iOS 4.2 on iPad: There's No Going Back

It's a revelation. It's the way the iPad always should've been. With iOS 4.2 there's multitasking, a unified inbox, folders and... Helvetica in Notes.

We are talking about a beta that's two months from a final release, so not everything's done. But iOS 4.2 on iPad already feels so good, even if it is things we're just used to by now on the iPhone.

iOS 4.2 on iPad: There's No Going Back

Multitasking, Mail and Folders

It works, just like it does on the iPhone or iPod touch, just bigger. Double tapping the home button brings up the much larger taskbar, and switching apps engages the whole whooshing animation that whisks your current away and slides another in its places. The only thing that sucks is that some apps don't support it yet—*cough*Netflix*cough*. And we're wondering if the iPad's mere 256MB of RAM is going to catch up to it now that multitasking's in the mix.

The taskbar wreaks all kinds of control craziness upon the iPad, some of it good, some of it, uh, confusing. When you swipe left in the taskbar, as in the iPhone, there are permanent iPod controls, but there's also a fun new slider: Brightness control. You don't have to open settings anymore as you slide from movie app to Instapaper and need to adjust the brightness accordingly. You'll notice also an orientation lock button. But isn't that what the physical switch on the side of the iPad is for? Not anymore—it's now a mute button, like the iPhone.

iOS 4.2 on iPad: There's No Going Back

With Folders, the days of seventeen pages of apps are over, now that you can collect up to 20 apps in a single folder—even if the iPad's dearth of apps compared to the iPhone meant the app accumulation problem was less severe. The unified inbox. One inbox, for all your inboxes. It is exactly what you expect. But, given all of the screen real estate that felt wasted by looking at one inbox at a time, the difference it makes feels even more real than on the iPhone.

Altogether, they add up to make using the iPad feel smoother, and more like the graceful kind of computing experience it should be, not artificially limited and cramped they way it could feel earlier, when you were stuck doing one thing at a time in a very specific way.

iOS 4.2 on iPad: There's No Going Back

Wireless Printing, Games Center and Other Bits

AirPrint is partly implemented in this build of iOS 4.2 even if AirPlay isn't (at least, its appearances are phantasmic in nature). AirPrint appears to work perfectly when it comes to our Photos app (as Rosa shows), it refuses to let us print anything else—such as Safari pages—by claiming that it can't find our printer. As long as the printer is setup to be shared by the Mac setup is easy.

Oh, and speaking of Safari, find in page is seriously nice to have, though it's a bit awkward to find—you kind of have to know it's already there. Just type the word you're looking for in Safari's search bar (confusing because it says Google in the overly), and one of the search options will be to find on the page. Doing so will zoom you from word to word as it sees them on the page.

Game Center is a little fancier than it is on the iPhone. The home screen is littered with tiles for games that'll take you to the App Store for purchase if you touch one. It makes the home screen feel a little more alive, and less like deserted astroturf. Also, two-pane navigation is niiiice.

Notes! Down with Marker Felt! In with Helvetica! That's all I have to say. (It's in Settings, via Grubes.)

Here's a hasty video walkthrough, if you want a rough idea of what it feels like:

Even with the handful of bugs that are hanging around, there's no way we can go back to the old iPad. Not for a bajillion dollars.

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