Apple iOS 4.3 Unexciting, and That's OK

There is no drama in the latest update to the mobile OS platform, unless your device doesn't make the cut.

Apple's latest update to its iOS mobile operating system brings new enhancements to the platform, and even throws a bone or two to business customers. Although the majority of added capabilities in iOS 4.3 are aimed at consumers rather than corporate users, the tethering and single-tap conference calling features will be as helpful in enterprise settings as they are in the living room. Although this release lacks the will-it-work-or-not drama of the early versions of iOS 4, or even the anticipation that surrounded iOS 4.2-the first release of the series that worked on iPad-it's actually a relief to have a ho-hum experience after upgrading devices to the new software.

The Personal Hotspot tethering feature only works with the iPhone 4 and requires a data plan that allows such use. Although jailbroken devices have been able to provide tethered connectivity, this release of iOS marks the first time that AT&T, Apple's GSM carrier in the United States, has supported the feature. Verizon Wireless has offered a tethering option since it began selling the iPhone 4 last month.

Also of general interest in this release of iOS include what the company calls improved performance of the MobileSafari browser thanks in part to a new JavaScript engine, and the ability to set the number of repeats for an alert. It will now be possible to output 720p HD video from the iPad, iPhone 4 and the latest-generation iPod touch. All cases require Apple's latest dongle, the Apple Digital AV adapter. When used with an iPad 2, this adapter will allow video mirroring, as well as a 1080p output for all content except movies, which are limited to 720p.

Although I'm not surprised that Apple has declined to make this iOS update available to users of the iPhone 3G and the second-generation iPod touch-given the problems the company has had with making iOS 4 work on those devices-it's disappointing to see that the company lacks a plan for releasing the security fixes included in the update to that part of its customer base. After all, the company was happy to sell the iPhone 3G as recently as last spring, although it was even then clearly a bargain-basement item.

A number of the security fixes in this release affect image processing and the FreeType component of iOS Core Graphics, as well as networking, the WebKit underpinnings of MobileSafari and the browser itself. Apple's decision to "give up" on fixing these problems for iPhone 3G customers leaves these devices at risk, although how great the risk may be is certainly debatable.

As with all iOS updates, this release is installed with iTunes. The download for iPhone 4 is 670MB, for iPhone 3GS, 423MB, and for iPad it totals 597MB. It's a good idea to have a device fully charged before launching the update, and a backup of the data on the device is built into the update installer, which takes a little more than an hour to download the software and do its voodoo.