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What Was New in iOS 4 for the iPad

Once again, I’m updating my Take Control ebook about the iPad. The first thing to be cut is the roundup of what was new in iOS 4. However, I feel unhappy about consigning it to the digital dustbin. Instead, I’m posting it here (with a few edits for this context) so that any iPad historians out there can have access to the detailed information.

New Features in iOS 4.2

To be specific, the first version of iOS 4.2 that was generally available to iPad users was iOS 4.2.1. For the sake of smoothness, I’ve rounded the version number in the list below.

Home Screen Folders

You can now group apps into “folders,” though they don’t look like folders at all.


With iOS 3 loaded, the iPad usually could do only one thing at a time, though it could receive data via push (such as new calendar events) even if you weren’t running the appropriate app for that data. You can think of iOS 4 as adding 20 points to the iPad’s IQ, making it possible for the iPad to keep track of more things at once. Thanks to multi-tasking, once you launch an app, it (usually) stays launched even if you switch to another app. Then, if you come back to the first app, it resumes immediately. For the most part, you’ll no longer experience long waits on splash screens for the same app to launch for the seventh time in one work session! (Apple calls this “fast app switching.”)

Most of the time, when an app stays launched, it goes into suspended animation–it’s loaded, but it’s not doing anything except waiting for you to come back. In a few specific cases the app keeps a single task active:

  • Third-party audio apps can continue playing (Apple’s iPod app could do this even in iOS 3).

  • Location-related apps can continue telling a server where they are.

  • Voice-over-IP apps–used for Internet-based “phone” calls–can continue to receive incoming calls. Skype is a well-known example of this sort of app.

Multi-tasking also enables functions like an alarm clock and background printing. I had expected that Apple would release an iPad version of the Clock app that comes with the iPhone and iPod touch when it released iOS 4.2.1, but this did not happen. If you’d like to add a timer function to your iPad, you’ll be pleased to know that a few clock-related apps have now appeared that have a timer function.

Note: Apps must be recompiled for iOS 4 before they can take advantage of multi-tasking.

Fast App Switching

You can switch back to a recently used app by tapping its icon on the Home screen but you may prefer to use a new iOS 4 technique: double-click the Home button to reveal a strip, which I call the task switcher bar, that shows tappable icons of your recently used apps. For more information, flip to the sidebar How to Quickly Find and Launch Apps. (Previously, the Settings app gave you a few choices for what double-clicking the Home button would do, but now it’s assigned to bringing up the task switcher bar.)

Note: The icon at the right of the task switcher bar depends on which audio app you’ve been using most recently. For example, the popular Pandora Internet music-streaming app will appear (a fact that my 12-year-old son is well aware of) and my editor, Michael, reported that the icon for the Major League Baseball app appears when it’s playing an audio stream.

AirPlay Streaming

AirPlay is a new name for Apple’s older “AirTunes” technology. When you use AirPlay, you “play” media over the “air.” Here are two examples of the iPad using AirPlay:

  • The iPad can stream audio over a Wi-Fi network to an AirPort Express base station; the base station then receives the audio and sends it via a cable connection to a stereo. I use this often to listen to music playing in the next room while working in my office. I can conveniently control the music from the iPad at my desk.

  • The iPad can stream audio, photos, and video over a Wi-Fi network to the second-generation Apple TV (released in September 2010), but not to the older model. The Apple TV converts the media stream for playback on a connected television set.

For more details, read the Apple article at

Built-in Printing (Sort Of)

When Steve Jobs announced iOS 4.2, he presented system-wide printing as an important new feature. With printing added to iOS, developers could update their apps to use the new iOS printing capability. Alas, Apple has encountered difficulties getting printer makers to adopt the technology. As I review this text in June 2011, iOS 4.3 can print to a variety of HP printers. You can see the full list of supported printers at:

Better Babysitting

New “parental controls” let you password-protect account-related settings for email, contacts, or calendars. To find this option, open the Settings app and tap General > Restrictions.

A New Way to Quickly Search the Web

The Spotlight search screen now offers tappable options for moving your search to the Web generally or to Wikipedia. Read Search with Spotlight for more about searching.

More Virtual Keyboards for More Languages

With iOS 4.2, the iPad catches up to its smaller siblings, the iPhone and iPod touch. All of these devices can now show keyboards for Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Korean, and more. For a full list, look in the Languages entry at and for a few more details read

More Slideshow Choices

iOS 4 brings some more options for how you can configure the slideshow that plays in Picture Frame mode. You can now change how long each image appears, and it now works with iPhoto’s Faces feature. (Read Set Up Picture Frame Mode to learn more about setting up the Picture Frame slideshow.)

Safari Improvements

An exciting change in Safari is that you can now search within the currently displayed Web page: To do so, first load the page. Next, type your search terms in the normal Search field. Look for your results at the bottom of the search popover, under “On This Page.”

A Safari change that’s near-and-dear to me, as co-publisher of this Take Control series, is that if you download a PDF in the Safari app on your iPad, you can now easily send the PDF to an app that was designed for ebook reading, such as iBooks or GoodReader. To do so, first load the PDF into Safari. Then tap in the body of the PDF. This will reveal a bar with two buttons. If you want to use the PDF-reading app suggested in the leftmost button, tap the button. Otherwise, tap “Open in” and then tap your desired app.

Note: You can also download an EPUB using this basic technique. It won’t display in the Safari app, but once it’s downloaded, the “Open In” controls will appear. (If you use this technique to add the EPUB to iBooks, note that it will not sync back to iTunes on your computer.)

Game Center App

Although many iOS games have a multi-player option for playing with people across the room or across the globe, the new Game Center app gives you a centralized home for accessing many multi-player games, all with one login account, one handle, one friends list, and one ueber scoreboard. It also gives game developers a single method of programming user-interaction options.

If a game app works with Game Center, you’ll see a Game Center logo beside its icon in the iTunes Store.

More than One Exchange Account

If you use Exchange-style accounts for email or for syncing data like calendar events, you’ll be happy to know that you can set up more than one of them on your iPad. This includes Microsoft Exchange, Google, and Hotmail accounts, among others. If you think this might be important to you, read Microsoft ActiveSync Exchange, much later.

A Better Mail App

Apple beefed up the Mail app in several ways, including the addition of these handy features:

  • When you have more than one email account, you can see all your incoming messages from all accounts in a single Inbox.

  • The Mail app now has a threading feature, allowing you to see email-based conversations all together in one screen.

Notes Sync Wirelessly

With iOS 3, if you wanted to sync notes from Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook on your computer with the Notes app on the iPad, you had to sync them through iTunes. With iOS 4.2, you now can choose whether to sync them using iTunes or using a wireless connection. And, if you use MobileMe for notes syncing, you can locate your notes in the Apple Mail Inbox of any IMAP-style email account.

Note: If the above paragraph doesn’t make much sense to you, please don’t worry. Just read on.

You can also now change the font that Notes uses to display text: in the Settings app, in the left pane, tap Notes. Then, at the right, tap the font that you’d prefer to use. The text of your old notes and any new notes that you create will now use the font you chose. You can change the font as often as you like.

Tip: If you want to do note-taking on your iPad, note that there are many lovely third-party note-taking apps, most of which are more versatile and functional than the built-in Notes app.

CardDAV Syncing

CardDAV is a method of transferring contact information between different devices. If you store contacts on a server that supports CardDAV, you’re in luck, because you can now sync them with your iPad. (If you use Yahoo’s online Contacts application, CardDAV is what you need to put your Yahoo contacts on your iPad and vice-versa.) For directions on setting up CardDAV syncing, read CardDAV, later.

Make Playlists in iPod

Before iOS 4, if you wanted to put audio files in a playlist, you had to create the list in iTunes and set up the Music pane in iTunes so that the playlist would sync to your iPad. (A playlist is like a mix tape–you get to decide what songs go in the playlist, so you can make a playlist of your favorite songs to listen to while cleaning the house, or a list called “awesome songs from the 80s,” or a list that you’ll play during a party.)

Now, you can make playlists right on your iPad, in the iPod app. To get started, tap the plus button at the lower left of the iPod screen.

New Features in iOS 4.3

With iOS 4.3, Apple added a few things for all iPad owners, but the changes are only incremental when compared to the long list of new features introduced with iOS 4.2:

  • The physical side switch can be a Mute button or an Orientation Lock button. You can learn more about this in Rotate and Tilt (Change Orientation).

  • AirPlay Streaming, which was new in iOS 4.2, can now work from more than just a handful of Apple apps, so you can stream music and video from your iPad to a stereo system or Apple TV from a wider variety of apps. Third-party apps must add AirPlay support.

  • Home Sharing, an option in iTunes, now makes it possible to stream media from iTunes on a computer to your iPad’s screen.

  • iOS 4.3 added a personal hotspot feature to the iPhone, but that option has not transferred to the iPad. Perhaps it will in the future.

Of course, iOS 4.3 on the iPad 2 brings new features to the iPad 2 that aren’t available on the original iPad. These new features include the Camera, FaceTime, and PhotoBooth apps, support for the two built-in cameras, and mirroring (displaying the entire iPad screen, no matter what Home screen or app is active, on an external display).

Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)