Apple iOS 4.3 is now available for download for the latest iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad models. The operating system will come preloaded on the iPad 2 when it ships on March 11, but if you’re trying to figure out whether you want to install the update, here are some of the new features included in iOS 4.3:

Faster web browsing

Apple’s Nitro JavaScript engine offers faster performance for the Safari web browser. Apple says it’s up to twice as fast as the JavaScript engine in iOS 4.3, but that doesn’t mean that all web pages will load twice as fast, since JavaScript isn’t the only thing that causes bottlenecks on the internet.

Still, with Adobe Flash nowhere to be seen on Apple’s mobile devices, devices running iOS 4.3 should be able to load most web pages pretty quickly.

For a quick test, I ran the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark on my 4th gen iPod touch running iOS 4.3 and my Google Nexus S. A lower score is better, and the iPod completed the tests in about 2/3rds the time it took the Nexus One.

iTunes Home Sharing

If you have a PC or Mac running iTunes, you can now use the Home Sharing option to stream media wirelessly to your iOS device over your home network. The feature supports the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and since some devices now also support a Digital AV adapter for sending video from an iPad 2 or other device to a HDMI-compatible display, that means you can sort of use an iPad like an Apple TV.

Just plunk it down by your big screen TV and you can stream videos from your desktop computer in the office to your TV in the living room.

AirPlay support for third party apps

Apple’s AirPlay service lets you stream video from your iOS device to an Apple TV. But in iOS 4.2, only a handful of Apple apps worked with AirPlay.

Now Apple has launched developer tools that will allow third party apps to add support for AirPlay, allowing you to send video from your iPhone to your TV without any wires.

Message settings

You can now choose how many times an alert will be repeated, and there are different alerts for email and text messages.

Personal Hotspot

If you have an iPhone 4, you can now use your device as a mobile wireless router, sharing your cellular internet connection with up to 5 devices. That includes 3 WiFi connections, 1 Bluetooth connection, and 1 USB connection.

Connections are password protected.

While this feature is built into the operating system, it’s up to your mobile carrier to enable it — and additional monthly charges may apply.

iPad Slide Switch

There’s a switch on the side of the iPad. Originally you could use it to lock the screen orientation, which kept the tablet from switching from landscape to portrait mode or vice versa while you’re playing a game, reading a book, or performing other activities where you don’t want the screen going all wonky.

Then Apple issued a software update that turned the switch into a mute button. That drove some people crazy, but the only way to undo it was to jailbreak your device.

Now iOS 4.3 lets users decide whether the button will control the volume or the screen orientation lock.

Password required for in-app purchases

Apple has also added a security feature requiring users to enter a password to make any in-app purchases. Previously if you entered a password to download or purchase an app, you didn’t have to enter it again until 15 minutes had passed. But apparently this led to parents purchasing games for their children, only to find that the kids were buying items within apps without getting a parents’ permission. Leaving aside the question of whether the kids knew what they were doing or not, this feature is likely to make parents a lot happier.

Conclusion

Honestly, there aren’t a lot of showstopper features in iOS 4.3. And some of the features I’d been expecting, like an App Store update that actually recognizes apps you’ve previously purchased and shows an install button instead of a price, didn’t appear — at least not on my iPod touch.

Still, the faster web browser, home sharing, and AirPlay enhancements are nice to have, and Personal HotSpot and screen orientation lock for the iPhone and iPad could certainly come in handy for some users.

If you have a jailbroken iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you’ll lose your jailbreak when you update. But unless Apple has closed an exploit in the last few days, you should be able to re-jailbreak your device without too much work.

The iOS 4.3 update is available for the iPad, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and 3rd and 4th generation iPod touch models.


Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing.He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...

3 replies on “What’s new in iOS 4.3?”

  1. I,d love a sleep timer that way my battery is not flat next morning I had it on the iPod touch but they removed it for iPad and I really miss it I hate leaving my iPad plugged in All night as it wrecks the battery , there are apps that have timers but the app itself still runs all night after the music stops !! C,mon apple before you lose me to another device please bring back the clock timer !

  2. This is really good article to read about iOS 4. Apple recently released iOS 5.I am waiting for iPad 3 which will come with iOS 5. The whole new iOS 5 has some awesome features and major upgrade.

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