Apple Releases 4.2 Beta to Developers

Apple has released 4.2 to developers and has announced AirPrint. From the press release:

Apple® today announced that it is releasing a beta version of its AirPrint wireless printing for iPad™, iPhone® and iPod touch® to members of Apple’s iOS developer program today, and that AirPrint will be included in the free iOS 4.2 software update in November. AirPrint automatically finds printers on local networks and can print text, photos and graphics to them wirelessly over Wi-Fi without the need to install drivers or download software. HP’s existing and upcoming ePrint enabled printers will be the first to support printing direct from iOS devices.

AirPrint sounds like a fantastic feature. I’m not the kind of guy that prints too often, maybe 3-4 times per year, but I am happy that it is coming to iOS. Printing is one feature that always gets mentioned by those criticizing the iPad, and us iPad owners won’t have to hear it for too much longer.

But, having printer functionality built right into my primary picture viewing device might make me print more often. I can see myself showing photos to a family member and printing it right from the iPad so that they can have a copy to take home with them.

Printing is one of the biggest new features in iOS 4.2 but it’s not the only big feature. AirPlay is also getting a lot of attention, especially now that people actually have devices with it built in. And, the AirPlay button isn’t just showing up in the Photos and Video application, AirPlay is also making appearances in MLB at Bat, Netflix, and almost every other application that plays back H.264 video with one of Apple’s standard video views. This finding has led many to believe that Apple might not release an App Store for the Apple TV but instead plans to let the iPhone and iPad run the applications and use AirPlay to display video on your television screen. This would in essence turn the Apple TV into a $99 wireless TV-output device. The question that remains is whether application developers will (or will be able to) block AirPlay functionality from appearing in their application.

There’s a whole bunch of other improvements in iOS 4.2, including the ability to search within a web page, the brightness setting in the iPad’s application tray, and the ability to assign different SMS tones to contacts. 9 to 5 Mac and Smoking Apples have done a good job detailing the changes on the iPhone and iPad respectively.

I installed iOS 4.2 on my iPad and iPhone 3GS yesterday and I’ve been really happy with it. 4.2 feels a lot less buggy on the iPhone than it does on the iPad but that’s probably because most iPad apps haven’t been built with 4.0 features in mind and the iPhone has already made that jump.

It’s also worth noting that my iPad’s UDID hasn’t been registered as a developer device and I still managed to get it installed without a hiccup. I’m actually not exactly sure how I managed to do it, the only thing I did that others might not have was disconnect from the Internet immediately after iTunes verified the update with Apple. I’m not sure if that disconnection did anything but I do have 4.2 on an unregistered device.

4.2 marks the first major update to the iPad and it was worth the wait. Apple has fixed a lot of the issues that many people had with the iPad and added a few extra features along the way. iOS products just keep getting better and better and, as long as you own a relatively recent device, all of those new features come at no cost.