlay worked with more apps, it's a lot of fun to use, and it will probably tempt you to buy an Apple TV if you haven't already. Add all these goodies up and it's now even harder to resist getting an iPad.

Tech Specs

Software Required OS:iOS
Software TypeOperating Systems
PlatformsiPad, iOS
Company Websitehttp://www.apple.com
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