iOS 4.2: The Eternal Wish for More

November 23rd, 2010

When Apple announced the launch of AirPrint for iOS 4.2, I hoped that a workable solution had been found for printing on one of Apple’s mobile devices. But I was wrong!

Originally, AirPrint was supposed to work wirelessly with printers that supported that feature without external drivers, which is essentially limited to a small number of HP devices, or to printers shared by your Mac or PC. That was the promise, but only the former remained; the latter vanished during the development process.

In fact, the original 4.2 itself died in the test labs, to be replaced by a bug fix version, 4.2.1. Certainly Apple didn’t need any grief during the crucial holiday season, especially from iPad owners who had been lusting after this update to deliver key features for the number one tablet computer on the planet.

Now to be fair to Apple, it appears that you can enable shared printer support for AirPrint in Mac OS 10.6.5 via a hack that you can find on several sites you can search on Google. And, no, I haven’t tried that trick, because I prefer to concentrate on something any user of an iOS device is apt to use, rather than something that’s strictly experimental. Perhaps Apple encountered some last minute glitches, or intellectual property obstacles, but I hope that situation will soon be remedied, perhaps with a 4.3?

In a sense, this is a sad development to me. I had high hopes of being able to print from my iPhone 4 without the need of third-party software, or jumping through hoops. While I understand the hopes and dreams for a paperless revolution, there comes a time when hard copy is still necessary in these parts.

As for the rest of the iOS 4.2.1 package, AirPlay sounds promising, or would be if I actually planned to stream content from my iPhone to my Apple TV. Having the ability to search the text on a Web page in Safari is also promising.

Most of the other significant features are probably more compelling on the iPad. Not having multitasking, a unified Mail Inbox and all the other iOS 4.x goodies, was something that left iPad users feeling second best, I gather. Not that it hurt sales much. In fact, with the rapid expansion of sales outlets, I expect Apple is going to do everything in their power to make sure that the iPad of your choice is readily available somewhere close to you. You shouldn’t have to travel very far to pick one up in person; no need to wait for the delivery person to bring it to you, unless you live far away from a chain store that carries consumer electronics gear.

As to getting the update, online checking in iTunes appears to be staggered and is repeated every few days. If it doesn’t show up in iTunes when you connect your eligible iOS device, click Check for Update. If all is well, you should be offered the ability to Download or Download and Install. If you’re antsy about installing updates until the dust settles, choose the former. You don’t have to actually install 4.2.1 until you are confident that it won’t brick your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.

Now there was yet another update to be had Monday, and that is Apple TV 4.1, which applies strictly to the new, tinier version introduced a few weeks ago. If you own an original Apple TV, you’re out of luck. It uses a different OS (the current model contains the iOS), and it’s highly likely that you’ll see nothing but a critical bug fix or security update from here on.

In any case, Apple TV 4.1 adds support for AirPlay, and VoiceOver, the latter providing a reading of the contents of the gadget’s menu, using one of Apple’s famous digital voices.

The Apple TV update went well, though I wasn’t offered it when I first opened mine. Instead, I had to navigate to the Updates screen (under the General) category. What’s more, while I was offered the opportunity to Download and Install, I didn’t notice any descriptions of the changes and fixes. That’s taking simplicity too far, though I should mention that I also got a notice about a firmware update for my Samsung Blu-ray player, and, other than some impenetrable version numbers, no list of fixes was offered there either. I suppose that’s the way and the truth for consumer electronics gear.

Apple TV 4.1 updated in about 10 minutes or so, from the start of the download to the launch of the device with its main menu. Samsung’s download was endless, consuming more than 30 minutes by the time I left my home on some errands. When I returned a while later, I noticed the OK button on the screen which, after selecting, promptly turned the device off.

Although my Apple TV, before the update, behaved reasonably well, there was one glitch. On several occasions, while watching an HD movie rented from Apple, playback would stop and the device would enter some sort of buffering loop. My Internet connection was solid, and the only way I could resume playback was to click on the Menu button on the remote control, to back out of the Play interface, and select the Play option again for that movie. After a few moments, the picture usually returned. I’ve heard of scattered reports that other Apple TV owners have been afflicted by the same bug, and I’m curious to see whether the 4.1 update addresses the problem.

As usual, of course, Apple provides scant details of bug fixes, so the only way to know is to recreate the circumstances where the bug appears, and hope it’s gone.

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2 Responses to “iOS 4.2: The Eternal Wish for More”

  1. Walt French says:

    I’d be interested to know the scenario where it’s necessary or even desirable to print from an iPhone or maybe iPad. So far, I can only think of the airport lounge or hotel lobby kiosk printer scenario, where a passing traveler does a quick print of a boarding pass, note, etc.

    Somehow the whole planet has not imploded despite the absence of this feature. If you have a printer around, you probably have a computer right next to it — especially so if it’s a printer attached to a Mac, eh?; so it doesn’t seem dire that you’ve never been able to print directly from your pocket gizmo.

    So I’m curious what “driverless” printing is all about. It’s already a hassle that Macs need to come with hundreds of print drivers, and put a who-cares-about-printing device together with a yet-another-platform-to-support mentality by the ink sellers printer manufacturers, and Apple seems to have come up with about the only way it could possible work at all.

    Anyhow, this gives the population of whining bloggers and their commenters a chance to whine about how terribly important the feature is, and that Apple is screwing 3rd parties, and that … well, you know what it’s like. Maybe in the process we’ll actually see why it matters.

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