iOS 4.3 - iOS 4 redux

Those of you hoping to get some information on iOS 5 today are out of luck - you'll probably have to wait for the iPhone 5 announcement before you see the true next-generation iOS. iOS 4.3, which requires the newly released iTunes 10.2, adds some new features to the now-familiar iOS 4 without changing much else.

The first thing you should know about the next iOS update is the list of supported models - Apple lists, in additon to the iPad 2, the original iPad, the iPhone 3GS and 4, and the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch. Missing from this list are the iPhone 3G and the second-generation iPod Touch, which won't be supported by any iOS update past 4.2.1. The CDMA iPhone 4 is also excluded from the 4.3 list, although Apple hasn't provided any reason as to why it's not included.

This information might sting a bit for owners of these devices, but it certainly isn't surprising. The iPhone 3G missed out on many of iOS 4's banner features - multitasking and home screen wallpapers being chief among these - and performance has been notoriously poor on these older devices, though the 4.1 and 4.2 releases did improve the situation to some degree. It's too bad that Apple can't deliver new software updates to all of its users indefinitely, but it's understandable that they don't want to hamper newer devices' feature sets in order to maintain support for devices with 128MB of RAM and sub-500MHz processors.

Now that you know what devices won't be supported, let's talk about the features that supported devices should see when the new update hits on March 11th.


All supported devices should see a tidy increase in JavaScript performance in Safari - Apple claims that its new Nitro JavaScript engine is twice as fast as the old one. It's not a consolation for those hoping for Honeycomb's true tabbed browser, but it should improve the experience for anyone already used to Web browsing in iOS.

AT&T iPhone 4 users will also get the Personal Hotspot feature included on the new Verizon iPhone - contingent on AT&T's support for the feature, they'll be able to share their phone's 3G data connection with up to five wi-fi enabled devices. AT&T's GSM/UMTS network should allow this feature to work even if the phone is being used to make calls, which will be a nice feature for the AT&T faithful.

Next up, users who were discouraged to see the iPad's orientation lock become a practically useless mute switch at the onset of iOS 4 will now have the option to make it an orientation lock once again. There's not much else to say about this one.

The last feature I want to talk about is the one that I'm the most excited about, personally - people will finally be able to stream their iTunes libraries to their iOS devices over their wi-fi networks, just as they've been able to share their libraries with other iTunes users for years now. It may not matter much to users with higher-capacity devices, but this forehead-slappingly simple feature is going to be awesome for me - I can finally access all of the music from my 40+ GB iTunes library on my 16GB iPhone while I'm wandering around the house, and I couldn't be happier about it.

iOS 4.3 further improves iOS 4, but it doesn't really address the underlying problem with iOS - it's becoming a bit dated, and that some of Honeycomb's interface improvements make Android tablets more usable for heavy multitaskers without negating the elegance of an all-touch interface. This is understandable, for now - many Apple users are perfectly happy with iOS 4, so why rock the boat? - but I'd like to see some more drastic changes in iOS 5, especially given how multitasking-oriented the new hardware is.

GarageBand and iMovie - iLife for iPad

One of the most common criticisms of the iPad is that it is designed for media consumption rather than creation - if you want to look at web pages or photos or movies, it's great, but if you're in the business of making any of those things, it leaves something to be desired.

I believe that this problem is endemic to tablets - any device that is mostly screen is going to lose to something that accepts more versatile input devices - but Apple is moving to remedy some of those complaints with new apps based on its iLife suite.


iMovie appears to be a relatively full-featured movie editor that can work with movies stored on your iPad or with movies you capture with the device's built-in camera. 

iMovie for iPad supports exporting to YouTube and to iTunes, among other services, and gives you access to a range of transitions and sound effects, to boot. Expect it to deliver a good amount of the Mac version of iMovie's functionality, though you certainly won't be able to replace your MacBook with a tablet just yet.

Most of these statements also apply to the iPad version of GarageBand, a simplified version of the iLife app. The iPad app can record up to 8-tracks from recorded audio, loops, or from the app's simulated instruments (touch versions of a drumset, keyboard, guitar and bass guitar are all represented). As with iMovie, serious users will still want to use the desktop version of GarageBand, but the iOS app goes some way toward making the iPad a more usable prodution device.


The Hardware Conclusions
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  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    If you like functionality..Then Android was made for you. Integration is it's strong suit. Apple's only work with Apple branded closed junk.

    iPad 2 cameras: 0.3MP, 0.7MP
    Xoom Cameras: 2MP, 5MP

    iPad 2 Video Editing: $4.99
    Honey Comb Video Editing: Included!5744175/screenshot-tour-of...

    Garage Band is unique to the iPad now, I will agree. It is a nice little toy app for another $4.99. For real media creation, we need an app with much more versitility. I want FL Studio to move to a mobile platform. If the iPad got a program of that caliber..I would buy it.
  • tipoo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    How do you know the iPad's camera resolution?
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "iPad 2 cameras: 0.3MP, 0.7MP
    Xoom Cameras: 2MP, 5MP"

    As tipoo already asked, where are getting those figures? I think the rear camera is 720p which would be 0.9MP (possibly more for stills - if it does that). Outside of video chat, what other possible applications could a 10" tablet have for photo/video cameras? It makes sense for a phone, with a camera-like form factor, but tablet cameras have a very narrow set of practical use-cases as far as I can see.

    "iPad 2 Video Editing: $4.99
    Honey Comb Video Editing: Included"

    Considering the price difference between the Xoom and a 32GB 3G iPad 2, it's hard to see how this $5 matters.

    The Xoom demands a $70 premium ($65 if you count the iMovie tax) - what you get is a slightly higher-res, but lower quality screen (see AnandTech review), a currently anemic app store, much less battery life, a thicker/heavier machine, and (probably) more RAM. Then of course there are cheaper iPad 2 models as well.
  • bplewis24 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Why do people resort to lying and or misleading people to spin things in favor or their preferred brand? You do realize that the Xoom is one Honeycomb tablet and that other Honeycomb tablets will be cheaper, right?

    Where do you get "much less battery life"? If you've already seen the Anandtech review, you'll see the battery life is pretty even.

    Stop with the pathetic spin.

  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Juzcallmeneo explicitly evoked the Xoom tablet when comparing the cameras - I suppose I could have handled his two comparisons separately.

    I stand corrected on battery life - I guess I skimmed that page. That said, considering the iPad 2 is ~120g lighter and a lot thinner with similar internals, you would expect that the Xoom battery should last at least as long.

    I understand these discussions can get heated with brand loyalty and whatnot, but while I'm an iPad fan of sorts, I'm pretty sure I'm not intentionally lying or misleading people to "spin" something. I'm generally platform agnostic - while I have an iPad, I use a WP7 phone and Windows 7 PC, and work on RHEL servers all day for work.

    I happen to think the iPad is a fantastic product, and if anything, most of the irrationality in discussing tablets comes from the other side - the side that refuses to acknowledge the successful designs Apple has with their mobile products. Yes, a year later we're seeing bulkier tablets that are catching up in performance/battery life to the iPad line, but Honeycomb is essentially app-less and just starting to roll out. Meanwhile the iPad 2 offers the cheapest full-blown tablet experience and at nearly every feature combination (except the 7" space, which it still beats in price in most cases), has an extremely healthy app market, and is best or tied with best in battery life, size/weight, performance, and screen quality - all four are clearly the most important aspects of a tablet. Yet, there's a tremendous volume of negativity and skepticism from a very large portion of this site and others - what gives? People almost sound like luddites on this thread - "why does it have to be so small?" "There have been plenty of Tablets in the past." - and then they point to some piece of junk that barely works.

    Granted, Honeycomb tablets are awesome and getting more awesome, but to think that they somehow outclass the iPad right now is foolish. Maybe they have feature A or option B, but at best these make up for the huge volume of apps and other advantages the iPad offers right now.
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Ok, I shouldn't say piece of junk - but you have to admit that size/weight/battery-life put the iPad in a totally different class (that Honeycomb is targeting) than those other tablets.
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Just to be clear, I'm talking about older, pre-iPad tablets here.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Saturday, March 12, 2011 - link

    if you are only talking about the very first attempts at an android tablet, then yes they are worthless and the iPad does beat them. it's not the same case for the future of what will be available and the possibilities that Honeycomb will bring us.

    If you want visual proof of the cheap cameras, go to the iFixit video. 0.3 on the front, 0.7 on the back. I own a 7D, and am very much into photography. I know everything about pixels and sensor quality..lens quality..(or lack thereof). These are just plain junk cameras. Granted, 99% of people won't want to use this as their main camera..but these cameras are pathetic and I expected something slightly better at least.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    They announced it the exact same way they did the iPod Touch 4th Gen. They do 4:3 video resolutions so that you don't get black bars every time you play back a video like you do when you watch a movie on it. The resolution for actual 720p is .9MP..but thats 16:9. Apple makes them do 960x720, which is .7MP. And they clearly stated that the front camera was "VGA" which is 0.3MP.

    If we were talking about the Tablet I support, we can bring in the Eee Pads. I just brought up the Xoom because its the first of many honeycombs.

    With the Nvidia Tegra 2, you get more battery life & more processing power. And yes, most Honeycomb tablets have twice the RAM as the iPad 2. The Quad Cores we see in september will probably have at least 2GB of RAM. If they have more RAM and more battery, whats the downside?
  • smithg5 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "With the Nvidia Tegra 2, you get more battery life & more processing power. And yes, most Honeycomb tablets have twice the RAM as the iPad 2. The Quad Cores we see in september will probably have at least 2GB of RAM. If they have more RAM and more battery, whats the downside?"

    I'm pretty sure the iPad 2's A5 will be comparable, or perhaps slightly exceed the Tegra 2. It's not confirmed, but odds are it will have a dual core Cortex A9 like the Tegra 2, and the GPU may outperform it (if it's the dual 543 GPU that was rumored). I also don't see any indication that the Tegra 2 has better battery life, since the Xoom is bigger and pretty much matches the iPad in this category.

    I agree that Honeycomb tablets seem to have 1GB standard and the iPad will probably have 512MB (still not confirmed), but until Quad core Android tablets come out, the iPad 2 is pretty much on even footing with Honeycomb tablets, but is thinner/lighter, has tons of apps, and tends to be cheaper.

    I'm really not trying to say the iPad is the greatest or anything - I just don't understand why people claim it's not a good product. It's an excellent, top-of-its-class product. The iPad 1 defined the category, and the iPad 2 puts the hardware at the same level as the Tegra 2 tablets while reducing size. Why are people bashing it so much?

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