This is one of those things that quite rightly annoys Apple’s critics. They can make valid and productive complaints about the limitations of their hardware — particularly their iOS devices — and Apple really has no way to respond.
…Except to update the OS, which is what they’d planned all along.
Here’s the anticipated 4.2 update to the iPad’s OS. Now it multitasks and can print directly from the device. I’m certain that we can all expect a flurry of new reviews and blog posts that humbly say “I know I dismissed the iPad as a silly, trendy toy back in April. But now, obviously, I have to admit that the iPad is absolutely wonderful. After all, I only listed two real shortcomings, and now Apple’s addressed both of them.”
Which isn’t to say that the iPad only had two problems. But Lord, to hear these commentators talk you’d think that they believe we should allow the white rhino to go extinct. “They’re completely useless,” one reviewer says. “Look at the size of those horns. Don’t tell me there wasn’t any room for an SD card reader. If these animals had been created by Google, you could just customize it yourself, but nooooo. God just doesn’t get it. And still, billions of people worship Him like He’s some sort of…”
(I’m checking iTunes again. Nope, iTunes tells me there’s still an hour left to go on my download. Damn and blast.)
Multitasking on the iPad is a clear Win, though as with the iPhone most of the Win comes specifically from the speed with which you can now switch between apps, and the ability to stream music from third-party apps. “Multitasking” clearly has a different meaning in a one-screen interface.
Printing is another nice new feature, though it won’t be quite as fab as we’d hoped, nor as fab as it’ll be in a future release. The original idea was that the iPad would just find and use any available file server. Nope, that’s been delayed. iOS 4.2’s printing feature only works with devices that support the iPad’s network printing scheme. Still, as someone who recently found himself in a hotel room thinking “If I could print directly from my iPad, I wouldn’t be here trying to think of Something Clever” I’m happy to see that problem go from a No to a Maybe.
(Yes, I know there are third-party apps that promise direct printing. But they’re unreliable, and frustrating as hell. I’d much rather have a feature like AirPrint that will definitely work if you have the right printer, than a third-party app that’s supposed to be compatible with all printers but may or may not actually function when the time comes, depending on whether or not the app approves of the color of the drapes in the room.)
(39 minutes to go. Hey, cool…it jumped at least ten minutes!)
AirPlay is the response to everyone who sees a range of Apple devices in someone’s house and assumes that the owner is a brainwashed cultist. There’s a downside to investing your faith and consumer bucks in the Apple infrastructure, but it’s overwhelmed by the positive: this stuff all works together. And the new thing that comes out a year from now will also work well with all of this stuff you’ve already got. In…
…35 minutes, plus or minus, I’ll be able to stream any media I want from any notebook, desktop, iPhone, or iPad to my AppleTV. Unlike other solutions for other devices, it’ll just plain work. Why? Because the same company designed all of the hardware and controls the OS that powers ’em all, and this company is clearly on our side.
Amid iOS 4.2’s other bibs and bobs is one real drawback for iPad users. Unfathomably, the Rotation Lock switch is now a Mute switch. You need a dedicated switch like that one on a phone. You might be in the middle of a funeral and suddenly regret that you chose “Butt Shaker” as your ringtone, to name but one example.
But when you’re using an iPad, the desire to prevent the screen from rotating (again) (goddammit) is just as urgent and spontaneous. Right now, with iOS 3.x, if I’m holding it at a slightly awkward angle and the iPad keeps autorotating on me, I reach up and flip a single switch. In…
…23 minutes, I’ll have to double-tap the Home button to reveal the taskbar, swipe left to reveal the widgets, tap the Rotation Lock button, and then tap the Home button again to get back to what I was doing.
It’s utter nonsense. I predict that soon there’ll be a new System Pref that allows you to choose the function of the lock button.
But all of this is academic because I still have…
…20 minutes before the download is complete and the installation begins.
I read the announcement this morning. iOS 4.2 became available to my copy of iTunes a few hours later. For a solid thirty minutes, I kept the iPad plugged in and clicked the “Check For Updates” button every 30 seconds, waiting for a download slot to open up.
Honestly, I was like one of those pathetic losers at a casino, chain-smoking and numbly tapping the buttons on a video poker machine. The only difference was that Jay Leno wasn’t over in the next room doing his standup.