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Top 5 Things to Do With Your iPad iOS 4.2 This Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Monday the long-awaited iOS 4.2 for iPad dropped into our iTunes console. We have been playing about with the Developers Gold Master of the OS for a couple of weeks now, so we have a feel for how the new features do and don’t change the iPad.

Apologies to those who expected a transformational experience in this update. It isn’t. But there still is fun to be had. While the buttons are bursting on your shirt, and you try to tune out Cousin Alice’s alphabetized litany of ailments, here is what you can do with the new OS this Thanksgiving.

1. Run holiday songs in background from Pandora. Yes, multitasking is here (of a sort). Select operations do run in background, like audio. The most valuable background operation for many magazines would be issue downloading, but none of the magazine apps we tried did anything more than freeze the download when we swapped to another program. Some magazine apps will need new versions to leverage some of the new features.

2. Make folders. Users finally can organize their cluttered and ever-expanding panes by dragging and dropping icons on top of one another to form folders. The iPhone has had this feature for months, and in our experience it works in the favor of content providers. Apps are less likely to get lost in the constant swiping and app searching the old interface required. By pulling the media brands together in one folder, we tend to use all of them more often.

3. Print. Well, you can try to print. The new AirPrint feature lets you send pages directly to a printer that is on the local network. For content providers this can be a nice way to have their Web or digital magazine articles more readily available for hard copies. The problem is that only a very select group of printers is supported by the feature now because the iPad OS is trying to use a “driver-less” approach to printing that actually works through email. Some HP printers can be accessed, and Apple is promising more.

4. Get better alerts. A new persistent WiFi connection feature lets the unit wake up to deliver alerts in a split second. For apps, publishers can now push out news alerts of any kind and reach more people with them in a timely way. 

5. Send video to your TV. The new AirPlay feature lets you send the video and photos you are playing on the iPad to an Apple TV box for display on your TV set. This feature really does work. There is a slight lag when you tap the AirPlay button, but the video does show up on the TV, with controls for pausing, forwarding, etc., still back on the iPad. It is a parlor trick reserved for that small slice of the population that owns both devices. It also has limitations. Right now, we couldn’t get it to work with video in third-party apps. It runs downloaded video that is being stored on the iPad but cannot run streams coming from iTunes or from other apps. This may change. It might be possible for developers to build the feature into future apps. For many magazines, the attraction might be in letting iPad readers share all of those gorgeous slideshows on the big screen with others.

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