Apple could push through its iOS 4.3 update as early as March 9, according to rumors. That would mean it arrives on iPhones and iPads a full two days ahead of the official March 11 release date.
On March 8, the blog Boy Genius Report suggested that Apple would push out the update at 10 a.m. PST. That time came and went without the update, and speculation started focusing on March 9 as a revised date. Jim Dalrymple at The Loop seemed the first to suggest that, in comments eventually picked up by Apple Insider.
With iOS 4.3, Apple has tweaked AirPlay to stream content to an HDTV via Apple TV, sped up Safari's performance and included iTunes Home Sharing, which lets users play their iTunes content on various devices over a shared WiFi network. Those using the iPhone 4 will now have the option of a personal hotspot, which can connect up to five other devices over WiFi, Bluetooth and USB.
The iOS 4.3 update will be supported by the iPhone 3GS and GSM-based iPhone 4 (the latter available on AT&T's network), the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch, and both versions of the iPad.
March 11 also marks the street date for the iPad 2, the update of Apple's popular tablet. The company is trusting this newest device to help it maintain a lead in the tablet segment, which has grown crowded with Android-based competitors such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Dell Streak 7 and Motorola Xoom.
The general agreement is that the iPad 2's dual-core processor, coupled with hardware upgrades such as cameras, put it at parity with some of the higher-end competitors entering the tablet market. On the software side of things, iOS 4.3 will compete head-to-head with Google Android 3.0, codenamed "Honeycomb," which has been optimized for tablets' larger screens.
Apple is also counting on the massive size of its App Store to blunt some of Android's competitive momentum. Although Google and its manufacturing partners have been encouraging third-party developers to build mobile apps for their smartphones and tablets, the App Store still holds the lead in the overall number of apps.
"Android is way behind Apple in the application space," Gartner analyst Van Baker told eWEEK recently. "If you are comparing OS features, then the gap is not as significant, but consumers are not going to buy a tablet based on which OS it has."