iOS 4.2 review

For iPad users, iOS 4.2 is quite a big deal as it finally brings the capabilities of iOS 4 – multitasking, folders, and more – to the device. While you’ll need to wait until all app makers update their software to take advantage of the new features, many programs that run on both the iPad and iPhone already have multitasking support built in.

iPad users also get Mail’s unified inbox that lets you see all your new messages in one place, and can organise messages by thread. Folders let you group applications and help reduce Home screen clutter – the iPad lets you fill a folder with up to 20 different apps. And there’s Game Center, Apple’s gaming social network that lets you compare scores with friends, rank in leaderboards, and earn achievements in supported games. Round it out with the Ping social networking service, and this update’s nothing to sneeze at.

iOS 4.2 also brings two new, big features: AirPlay, which lets you stream media from an iOS device to the Apple TV or third-party equipment; and AirPrint, which lets you print directly from an iOS device to compatible printers.

If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll find iOS 4.2 a solid, mildly useful update. There’s nothing earth-shaking here – nothing as significant as the multitasking features and folders that iOS 4.2 adds to the iPad. Still, features such as Find My iPhone and the ability to search for text on web pages in Safari will be welcomed by every iPhone owner, even if those extras won’t mean a major change in the way you use the phone.

AirPlay and AirPrint will get much of the publicity with this new release, but for the absent-minded and the security-minded, one of the niftiest aspects of the upgrade for iPhone users will be Find My iPhone.

Find My iPhone
This has been available for the iPhone 4 since its launch but is now offered to those who aren’t MobileMe subscribers. (It works on the iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch and iPad. You can register other iOS 4.2 devices but need to register one of these first.) As you would guess, Find My iPhone helps you locate your phone if you misplace it. But it does more than that – it also lets you remotely lock the iPhone, wipe it, display a message or play a sound on it.

Add a MobileMe account by tapping Mail, then tapping MobileMe. Enter the Apple ID and password you use with the iTunes store. With that done, turn on Location Services on your iPhone by tapping the Settings app, then tapping General > Location Services, and tapping to turn it on (if it’s not on already). Your iPhone will find your location in the same way it usually does, either via GPS or through the less-precise method of using nearby WiFi hotspots.

Now turn on the Find My iPhone service. From the Settings screen, tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars; now tap MobileMe, and in the Find My iPhone section, tap to turn it on. If you misplace your phone, head to www.me.com. Your phone is ‘pinged’, GPS turns on, and you’ll be shown the location of your phone on Google Maps. Tap the arrow next to the location, and a screen appears that lets you lock the phone, wipe it, display a message or play a sound.

With Find My iPhone, you can send a warning message to anyone who has your iPhone. Or you can use it to track down your phone in your own home. Your iPhone will make a sound even if it’s locked or in silent mode, so you can follow the annoying sound.

By the way, you won’t get MobileMe email with your free account. If you want that and the other MobileMe services such as iDisk and Back to my Mac, it will still cost the £59 annual fee.

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