iOS 4.2 for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch lands with crippled AirPrint

iOS 4.2 for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch lands today in iTunes, bringing multitasking to the iPad -- but are printer problems to blame for a late start?

Dig out the white USB cables, Apple fans -- the iOS 4.2.1 update for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch drops in your iTunes today.

The update brings a whole heap of features that were already on the iPhone to the iPad, including marvellous multitasking. In our  hands-on review of iOS 4.2 on the iPad , we thought being able to switch between apps without closing them made the iPad much more usable for real work.

You also get the ability to sort your apps into folders, and email improvements including an integrated inbox and threaded conversations. 

The iPad, iPhone and iPod touch all get AirPlay , which offers to stream your movies, photos and music to your Apple TV or AirPlay-enabled speakers, if you're one of the three people who have that.

AirPrint aims to let you print wirelessly from your little iBuddies, but right now it seems to be missing a crucial feature. If you don't have an AirPlay-enabled printer -- and since there are only a handful of HP eprint printers out there, we don't think you do -- you're screwed. Apple had said you will be able to print wirelessly to printers networked with a Mac or PC computer, but that feature was missing in our tests. Printer problems could be the reason why the 4.2 update has taken so long to drop, after being promised over a month ago. 

One neat treat that is included in iOS 4.2 is Find My iPhone, which was previously only available if you paid for a MobileMe subscription. It finds iPad and iPod touches, too, spotting them on a map based on their last known location. It's handy if you're wondering whether your iPod is stuck in the sofa cushions or gone forever.

In iTunes, the Yankees will be getting 99c TV rentals, but we'll have to make do with the ability to rent movies. Sean Bean fighting the plague in Black Death for £4.99? We'll pass, for now. 

We're also waiting for Game Center to improve before we jump in with both feet, but it's nice to have it on the iPad in iOS 4.2 just in case that happens. 

If the new features tempt you towards an iPad -- and you can't wait until the rumoured iPad 2 -- T-Mobile and Orange have announced they'll be cutting prices for the 3G-enabled tablets if you buy one with a data plan. The extent of the discounts remain a mystery, but if you're desperate you can register your interest on the T-Mobile or Orange website.

The iOS 4.2.1 update is free -- just plug your iUnit into your computer to get it, as soon as the Apple Santa gets around to visiting your house some time today. In the meantime, check out our  photos of the update's big features on the iPad  to prepare yourself for the wonders in store. 

Update: A previous version of this story indicated that 4.2.1 had only been released to developers. In fact it has been released to users, and you will download it when you update your device. The .1 indicates "minor fixes", according to Apple .

 

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