New features in iOS 4.3 – The good, the bad and the pointless

On March 10, 2011

Ben Harvell is a freelance writer and former editor of iCreate magazine. He writes for a wide range of international technology magazines and websites including Macworld, MacFormat and MacUser (basically anything with “Mac” in the title) and blogs at Ben regularly opens Xcode, gets scared and closes it again and is also rather obsessed with Twitter. You should follow him, what’s the worst that could happen?

iOS 4.3 arrived on both my iPhone and iPad last night and with it brought a selection of new features, some of which are exciting, some fun and some trivial.

Let’s start with the pointless…
Number one in the “would everybody please just get over it” category is the option to set the iPad side switch as either an orientation lock or a mute control. This has never been a particular problem for me and not nearly as much of problem as it seems to be for many who blather on about it on the web. I favour the switch for use as an orientation lock, primarily because pressing the iPad’s volume down button for more than a second produces muting anyway. For those who don’t have one second to spare when silencing their device, I do apologise and wish you well in your sad little life.

Getting warmer…
Then there’s the fairly interesting category. Here we find iTunes Home Sharing and the Nitro JavaScript engine coming to Safari. Faster browsing is always a good thing, especially when you are not on Wi-Fi, but I just upgraded my broadband so I’m finding it hard to determine whether pages are loading that much faster as a result of this Nitro injection. Home Sharing seems a little overhyped for what it does, especially given the new AirPlay features that provide more than enough flexibility for most. Apple provides the example of streaming a movie from your Mac in one room to your iPad or sending an iTunes mix on your iPod touch from the office to the kitchen. Perhaps, if you live in a palatial manor, this could be a bonus but, given that it takes me less than a minute to get from the office to the kitchen (who am I kidding, it’s more like 10 seconds), I can normally hear whatever’s playing while I make a coffee. I guess being able to access my entire library of movies from the sofa would be great but, wouldn’t I then just play them on my AppleTV?

And so to the really exciting developments in iOS 4.3, namely AirPlay improvements and the Personal Hotspot feature. Finally, we’re beginning to see Apple open up when it comes to what app developers are allowed to transmit, with the HDMI-out capabilities of the iPad 2 and these new tweaks to AirPlay streaming. It shouldn’t be long before apps themselves appear on the AppleTV but these new opportunities to send content from iOS devices to Apple’s multimedia box is a positive move. It is strange that Apple decided to introduce MLB and the NBA as services on AppleTV (a la Netflix), however, when has such an impressive app already. Hopefully, though, this is yet another step forward in the snail-like move toward apps on the AppleTV.

Personal Hotspot is a great idea, but it falls flat if you are required by your carrier to pay for the privilege. My current carrier (02 in the UK) wants me to sign up to the tethering service it offers in order to use the Personal Hotspot feature. I’m not signed up for tethering, as I have serious issues with paying for data twice. Fortunately it sounds like many networks are planning to build tethering into their data packages soon, so my moaning may come to an end. Until then they won’t be seeing a penny more from me, although I would be inclined to slip some money in the direction of a talented developer who could circumvent this preposterous cash grab…