Things iOS 4.2 still can't do on the iPad (but we wish it did)

iOS 4.2 is a great upgrade for iPad owners, but it could have been so much more.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
Multitasking on the iPad has ups and downs.
Multitasking on the iPad has ups and downs. Scott Stein/CNET

I had been looking forward to multitasking on the iPad for a long, long time.

Back when iOS 4 was first detailed, the potential for iPad users was clear. However, while iPhone and iPod Touch owners got to flaunt multitasking, the delay until the final release of iOS 4.2 on the iPad was agonizing. Now the day has come and gone, and for an iPad owner such as myself, the rewards of the iOS update have been somewhat worth the wait.

Having folders to organize the endless grids of apps is a long overdue welcome addition. Background streaming of Internet radio on an iPad is a great add for anyone, and I've found it great for simultaneous radio news and newspaper browsing. AirPlay is intriguing, although you'd need an Apple TV to take advantage of its potential. Threaded, unified mail inboxes are, needless to say, time-saving.

10 ways iOS 4 could shine on the iPad (photos)

See all photos

And yet, there's a lot I wish the iPad version of iOS still had.

For one, the whole OS feels entirely too similar to the iPhone edition. The multitasking bar, folder system, and functionality are nearly identical. Most features translate well, but for anyone hoping an iPad can transform into something a little more like a computer, most of these features don't cut it.

My wish list from months ago has only been halfway met. Here's what I'd like to see...in iOS 5.

  • Split-screen apps. I'm still waiting to be able to use Mail and Safari side-by-side, or a word-processing app and a reference app. Exiting and re-entering apps is speedier with multitasking, but it's still no replacement for the windows you can take advantage of on a regular computer. There's another application to split-screen I could use: For iPhone/iPod Touch apps, why not run several apps side-by-side or in a grid? For less taxing apps such as databases or news readers, this could be a useful way to lay out lots of information at once.
  • Playback of iPhone 4 apps with Retina Display. So, explain this: iPhone apps can be played on an iPad in a small screen, or blown up to 2x. Retina Display-optimized iPhone 4 apps can't. The iPhone 4's resolution is 960x640, while the iPad's is 1,024x768. The iPhone 4 has practically the same internal specs as an iPad. Can somebody explain why a Retina Display version of an app can't be enjoyed on an iPad screen?
  • Pop-up apps. The iPad has no native calculator, but it sure would be great to call one up in a pop-up whenever necessary when, say, working on an invoice in Pages. A pop-up weather app, and similar widgets, would be great time savers.
  • Where's my clock? Before you get angry, yes, I know there are plenty of clock apps on the App Store. Free ones too, even. That's not the point. The iPhone is a perfectly great bedside clock, and yet the iPad doesn't integrate the same functionality. It's silly. Every iPhone app, including Apple's excellent Voice Recorder, should be brought back into the iPad fold.
  • FaceTime. Sure, the iPad doesn't have a camera...yet. Still, the iPad could have a functional plug-in camera case that could enable FaceTime, couldn't it? It'll never happen, but a desk-side camera dock is an accessory I might actually spring for, just for easy Webchats with my kid.
How's iOS 4.2 treating you, iPad owners?

Read my original iOS 4 for iPad wish list, and check out the original gallery from way back in July down below (hey, at least some of these wishes were fulfilled).