iPad owners will be chomping at the bit waiting for 7 pm GMT when the much-promised 4.2 upgrade to the iPad's operating system comes on line. iPhone users have enjoyed iOS4.1 for several months and have been able to play with the many features – including home-screen folders and multi-tasking* – while the iPadistas have been out in the cold. This evening, though the systems for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch are being unified as iOS 4.2.1.
The goodies for phone and iPod touch users are not too obvious other than the new AirPrint and AirPlay features. AirPrint currently works with a limited number of HP printers while AirPlay enables streaming of video from an iOS device to a TV via the new Apple TV. But perhaps the biggest news for all iOS users, including iPad, is the free access to MobileMe's Find My Phone service which enables you to find your lost device on a map and remotely lock or wipe all the data from the unit.
iPad owners, though, will notice an enormous change with the introduction of multitasking and the fast app switcher which is accessed by a smart double tap on the home button. I'm told that the implementation of multitasking on the iPad is a revelation and gives a big boost in productivity. I can believe it.
Visually, too, the adoption of home-screen folders, which iPhone owners have had for months, will tidy up the display and, in my experience, make finding apps so much easier because they can be grouped into like folders – productivity, games, entertainment, etc.
Left: Folders brought organisation to the iPhone and iPod touch; now iPad owners can join the club
One of the biggest bugbears of the previous iOS versions was the lack of a unified mailbox. Again, this has been available to iPhone users for months and will now appear on the iPad. This is a tremendous advance and makes handling mail so much easier and more intuitive.
All this makes me a little sad that I no longer own an iPad. I sold my 64GB 3G model to a friend who wanted to try her hand at painting. She's now a budding Hockney and I'm impressed how good these iPad paintings can be. For my part, I wanted to try the new 11in MacBook Air (which is very little bigger or heavier than the iPad) and there is a limit to the number of portable devices you want to carry around with you. For the moment, I'm existing with my iPhone and the Air – plus occasional use of my Kindle – and I'll have to forego the pleasure of all the new iPad goodies.
* Some of the new features, including multitasking and a unified email box are not available on older devices, including the iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch.