Now iOS 4.2 is here and installed.

Partial screenshot of an iPad running iOS 4.2, showing the dock toolbar. Screen lock button, iPod playback controls, and sliders for volume and brightness are visible, plus an AirPlay button.

I’ve now updated my iPad and my Apple TV to today’s new editions of iOS.

I’m already loving AirPlay. It’s such a natural way to integrate all of your devices that contain media. The desktop edition of iTunes, plus any app on the iPad or iPhone that deals with media, has an AirPlay button. Tap it and you’re presented with a popup list of all of the devices on the network that can stream AirPlay audio and video. It’s the same basic mechanism as when you decide to plug something into a set of amplified speakers. It’s spontaneous and it works.

Mostly. I did get one stall-out when I tried to stream HD video from my iPad to an Apple TV. But for the record, the initial frame from “Up” was, er, stunning.

As it happens, I’ve been working from the sofa all morning, and streaming tunes from my MacBook’s iTunes library to the ATV. An hour ago, I’d choose my music by picking up the ATV remote and peering across the room. Now, the TV is just the output device. When I wanted to pause the music, I tabbed to iTunes and clicked. It’s a subtle distinction but a powerful one.

The good news is that my Apple TV seems to manage multiple inputs with grace. Obviously I can’t select it from my iPad if my MacBook is actively using it. But if the playlist ends, or I hit Pause, the Apple TV immediately becomes available to other devices.

A clear Win. When I reviewed the Apple TV I said that it was a tough choice between this and the new Roku boxes (which are cheaper and also support older analog TVs). The OS updates reinforce my conclusion. If you’re mostly looking for a way to watch Netflix movies, you might as well save a few bucks and get a Roku. But if you’re already putting most of your media in iTunes libraries, you definitely want the Apple TV.

I already miss the “rotation lock” function of my iPad’s new “Mute” switch. Honestly, I can’t imagine a single circumstance under which I’d be grateful that Apple made this change. It’s not like it’s a colossal pain in the butt to have to access the screen lock via the Home button, but it’s annoying enough.

On the plus side, the Home widget deck also includes a screen brightness control. That setting always felt like it was a bit buried.

As expected, AirPrint doesn’t care that my HP printer is connected to the network via an Apple Airport Extreme base station. The HP doesn’t support AirPrint so no dice. Oh, well.

Also as expected: fast app switching is a huge win. Particularly when you’re reading books. It’s as though I always have my current book at my elbow, opened to the current page. I can check my email and then return to Suzanne Somers’ latest book right away. AirPlay works just fine in the background, incidentally. You can be reading a book in iBooks while your iPad streams our music in the background.

(Though there were a couple of quick cuts in the audio early on, likely while the playlist was still buffering to the Apple TV. Playback has been perfectly smooth every since.)

The second semi-transformative enhancement of multitasking: pre-4.2, newsreader apps would hold my iPad hostage while it spent ten minutes downloading hundreds of new blog pieces. Now? I can still look at email or read while it grinds away in the background.

Or at least the app will once I update it to iOS 4.2. As with the iPhone, many of the goodies of the OS require new (but usually free) updates to old apps.

I’m starting to think that the true competition in tablet space just got pushed back another six months. HP certainly has some interesting things planned for WebOS, but that’s all still speculative. Android slates are hopelessly stalled; they can’t even pull out of the garage and head for the starting line until Google releases the first tablet-oriented edition of Android. Even then, there’ll be the delays and caveats associated with all Android releases.

In January of 2010, I believed that by December the iPad would be the front-runner but there’d be some interesting competition to be found. Now, despite the Samsung Galaxy Tab (which I like a lot) I’m wondering if there’ll be any credible and mature competition before summer.

36 thoughts on “Now iOS 4.2 is here and installed.”

  1. Did you catch the AirPlay “feature” that allows any app to stream Audio? When you select an ATV from the iPod app, any app that plays audio will stream to it.

    For example, Pandora streams just fine to a ATV using this method even though it doesn’t “support” AirPlay.

  2. I’m looking forward to an Android tablet that can truly compete with the iPad, including price. Yes, I really am that patient.

  3. So I know I can stream content from my Mac or iPad to my ATV, but can I stream content from my Mac to my iPad?

  4. Any thoughts on why the video player in Safari only streams audio? Any thoughts on why you can’t send your iPhone4 videos to the AppleTV? It makes no sense whatsoever why I would want to send a slideshow of photos from my iPhone but NOT my HD video that I shot with my iPhone.

  5. Is there any way to now stream music from my iPhone 4 to my stereo? Now I have to connect my phone to the stereo through the Apple doc.

  6. While I’m an iPad user and have been saying that Android desperately needs a competitive tablet for the holiday season, I’ve been impressed by the reported sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab (600,000 so far). While early, the Galaxy Tab may be that foothold that keeps the iPad from unassailably overwhelming Android tablets. It may give Android enough time for the later comers to get good enough for a serious challenge.

  7. Mr. Ihnatko,

    Appreciate your review on iOS 4.2. Downloading it now for my iPod Touch. The good thing about Android is it keeps Apple on it’s toes. That 4.0 dud was not Apple finest hour. However, I think pushing back competition for Android tablets is a good thing. If it means getting Honeycomb and a better contender against the iPad, it bodes well for everyone. I’m keeping an open mind. If Apple’s iPad 2 is a more compelling product, I might have to give Apple the chance. I want a new iPod Touch because it’s the best media player on the market.

  8. “An hour ago, I’d choose my music by picking up the ATV remote and peering across the room. Now, the TV is just the output device. When I wanted to pause the music, I tabbed to iTunes and clicked. It’s a subtle distinction but a powerful one.” — I don’t understand. You could easily do this before with the new Apple TV, just exactly the same way you could do it with the Airport Express. The only difference was that you had to initiate the stream from iTunes.

  9. @Sharon – Bad example, and it harks back to the “subtle distinction” concept. It also bears mentioning that you could always send audio to an Airport Express.

    The difference is that AirPlay feels more like a basic function that you should expect to work in every situation where there’s audio or video presence. Airport Express feels more like a special thing that got wired into iTunes.

  10. Like the new brightness control, the “mute” switch provides something that was previously impossible without digging into the Settings app. In this case, you can now flip a single, easily accessible switch to toggle notification sounds.

    I’m not a really big fan of the choice to replace the function of the hardware switch; but the knowledge that I can turn email notifications on and off at will mitigates my disappointment a bit.

    Note: some apps, especially iPad-only apps, are still using the default audio session against Apple’s explicit recommendation. These apps will also be silenced by the switch. Developers should be updating their apps to properly implement audio sessions for iOS 4 on the iPad.

  11. Now that I know I can double-tap on the Home button to get at the device settings, including rotation lock, I’m considerably happier about losing the use of the hardware switch for rotation lock (though I did prefer the previous behavior).

  12. Sometimes I take my iPad into Court and use it as I usually use a laptop. So muting with the switch is useful in that circumstance. I think I’d still rather have the hardware switch act as the orientation lock.

  13. Not sure how anyone can be happy about the rotation lock switch. It’s quite awful in practice to have to double click and side swipe, then click, to lock the rotation all the time (and try explaining that to someone who you’ve handed your iPad to, and has got disoriented).

    I’m hoping that someone will reenable the functionality and at least allow us the choice in Cydia soon.

  14. Maybe the failure rate of the hardware switch has the potential of being too high and Apple didnt want to have to go and start making no charge repairs. A software switch takes the pressure off of the physical switch.

  15. Well it doesn’t quite work as well as it could. Yes I was able to stream Video and Photos to the Apple TV but it was slow (I can appreciate it would be) but more importantly b) there was no obvious “progress bar”

    Streaming Video just had the spinning progress thingy on the Apple TV. For SD Videos it took a few seconds to stream. For HD I gave up after a minute.

    And Photos? I fired up a photo, hit send to Apple TV and then waited, and waited, and waited. In some cases it appeared after a while, in some it didn’t and in SOME it appeared after I quit the photo app.

    So, it may work for some seamlessly but it appears there are still some bugs or UI items to work on

    Whatever happened to “Loading….X%” ?

    Jason

  16. I think it’s worth pointing out that what is now being referred to by Apple and the tech press as the “mute switch” only turns off notification sounds as some commenters on here have said. The icon that flashes on screen confusingly has a volume setting crossed through which I guess is why actually happens but it’s not obvious what it means.

  17. So 99% of the time when you’re watching the video on your tiny droid screen your wasting a TON of storage space just so that on occasion when you tether your phone to your television you can feel good knowing you’re watching 1080p video. Have fun with that… but on the bright side, you’ve got sd cards so you can just store each movie on one of those.

  18. Just posted this at my blog:

    Dear Steve, I want my rotation lock back. ps – WiffPrint sucks.

    Okay so 4.2 iOS is out for iPad and I’ve been playing with it for a few hours now. It works fine and I’m happy that the iPad OS is now up to speed with my iPhone 4. I have 2 complaints however.

    1. There was no need to reconfigure the slide switch to a mute button. It worked perfectly fine and I used it a lot. I don’t care about a mute switch that actually doesn’t mute all volumes. Apparently it is only for system notifications or something? Because I was watching a video on Devour (best YouTube site ever) with the switch muted and sound still coming from the speaker. Guess they decided the iPad needed a button like the green/+ window button on OSX. I’ve been using Macs for years and still haven’t figured out what that blasted button is suppose to do. So ya hear me Steve? I want my lock button back, or at least the option to switch it back. (I’ve sent several emails to Steve expressing my displeasure, he hasn’t responded.)

    2. Crippled AirPrint. I’ve resisted purchasing a 3rd party app that facilitates printing from my iPad for one reason. I don’t think it’s something I should have to pay for. It’s been ridiculous that the magical iPad cannot print. Steve promised us robust printing when he covered the great new features being added to iPad with 4.2. Apple is even so excited about iPad printing they gave it a cool name: AirPrint. For now I’m going to call it WiffPrint. Why WiffPrint? Because it’s like a whiff fart, lots of noise but doesn’t amount to much. As of now WiffPrint only prints to select HP wireless printers. Never mind that I already have a $100 printer connected to a $200 Airport Extreme router that works great as a wireless printer for my Mac. No, for the magic of WiffPrint to work I’m suppose to go out and purchase another printer? This is ridiculous especially considering networked printers were supported in the beta up until the final 4.2 release. So Steve could you please enlighten us a little as to why the sudden drop?

    Lately being an Apple user has really been wearing on my patience. A little morsel of info. every now and then would be nice.

  19. “I already miss the “rotation lock” function of my iPad’s new “Mute” switch. Honestly, I can’t imagine a single circumstance under which I’d be grateful that Apple made this change”

    I found it very annoying that when you tried to lower the volume, it went almost instantly to zero. This inconsistency with the other iOs products drove me mad….!!!! So yes, I am very happy about this change :)

  20. Come on @coregeek I’m sure you’ll get use to holding the volume button down for 2 seconds to allow for muting the device.

    It will take a while to get use too I know – Locking the rotation by double pressing the home key, but this is Apple’s way of making the small physical button on the side the same on all it’s iDevices. Good move I think.

    Great article Andy I think I’ll be purchasing an AppleTV very soon.

  21. The real disappointment I had here was that I have an HP printer that is on my Wifi network and iPad couldn’t use it and also since the functionality of iPrint was scaled back, I also couldn’t print to it when I hooked it up to Time Capsule, Airport Express or Airport Extreme since this is essentially automatic printer sharing. Supporting printers should have been more about supporting a standard wifi printer or shared printer, not buying a printer that supports Airprint to help prop up HP sales. Other than that, I was pretty excited about the release and I couldn’t wait to get home yesterday and get it installed on everything… Now, what we need is an Airport Express that has HDMI out so that you can stream video as well as audio with Airplay.

  22. “It’s not like it’s a colossal pain in the butt to have to access the screen lock via the Home button, but it’s annoying enough.”

    I disagree. It is a colossal pain and I don’t care whether we now have a consistent behaviour on all iPhone / iPod / iPad devices or not. Please, Steve, if it was different on the other devices, change it on them but give us back the rotation lock knob or otherwise I’ll hate you.

    Well, as I already do so, you probably won’t mind anyway …

  23. I think one of the reasons streaming audio on iPad video (e.g. video in Safari) is helpful is to be able to watch video on your iPad and be able to listen to the audio over your stereo. In my case I can watch video on the iPad and listen to audio streaming to my Airport Express which is then connected to my stereo amplifier/home theatre.

    It sounds a lot better than the iPad speakers and not as “closed” as headphones or earbuds.

  24. Since muting the device is an action you would more than likely change when the device is idle (i.e. the screen is off, but you’d like to mute the device), it seems to make sense to me.

    I’ve reached into my pocket many times to mute my iPhone just by toggling the switch on the side, and without even touching the screen. I would think that this feature would be beneficial on iPads as well.

    Also, if you look on any standard volume control scheme on laptops or desktops, there is usually a lower volume, raise volume, and mute volume. It just seems to align with those standards as well.

  25. “The second semi-transformative enhancement of multitasking: pre-4.2, newsreader apps would hold my iPad hostage while it spent ten minutes downloading hundreds of new blog pieces. Now? I can still look at email or read while it grinds away in the background.”

    Are you sure about that, Andy? Even with multitasking, apps don’t really run in the background. It’s more like “fast app switching” where they are frozen in place and then resumed without having to relaunch from scratch. The only apps that can keep a thread actively running in the background are audio playback, GPS, and VoIP apps. All other apps are limited to push notifications, local notifications, or limited-time (on the order of 5 minutes or less) task completion, which wouldn’t seem terribly useful for a newsreader app.

  26. “I found it very annoying that when you tried to lower the volume, it went almost instantly to zero. This inconsistency with the other iOs products drove me mad….!!!! So yes, I am very happy about this change”

    Oops, I thought they had changed this in 4.2.1 (since it seemed related to the missing mute button) but they did not! This is tragic!

  27. That is just awesome.

    Loved the garden backdrop which was beautiful in summer, but when you do “Macbreak Weekly” now you are in darkness half way through!

    I am very impressed that in the second picture the Walker is facing right…..

  28. Did you try airplay with an iPhone 3GS? I’m having terrible trouble with it even though I should have plenty of WiFi signal (from half to full depending on where I am in the living room). Even when the phone is right next to the wireless router in my bedroom it doesn’t always work smoothly.

    On the other hand it works perfectly from within iTunes, so I’m suspecting this is a 3GS specific issue. Anyone else have any experience with it?

  29. “I found it very annoying that when you tried to lower the volume, it went almost instantly to zero. This inconsistency with the other iOs products drove me mad….!!!! So yes, I am very happy about this change”

    “Oops, I thought they had changed this in 4.2.1 (since it seemed related to the missing mute button) but they did not! This is tragic!”

    Click the volume up or down the volume raises and lowers. Hold the volume down for more than a few seconds it automatically mutes. Just like the down button on a car window. It works fine this way. Again with this feature already in place changing the screen lock hard switch to a mute switch is totally unneeded and redundant use of the very few physical buttons and on the iPad.

  30. Coregeek, you’re wrong about the function of the switch. It doesn’t do what you think it does.

    If the switch silences something crucial to the purpose of an app – say, audio from ABC Player – then you should ask the developer(s) to implement the appropriate audio session. This behavior is a developer issue, not an iOS issue.

  31. Keep an eye on CES in January. I’m betting HP will unveil a WebOS-based tablet, which will be a great competitor to the iPad.

Comments are closed.