iOS 4.2 is Here: This is What You Get

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iOS 4.2 is now out in the wild, just waiting for you to plug in your device and hit the “Check for Updates” button. That is, if Apple’s servers can handle it. Hopefully Cupertino’s got that shiny new data center on the job. When you do manage to update your device, here’s what you’ll find.

New to All Devices

AirPrint. Wirelessly print photos, docs, email and even entire web pages directly from your iOS device. Unfortunately, you’ll either need an AirPrint-compatible printer or third-party software to accomplish this as of the last few iOS 4.2 pre-release builds.

AirPlay. Wirelessly stream audio and video from your iOS 4.2 device to AirPlay-enabled speakers, receivers and the Apple TV. This works just like AirTunes did with Apple’s Airport Express mobile wireless router, but now includes video, and Apple’s made the tech available to third-party device manufacturers.

Find My iPhone. As revealed this morning, Find My iPhone is now available free for all iOS device owners. You can do it right on any latest gen, iOS 4.2-running device, but even those with older hardware can enable the feature. The only limitation is that you have to create your free MobileMe account on an iPhone 4, 4th-gen iPod touch or iPad first, before you can login to MobileMe with older devices.

Notes with Fonts. Change the font in notes from Marker Felt to either Chalkboard or Helvetica, a much-needed relief for the design-conscious.

Find Text on Web Pages. Search for terms within the page you’re currently viewing in mobile Safari using the search field at the top of the browser next to the address bar. This is a really useful feature, and one that makes so much sense you’ll quickly forget it was ever missing.

New Dock Controls. Double-tapping the home button now brings up the tray of open applications on the iPad, and swiping left will bring you to a panel of controls with additions on all devices, including a brightness dimmer, volume slider and AirPlay output selector.

New for iPad

Multitasking. The latest update for iOS brings Apple’s multitasking implementation to the platform. That means your apps will be able to resume right where you left off if they’re setup to support fast-switching. Audio can also now play in the background, some tasks like uploading or downloading content can complete while the app is closed, and you can get local push notification from on-device software.

Folders. Thank goodness folders are finally here for the iPad. I got so used  to using them on the iPhone, it felt like going back in time when I’d boot up the iPad and find myself wading through screen after screen of app icons.

Game Center. Track your achievements and view leaderboards for GameCenter-enabled games. If a game works on both the iPhone/iPod touch and the iPad, achievements will show up in both places.

Unified Inbox and Threaded Messaging. All your messages in the same place, and with threaded messaging that keeps track of email chains so that you don’t have to go hunting around to find out what the last reply in the sequence was. Great news for the iPad’s Mail app, which is so much more usable than the iPhone version.

New for iPhone

Messaging Customization. There are now 17 new alerts to choose from for text messaging, and you can now assign custom tones for people in your Contacts, so that you can tell right away who’s messaging you without looking at your device.

Anything we’ve missed? Share your own findings in the comments.

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