Apple releases iOS 4.2 with support for AirPlay, iPad mutlitasking and more; "Find my iPhone" now a free feature

Apple on Monday released the long awaited iOS 4.2 update that finally brings features like multitasking and folders to the iPad. But the iOS 4.2 update has a lot more in store for users than that. Some other features included in the update include AirPlay, AirPrint, Game Center, a unified inbox, extended enterprise support, and the ability to search for text within Safari webpages. Apple also surprised iOS users yesterday when it announced that the very cool "Find my iPhone" feature, which was previously only available to MobileMe subscribers, will now be available as a free downloadable app from iTunes.

Apple on Monday released the long awaited iOS 4.2 update that finally brings features like multitasking and folders to the iPad. But the iOS 4.2 update has a lot more in store for users than that. Some other features included in the update include AirPlay, AirPrint, Game Center, a unified inbox, extended enterprise support, and the ability to search for text within Safari webpages.

Apple also surprised iOS users yesterday when it announced that the very cool "Find my iPhone" feature, which was previously only available to MobileMe subscribers, will now be available as a free downloadable app from iTunes. While there was some initial confusion about which iOS devices supported the feature, Apple clearly states that only the most recent iteration of the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch can set up the free Find my iPhone service. Once that service is set up, however, any device capable of running iOS 4.2 can run the app.

While AirPlay and AirPrint may not be getting a lot of play in the mainstream press, they really are the silent killers of the iOS 4.2 update. Apple describes them thusly via a press release which hit the wire yesterday.

AirPlay is a new feature for streaming music, video and photos wirelessly from iPad, iPhone and iPod touch to Apple TV, transforming Apple TV into a great accessory for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. iOS users also will be able to use AirPort Express and AirPlay to stream wirelessly to any stereo or powered speakers, or directly to AirPlay-enabled speakers coming to market in the months ahead.

AirPrint is a next-generation Wi-Fi print architecture that dramatically simplifies printing by completely eliminating printer drivers. A selection of AirPrint enabled printers including the HP Photosmart, HP LaserJet Pro and HP Officejet will be the first to support printing direct from iOS devices. iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users can simply tap to print their documents or photos wirelessly to any printer that supports AirPrint.

And just like that iOS devices have taken on a new life unto themselves. AirPlay in particular is intriguing, and gives folks even more reason to fork over $99 for an Apple TV. And highlighting how important Apple considers the feature, they even went so far as to produce a video demonstration of AirPlay's features.

Before you know it, iOS devices, and perhaps the iPad in particular, will become all-purpose devices capable of controlling all aspects of one's home.

As if often the case with Apple, their products march methodically forward, slowly but surely amassing new functionality that inevitably lap competing devices both in features and in ease of use. AirPlay, AirPrint, and Find my iPhone are just 3 of the latest features that make Apple's lineup of iOS devices the most compelling products in mobile tech today.

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