The iPad 2 Arrives

Hands on with iOS 4.3

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In 4.2, under the rubric of consistency across iOS devices, Apple changed the switch so that it instead muted the device’s sound. (Well, in some cases.) Instead, you could only lock the screen by double-clicking the Home button, swiping right to bring up the new control panel, and tapping the new software orientation lock control. While it was serviceable for those who knew where to find it, actually discovering the control was difficult (one colleague of mine, lamenting the demise of the hardware lock, didn’t even know the software control existed until I showed him).

As of iOS 4.3, users can choose whether they want the iPad's hardware switch to control orientation lock or muting.

But now, in 4.3, Apple has given users the option to use the switch either to lock the orientation or to mute the sound. Navigate to Settings -> General on your iPad and scroll down until you find the “Use Side Switch to” preference. Don’t worry: whichever option you don’t pick will still be accessible via the multitasking shelf’s control panel. And remember, you can still hold the Volume Down control for a couple seconds to quickly mute the iPad.

Bits and bobs

Safari performance: As we’ve seen in my colleague Jason Snell’s review of the iPad 2 and elsewhere, iOS 4.3 significantly boosts the speed of Safari’s JavaScript performance, thanks to the incorporation of the Nitro engine used in the Mac OS X version of Apple’s Web browser. In the SunSpider test, both the iPhone 4 and the original iPad showed marked improvements, performing more than twice as quickly as the same devices under iOS 4.2.1.

Fine-grained parental restrictions on Location Services are now available in iOS 4.3.

New restrictions: Parents of children with iOS devices now have more fine-grained controls over what their kids can and can’t do, especially in regards to location. While Location Services could previously be disabled for the entire device or for specific applications (a feature which is still present, but has now been moved to the top leve of Settings), you can now also adjust and lock those under Settings -> General -> Restrictions -> Location. It’s ideal for when you don’t necessarily want your child broadcasting their location on Google Latitude, but do want to be able to find the location of the phone with Find My iPhone in case they misplace it.

In addition, parents can now choose to disable iTunes’s Ping social network—an added boon for those who just really don’t like Ping. Apple has also clarified the controls for the Accounts restriction, which now lets parents decide if they want to allow their kids to change account information or not. And Apple has also changed its App Store settings so that additional in-app purchases require a password, even if other content has been bought within the past 15 minutes. It’s a change which should assuage many parents who found themselves with high bills due to their kids buying items through games and other apps.

Transitions: Slideshow transition options used to appear under Settings -> Photos, but they’ve now been moved to Photos and Camera: when you tap Play, a screen slides up letting you pick a transition and music from your iPod library.

Noteworthy: The Chalkboard font face that briefly appeared inn iOS 4.2 as an option for Apple’s built-in Notes app has been replaced in 4.3 with a new handwriting-esque face called Noteworthy. You can pick your preferred font from Settings -> Notes.

Text messages: Instead of just having an On/Off switch that lets you choose whether or not your phone will repeat text message alerts if you don’t acknowledge them, you can now decide how many times it will repeat the alert: once, twice, three times, five times, or 10 times. No matter what you choose, the alarms repeat at 2 minute intervals. And some of the new text message tones introduced in iOS 4.2 have been shortened, making them friendlier for text messages.

Zoom: Apple’s finally fixed one of the iOS inconsistencies that’s been bugging me for a few versions. Previously, you could choose to enable an accessibility option by triple-clicking the Home button: the options, under Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Triple-click Home were to toggle the white-on-black interface, toggle VoiceOver, or to ask which feature to enable. In the last case, it would bring up a menu, which would let you pick from the first two options and a third: zoom. But you couldn’t assign a triple-click directly to the zoom function until now.

The ability to add a 'wait' to contact phone numbers is handy for places where you might need to enter a PIN or other number.

Other things I’ve found in my poking around:

  • New region formats for U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and America Samoa, so if you live in any of those places, rejoice.
  • Settings -> Phone -> AT&T Services now includes a View My Data and Msg option, which will send you a text message with your current data and text message usage for the current billing cycle.
  • Settings -> Safari -> Databases, which let you see which sites were storing data on your iPhone, is now gone.
  • When adding a contact’s phone number, you can now insert a wait instead of a pause. This means that once you dial that number, you’ll get a button which lets you dial the string of numbers after the wait, great for dialing into conference calls. (Pause, on the other hand, dials the numbers automatically after 2 seconds.)
  • Settings -> Sounds -> Ringtone now includes a Buy More Tones button at the top, which, when tapped, takes you to the Ringtones section of the iTunes Store.

That’s the extent of my 4.3 foray. All in all, it’s a solid update, and far more than I’d expect from a point release. While it’s not going to fulfill all our hopes and dreams, it at least makes the iOS devices more capable, and that’s about all anyone can ask for.

[Dan Moren is a senior associate editor for Macworld.]

At a Glance
  • Apple iOS 4.3

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