iOS 4.3 Beta Release New Features Roundup

Apple yesterday made iOS 4.3 beta 1 available to developers around the world, with versions available for all the usual hardware (including Apple TV) with the exception of the iPhone 3G. Farewell old friend.

With that sad news out of the way, lets move onto what’s new in version 4.3 and after playing with the OS for 24 hours on both an iPad and iPhone 4 I can say one thing for certain – we’re in for some interesting times ahead.

Personal Hotspot (iPhone)

First up on the list of changes is something we reported as a possibility a couple of days ago. With the announce of the Verizon iPhone we were shown a great new personal hotspot feature, allowing up to 5 devices to use the iPhone’s data connection over WiFi. We thought this might be available in an upcoming iOS version for GSM handsets also and sure enough, the same feature is present in 4.3 beta 1. So far it seems that carriers can choose to make this available to customers or not – AT&T are apparently ‘looking into it’.

Alert Tone Repeat (iPhone)

Fresh to beta of iOS 4.3 is the option to change how many times your iPhone alerts you when a new SMS message arrives. Options here range from just the once to a battery-destroying 10 times. Great if, like me you manage to miss notifications on an all-too-regular basis!

I know I’m easily pleased, but this is one of my personal favourites when it comes to new features!

Lock Switch, err, switch (iPad)

Placed firmly in the ‘we all wanted it but never dare dream it could happen’ column, check this out guys and gals: The rotation lock is back.
At least, it is if you want it to be. A new switch in the Settings app now gives users the option to make the iPad’s hardware switch into either a rotation lock or the famous mute switch we were given recently. Choice? From Apple? Surely not!

Oh hai thar Mr Flying Pig!

New Gestures (iPad)

A nice surprise for iPad owners this one. Apple has added some new gestures to its tablet, giving users new ways to switch between apps without reaching for that home button. Is that a sign iPad 2 just won’t have one at all?

The details from the horse’s mouth:

Test Multi-Touch Gestures for iPad
This beta release contains a preview of new Multi-Touch gestures for iPad. You can use four or five fingers to pinch to the Home Screen; swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar; and swipe left or right between apps. We are providing this preview before releasing them to the public to understand how these gestures work with your apps. Test them and give us your feedback on the Apple Developer Forums

There is a caveat with the new gestures though. As if to drive home just how beta this new feature is, Apple has hidden it by default. To get access to the gestures you’ll need to plug the iPad into a Mac with Xcode running and press the ‘use device for development’ button. It might as well have a great big ‘this could all go pear-shaped’ alarm too!

New AirPlay abilities

Along with the beta update for the 2nd generation Apple TV, Apple has given developers the ability to send video from 3rd party applications or websites to AirPlay receiving devices. Obviously Apple knows how disappointed we all were with AirPlay’s initial implementation and hopefully iOS 4.3 will unlock its full potential when released in the wild.

Wrap up

So those are the major new features that we’ve noticed in iOS 4.3 beta 1 after a day’s use, and we’re finding new things all the time.

A quick word on stability for those thinking of giving the beta a whirl. In 24 hours of use, I’ve already had to restore my iPhone due to all hell breaking loose after quitting an app, and my iPad has needed a force restart on a few occasions after using the new gestures to switch apps. Interestingly I seem to be the only one having any major issues, though there are the usual slew of apps that don’t like the beta (Skype for example) but I think the point still stands: this IS a beta. Not only that, it’s the FIRST beta. There will be bugs, so don’t install this unless you’re ready for all the fun and games that could well come with it.

Here’s hoping beta 2 brings us even better new stuff to play with!

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