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iOS 4.3: everything you need to know

iOS 4.3 : what you need to know
iOS 4.3, Apple's latest revision to its iDevice-OS, for the GSM iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, has just been made available through iTunes to coincide with the launch of the iPad 2 later this week. To update your iDevice, simply connect it to your computer, fire up iTunes, and hit 'Check for update.'

There's a lot of new features in iOS 4.3, from Personal Hotspot and AirPlay, to improved JavaScript performance and SMS alerts. Read on for a complete guide to all the new goodies!

Personal Hotspot

iOS 4.3 iPhone 4 Personal HotspotIf you happen to be an iPhone 4 owner, and are willing to pay for tethering, iOS 4.3 is going to make that even easier thanks to its new Personal Hotspot feature. Essentially working in a similar fashion to the Android hotspot feature, Personal Hotspot broadcasts a Wi-Fi hotspot for connecting up to three (or five) Wi-Fi enabled devices, sharing your iPhone's 3G data connection between them. It's a simple, yet effective way of sharing a cellular data connection, but it's likely that you'll have to pay something extra on top of your existing data contract in the same way you currently have to for Bluetooth or USB tethering on most cellular networks.

iTunes Home Sharing

iTunes Home Sharing iOS 4.3Probably the biggest change other than the Personal Hotspot in iOS 4.3 is the addition of Home Sharing for iTunes. Essentially it allows you to stream your iTunes library from a computer, including video, over Wi-Fi to your iDevice. That means you can stream TV shows, movies and music, be it from a Windows or Mac PC, to your iPad, iPod, or iPhone without having to store all that media on the device itself. Of course you could already do that with an Apple TV, but iOS 4.3 brings all iDevices that support it into line.

Nitro engine for Mobile Safari

iOS 4.3 Mobile Safari Nitro JavaScript engine
Mobile Safari is set to get a significant performance increase with iOS 4.3 courtesy of the aptly named Nitro JavaScript engine, which comes from the desktop version of Safari on OS X. Apple's new JS engine can apparently blaze through code at up to twice the speed as the one included in iOS 4.2, which should make general browsing a bit snappier and loading up JavaScript-heavy sites much faster. Nobody likes waiting around for a page to load, and while 3G is often the bottleneck in the Web-to-display pipeline, faster page rendering can only help solve your Hourglass syndrome.

AirPlay for AirPlay-enabled apps

iOS 4.3 AirPlay
Third-party apps, and even websites, that decide to include the correct APIs can now stream pictures, video, and audio over Wi-Fi to the Apple TV, or another AirPlay-enabled device, just like Apple's built-in iOS apps. Apple's own Photos app can also now stream video you've shot with your iDevice, where previously you would have had to import the video into iTunes and sync it back to your device to send it over AirPlay.

iPad lock switch choice

iPad lock switch settings iOS 4.3
This one's for the iPad only. Owners who happened to like using the lock switch on the side of the iPad as it operated from launch, before Apple changed it to a mute switch, now have the option to choose which they prefer. A small but important change for many. This also means that screen rotation or mute, which ever option isn't selected for the side switch, gets shunted down into the multitasking bar as a swipe to the right along with the brightness control, iPod control, and AirPlay button.

Message alerts

iOS 4.3 iPhone SMS alert tone repeatMessage alerts got a rather subtle upgrade with iOS 4.3 in the form of modified vibration behavior. In iOS 4.2 the iPhone would vibrate once regardless of whether it was an email or SMS you received. In iOS 4.3 the iPhone will now vibrate twice for an SMS message. You can also specify how many times you want to be reminded that you have a text message waiting if you don't clear the alert. It's a nice addition that allows you to decipher whether you received a text message or an email when the phone is on silent and in your pocket without having to check the screen.

The extra text message tones that were added in iOS 4.2 have also been modified to make them more SMS-alert worthy. Most have been cut in half to make them much shorter and, while the majority of them are still a bit long for SMS tones, a few are now usable without annoying everyone around you for 5 seconds every time you get a message.

While not every iOS device currently in service is supported by the iOS 4.3 update, the iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2nd generation being left out in the cold, the free update adds a few nice features to an already solid offering. OK, it's not going to rock your world, but it should tide you over nicely untill we get a glimpse of iOS 5 in action. Beside's free's free, right?

For more information on device compatibility and the rest of the features rolled in from iOS 4.2, check out Apple's iOS update page.

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