Apple iOS 4.3 Released for iPhone, iPad

Apple released its iOS 4.3 for iPhone and iPad a few days shy of the March 11 release date. The company's next big release will be its iPad 2, still slated for March 11.

As suggested by the ever-grinding Apple rumor mill, the iOS 4.3 upgrade for iPhone and iPad released to mobile-device owners a few days earlier than the official March 11 release date.

On March 8, the blog Boy Genius Report suggested that Apple would push the update out on that date, at 10 a.m. PST. However, that time came and went without an update, and general speculation then focused on March 9. Jim Dalrymple at The Loop seemed to be one of the first suggesting the revised date, which was then picked up by the blog Apple Insider.

Apple's iOS 4.3 update contains a number of new features, including a tweaked version of AirPlay that streams content to an HDTV via Apple TV, a speeded-up version of Safari, and iTunes Home Sharing, which lets users play their iTunes content on various devices over a shared WiFi network. For the iPhone 4, the update will include a personal hotspot, which can connect up to five other devices over WiFi, Bluetooth and USB.

The iOS 4.3 update is supported by the iPhone 3GS and GSM-based iPhone 4 available on AT&T's network, the third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch, and both versions of the iPad.

March 11 will see the release of the iPad 2, the next version of Apple's popular tablet. The company hopes that new hardware and software features, including a dual-core processor, will allow it to hold off a tide of rising competition. Rival manufacturers plan to introduce new Android-based tablets to the marketplace over the next few quarters, including an updated version of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and a WiFi-only version of the Motorola Xoom.

On the software side of that competitive equation, iOS 4.3 will battle head-to-head against Google Android 3.0, code-named "Honeycomb," which has been optimized for tablets' larger screens.

Apple is also trusting that the massive size of its application store will blunt some of Android's competitive momentum. Over the next two quarters, the iPad will face additional rivals in the form of Research In Motion's upcoming PlayBook and a tablet from Hewlett-Packard running webOS.

"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."