A new version release of iOS always seems to excite the tech-savvy of the world far more than it has any right to; I’ve seen reams of articles dedicated to them on sites like Engadget, with only a few brief mentions made of fresh (some would say “insane”) ideas, like this one from BMW which popped up today. I swear I’m not making this up:
But still, you can’t deny that iOS is a sleek and functional operating system (not quite as functional as Android, but that’s just my opinion), and therefore iOS 4.3’s imminent release is still making heads turn. Nowhere near is this as significant for iPad users as v4.2 was – and especially not for iPhone or iPod touch users (the only major change for them appearing to be the ability to use the audio/video streaming AirPlay service with third-party apps). It certainly isn’t worth mentioning by us at all under normal circumstances. But it’s a few of the quirks this relatively minor update hauls with it from Cupertino that convinced OneMetal to take a look – at least for a bit, anyway.
For a start, the update allows the switch on the side of the iPad to be given a purpose the user decides, rather than what Apple decides…no, I’m just kidding. But we, the consumer, do indeed get a choice of two things for that little switch to do – mute all sounds, or lock the screen rotation. The latter is what the switch was originally designed for, and was changed to the former with iOS 4.2.
Naturally, the utter pointlessness of such a function is safely over the border of human comprehension (presumably prancing across said border wearing a bright red sombrero whilst blowing an air horn at strangers to the tune of “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry). The iPhone has a mute switch so it doesn’t punch a hole through your chances of promotion when you’re in a meeting, but the iPad is, in my book, perfectly acceptable to be out on the desk helping you plan things – and coupled with the fact that the iPad cannot receive calls or even set alarms and therefore cannot ring under any circumstances, means the choice to change back to a more practical function is probably going to be implemented faster than you can hold down the Volume Down button for a second (did I mention that mutes the device anyway?).
Another interesting addition to the OS’s code is the ability to use your iPhone 4 as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing you to basically become the best friend of anyone in the vicinity with a laptop or non-3G enabled tablet device. Such technology will no doubt be significantly battery-intensive, however, and it’s entirely up to your service provider to allow you to use it; meaning that it may cost you more or may be entirely unavailable.
I’ve saved the most interesting feature (that, admittedly, has just been included in the beta for the purposes of testing the water) until last – the introduction of full-hand gestures that replicate the functions of the Home button. A five-finger “squeeze” goes to the home screen, and four-or-five-finger swipes to the up or left & right open the Task Switcher and switch between open Apps, respectively. These gestures apparently won’t make it to iOS 4.3’s release, but they do open up the possibilities for Home Button-less iDevices in the future.
That’s all well and good for the iPad, with its 9.7 inch display, but attempting to fit 5 fingers on the screen of my iPod touch as I write this article looks rather stupid and actually bears more risk of scratching the screen because of the position your hand becomes forced to take. If Apple plans to introduce this as the main method of navigating to the Home Screen, then a screen size increase might be on the cards for future iPhones and iPods.
Given the release of the next iPhone, bringing with it iOS 5.0, is probably only a few months off, this is a fascinating insight that might have given us a glimpse of Apple’s vision for their flagship product line. Plus, it also ties up a few of the loose ends with the tech currently on sale, which – while admittedly minor – were still trailing quite annoyingly from the products’ otherwise expertly-maintained exteriors.