After teasing us with its new features at the iPad 2 event early this month, Apple has finally made iOS 4.3 available for public release, introducing some new features to the operating system that are well worth the update. Along with enabling the Personal Hotspot feature for AT&T customers – and those signed up to other carriers worldwide – iOS 4.3 also allows AirPlay within third-party applications, makes the Safari browser faster, brings new multitouch gestures to the iPad, and introduces a new iTunes Home Sharing feature. Here’s a brief rundown of everything that’s new:
Personal Hotspot debuted on the Verizon iPhone 4, but now it’s available to anyone who is signed up to a carrier that supports data tethering. It’s a feature that enables you to turn your iPhone into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot and share its data connection with your other devices. Perfect if you have a Wi-Fi model iPad and you’d like to share your mobile data on the move, or you want to browse the web on your notebook when there’s no Wi-Fi around. If you have iOS 4.3 installed, you can enable this feature within the general settings, however, be sure your carrier supports it, and that you have a tethering plan before you use it. There are stories of many carriers allowing you to use the feature without a tethering plan, but charging you excessive fees when you get your bill at the end of the month.
AirPlay is now system-wide, allowing you to stream content to your AppleTV from the Photos app, iTunes previews, websites, and third-party applications that support the feature. It was previously only available to a select few Apple applications, but now you can enjoy the feature a great deal more. Further more, you can also stream slideshows – complete with transitions – to your AppleTV from the Photos application on your iOS device.
After many, many requests for this feature from unhappy iPad users, Steve Jobs finally gave in and allowed us to customize how we’d like the switch on our iPads to function. Instead of just muting our device, we can now change it back to a rotation lock. Hooray!
iOS 4.3 also brings some new multitouch gestures to the iPad, which was a surprise to many in this release. These gestures were available in early 4.3 betas, but Apple told developers they were simply for testing, and that they wouldn’t actually feature in the final 4.3 release. But they’re here, and they’re great. Swiping up on your iPad with 4 fingers will reveal your multitasking tray, and pinching with all 5 fingers will close the application you’re in and take you to the home screen.
A few more minor changes were also made in iOS 4.3: you can now output HD video using the Apple Digital AV Adapter introduced at the iPad 2 event; there are some new features for Ping which enable you to receive push notifications for comments and follow requests; new message settings let you change how many times to repeat a new message alert; and there are also a couple of bug fixes.
All in all iOS 4.3 is certainly worth the update, unless, of course, you like to jailbreak your device. In which case, you’ll need to wait until an official jailbreak for this firmware is released, or you’ll be subject to Apple’s restrictions once more.