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10 features Apple iOS 4.2 still needs

Apple still hasn't got it quite right

Now that iOS 4.2 is out and we've lauded its best features, it's time to take a look at its biggest omissions. (It's only fair, right?) We took an informal survey of Macworld editors to determine the most-hoped-for features that still aren't here, then whittled the list down to the top ten.

Wireless syncing

Email, contacts, bookmarks, documents - all of these things can sync between your iOS device and your Mac (or at least between your iPhone or iPad and one or more online servers). The amount of stuff you can transfer over the network to your device isn't slowing down either, which makes the requirement of connecting your iOS device to your computer using a physical cable seem somewhat primitive. We can understand not being able to sync hours of video over your mobile network, but if you're at home, on your own Wi-Fi network, wouldn't it be nice if you could get the new tunes you've ripped or downloaded to your Mac onto your iPhone, without having to plug in? Or update your iPad's photo albums while sitting on the couch? Wireless syncing could even be restricted to files under a particular size, or capped at a particular amount of data, to prevent saturating your wireless network with tens of gigabytes of data. As we said earlier this year, "Don't make us plug in our iPhones unless we absolutely have to, Apple."

Dashboard-like functionality

One of the coolest features of webOS and Android phones is the ability of apps to actually do stuff without being launched. For example, weather apps can display the current temperature, calendar apps can show you your schedule for the day, and sports apps can keep you updated on the latest scores, all by displaying data right on the home screen. We'd love to see similar options on our iOS devices - especially on the lock screen, so we could get whatever info is most important to us without having to unlock and launch an app.

Streaming your media to iOS devices

One of our favorite iOS 4.2 features is AirPlay, which lets you stream media from your iOS device to an AirPlay-compatible component such as the latest Apple TV or an AirPort Express. But we also want to be able to do the opposite: stream media from a source to our iOS devices. For example, a 32GB iPad can't accommodate the 85GB of music and movies you've accumulated on your iMac. But if you could access all that media from your iPad by streaming it over your Wi-Fi network, you might find that arrangement to be just as convenient. (In fact, the Apple TV lets you do exactly this, as does iTunes's Home Sharing feature on Macs and Windows PCs.) Similarly, we'd love to be able to play, on our iOS devices, music and video on network drives--such as, say, a hard drive connected to an AirPort base station.

There are third-party apps out there right now that provide such features, but they require you to run additional software on your computer, and, of course, you must run the third-party app instead of the iPod app.


Back when Apple first previewed iOS 4.2, the company announced AirPrint, a feature that would finally let iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users print over a wireless network. A couple weeks later, the company announced details of AirPrint, explaining that the feature would let you print directly from iOS apps to both HP printers that include the new ePrint feature, as well as to printers connected to, and shared by, a Mac or Windows PC. Unfortunately, full AirPrint functionality is missing from iOS 4.2. You'll still be able to print to HP ePrint printers, but - at least for now - you can't print to a printer shared by your computer. (Apple's official position is simply that with iOS 4.2, you "can print to directly to AirPrint compatible printers without the need to install drivers or download software.")

Apple hasn't officially canceled this feature, however, so we're holding out hope that it simply wasn't ready - and that we'll see it in a future update to iOS 4.

NEXT PAGE: A hardware orientation-lock switch on the iPad

  1. Apple still hasn't got it quite right
  2. More mail features
  3. Wireless syncing
  4. A hardware orientation-lock switch on the iPad

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