iPad iOS 4.2 Beta 1 – Some Observations

25Sep10

Recently I was able to get some hands on time with an iPad running the first beta of iOS 4.2. Here are some initial observations…

1. Folders are a god send. 6 pages of apps can easily be condensed down to a more manageable two home screens. Whereas under iOS 3.2 I am much more inclined to show restraint when installing apps, 4.2 is likely to encourage wild App Store binges. Good news for Apple.

2. Performance appears largely unaffected; a pleasant surprise given the iPads somewhat anaemic 256MB RAM. That’s not to say that everything with Beta 1 is plain sailing. Video playback is problematic in Safari. The more graphical RSS readers (Pulse and Flud for example) tend to crash on launch and Twitter for iPad refuses to maintain a persistent connection. All of these issues should be resolved when 4.2 goes primetime in November 2010.

3. The hardware orientation lock slider now becomes a mute button. I don’t have a problem with this per se, but I am hoping that the final release of 4.2 steps away from using the ‘mute ringtone’ onscreen overlay to signal when mute has been activated/deactivated. A more appropriate overlay would be the one used in Mac OS X (the stylised speaker icon).

4. Activating the multitasking app switching bar when holding the iPad in portrait orientation feels awkward to me. Doing so on an iPhone feels much more natural because the device is designed to be held in one hand. Double clicking the home button on the iPad requires an intentional stretching of the hand so the thumb can reach the centrally positioned home button.

5. The changes to the signal stretch indicator bars on iPhones running 4.0 onwards have been carried over to the 3G iPad models in 4.2.

6. The ability to manually configure the cellular carrier settings on the device itself appear to have been removed. 4.2 Beta 1 seems to rely solely on the automatic carrier updates pushed from iTunes when syncing the device.

7. Mail.app plays nicely with Gmail. The left-to-right swipe gesture will now archive, rather than delete, a message. The old trash icon previously found on the right of Mails toolbar has now been replaced by Googles ‘archive’ icon (the very same one found in the Gmail tablet compatible web app).

8. Airplay can be found everywhere. Every app capable of media playback that I tried displayed the new Airplay icon next to the playback controls. It is possible to push any audio to a compatible device. It currently works with Airport Express, although the audio playback can get a little choppy. It doesn’t work with the soon to be replaced, older models of Apple TV. I will be pissed if Airplay compatibility is withheld from Apple TV early adopters purely to force sales of the newer model. The first gen Apple TV is capable of serving as an AirTunes client. I doubt there is a technical reason why it can’t also receive and play Airplay content. We will see…

9. The Calendar app loses it’s bright, saturated colour scheme in favour of a more muted iCal-esque tone.

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