Apple's iPad tablet has been called "magical," and while numerous companies have tried to top what the iPad can do by releasing their own tablet devices, none have come close to the global popularity of this revolutionary device.
For the first time since the iPad was first launched, Apple released a major operating system upgrade, called iOS 4.2, which greatly enhances the functionality of the iPad.
The iOS 4.2 upgrade, released in November 2010, is also compatible with and benefits the iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4, and iPod Touch, but these mobile devices have been running iOS 4.1 since September and already utilize many of the new features that iOS 4.2 provides to iPad users for the first time (which until now was running the older iOS 3.2.2).
For iPad users, upgrading to iOS 4.2 is easily done through iTunes. When promoted during a sync, accept and download the operating system upgrade, and then follow the prompts to automatically transfer and install the update onto your tablet device.
If you're not prompted to initiate the upgrade, from within iTunes, click on your iPad under the Device listing that's located on the left side of the screen. When the Summary screen for your iPad appears, click on the Check For Upgrades icon.
Apple is boasting that iOS 4.2 represents the most advanced mobile operating system in existence. Once it's loaded onto your iPad, you'll have access to more than 100 new features and functions, some of which are very subtle. Others will greatly enhance your ability to use Apple's tablet device as a powerful business tool, potentially allowing you to entirely replace your need to carry a laptop computer or netbook.
Here's a Sampling of What iOS 4.2 Offers
Three of the major improvements you'll immediately notice when you upgrade your iPad to iOS 4.2 are the ability to multitask apps, create folders, and print from your iPad wirelessly.
The new multitasking feature allows you to run multiple apps at the same time, and switch between them instantly. Then, when you return to an app after switching away from it, you'll pick up exactly where you left off, without having to reload the app. This saves time and preserves battery life, while also making it easier to cut and paste content[md]for example, between apps.
The Folders feature of the iOS 4.2 operating system allows you to group together apps by category or genre on your Home Screen, and place them into easily accessible folders that you can custom name.
For example, you can group together all of your news gathering apps, travel apps, work-related apps, or entertainment-oriented apps to save on-screen real estate and make it easier to sort through and find apps when you have many of them installed on your iPad.
Perhaps the greatest improvement offered by the new iOS 4.2 upgrade is the ability to print wirelessly from your iPad. With a few taps of the screen, you can send email messages, web pages, documents, spreadsheets, PDF files, and other types of data to any printer that's connected to your home or office's wireless network (when you're using your iPad in Wi-Fi mode).
If you don't have a wireless network, you can use the new AirPrint feature to send files directly to any printer that utilizes the new ePrint feature. This includes a handful of HP printers (http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/can.do?landing=printer&lanAttr=HP+ePrint&category=e-All-in-One&catLevel=1&storeName=storefronts), which range in price from $50.00 to $400.00.
If you're an avid user of the iPad's Mail app for sending and receiving email, you'll discover vast improvements in the way you can now organize mail boxes, as well as individual message threads. Plus, you have the ability to open and utilize more types of email attachments (including Word, Excel, PDF, PowerPoint, and digital picture files) and use them in conjunction with various other apps.
Particularly if you maintain multiple email accounts, iOS 4.2 will keep all of your accounts and messages separate, but allow you to view them from a central location if you wish, saving you time by not having to constantly switch between accounts to read and reply to all your new incoming messages.
Then, as you reply to messages, the updated Mail app displays the entire thread related to that email, so you can refer to what was previously said during an email discussion volley without having to manually re-open old messages.
For iPad users who use their tablet as a mobile entertainment device, the AirPlay feature now built into the operating system allows for video, music, and photos to be wirelessly streamed from the iPad to the new Apple TV, as well as to speakers, receivers, and devices that support AirPlay. So, you can start watching a movie on your iPad's screen, press a button, and have it streamed to a nearby television.
Eventually, this AirPlay feature will prove useful to business users who want to use their iPad as a more powerful presentation tool in conjunction with iWork's Keynote app. Digital projectors or large screen displays will be able to wirelessly show off digital slide show presentations streamed from an iPad, without having to connect the tablet directly to a projector or monitor using a cable.
Among the other enhancements iOS 4.2 offers to iPad users are improved security features and better tools for enterprise integration, a new Search feature that's available within the iPad's Safari web browser, and a handful of virtual keyboard enhancements that provide support for 30 additional languages. In addition, the Locate iPhone or Locate iPad feature that was once a premium feature included with MobileMe membership is now a free service available to everyone.
Weeks before the iOS 4.2 upgrade was released to the general public, it was made available to thousands of app developers, who have already begun to brainstorm new ways to utilize the additional features and functionality this upgrade offers within their third-party apps.
Keith Landers, CEO of Bizmosis, a leading developer of iPhone and iPad apps, stated:
"iOS 4.2 is a welcome release that many of our customers have been waiting for. The addition of multitasking and direct printing are capabilities that we have needed for many of our customer's solutions. This release has brought the iPad up to the level that we had been hoping for."
In conjunction with this new operating system release, don't be surprised if many of your current apps now have updates available that take full advantage of the new operating system.
Be sure to access the App Store from your iPad, and click on the Updates icon in the lower-right corner of the screen to determine which of your current apps need to be upgraded for free. (This can also be done from within iTunes.)