iOS 4.2 finally brings iPhone and iPad into sync

New OS release could be available as early as tomorrow, with new AirPlay feature

The next releases of Android and Apple IOS could both appear within days, though Google supporters will have to wait longer for full integration of the smartphone and tablet experience. True support for larger screen devices is not expected until the ‘Honeycomb’ release later this year, while the upcoming 2.3 is still mainly geared to displays under 5-inches. By contrast, iOS 4.2 will fully synchronize iPhone and iPad for the first time.

This makes release 4.2 more than just a tidy-up of the operating system, since it fills some important gaps for iPad users, notably multitasking, which had already been fixed for the iPhone. The software could be available as early as tomorrow, and Apple has already started accepting compatible applications.

Previously, iPhone and iPad OS releases were out of sync, despite the much vaunted single experience, but not they really share the same software. The most important changes include the addition of AirPlay, an upgrade to AirTunes, which allows audio, video and photos to be streamed over Wi-Fi to other devices on a personal network, including Apple TV. Steve Jobs described this as enabling a user to start watching a movie on the iPad, then pause it, turn on AirPlay and carry on viewing on TV. Unlike Netflix, which is also available on Apple TV, AirPlay is only expected to work with iTunes content, and as yet it (and Apple TV) cannot access the App Store for activities such as games.

Also in iOS 4.2 is support for wireless printing using AirPrint over Wi-Fi, which does not require new drivers. Hewlett-Packard has already agreed to enable all its new wireless printers to work with AirPrint, alongside its own plans to make webOS into an optimized networked printing system.

Coming to the iPad for the first time are iPhone capabilities like multitasking, folders for organizing apps, and access to the Game Center. And specifically for the 3G iPads, the devices will gain the same higher signal bars at the lower end of the wireless spectrum, released in the aftermath of ‘Antennagate’.

Release 4.2 should also fix various bugs that reduced speed and battery life for iPhone 3G users who upgraded to iOS 4.0. Developers say the new version returns 3G owners to their pre-upgrade speeds.

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