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Rumor: iOS 4.3 to arrive Thursday, support subscription-based apps

It may not be as major as iOS 4.2, but this upcoming update should make it easier for publishers to offer their content on iPhones and iPads.

If the rumors are true, iOS 4.3 will make it so you don't have to individually buy each issue of a digital magazine or newspaper.
If the rumors are true, iOS 4.3 will make it so you don't have to individually buy each issue of a digital magazine or newspaper. Conde Nast

Magazines and newspapers are migrating to iOS devices (most notably the iPad) at a steady clip, but there's one problem: publishers don't have a way to sell subscriptions--not yet, anyway.

That may change with the arrival of iOS 4.3, which is rumored to be arriving (or at least announced) as early as this Thursday, December 9.

As CNET's Joe Aimonetti reported last month, this build was already in the works when Apple rolled out iOS 4.2. And despite the latter's brief delay, it appears iOS 4.3 may still arrive on schedule (at least if you believe the rumor mill's version of Apple's schedule).

Unlike 4.2, which introduced a host of new features (like AirPlay and AirPrint), 4.3 will include just one major addition: subscription billing, which would allow content providers to charge weekly, monthly, or annually for subscriptions.

Currently, iOS supports only single app payments, meaning you have to make a new in-app purchase every time you want the latest issue of, say, "Wired."

According to eWeek Europe, "further fuel was added to the fire when The Guardian newspaper used a blog to reveal a new subscription-based app, which it said would be released soon." (Actually, the blog in question doesn't specifically mention a subscription-based app, but rather subscription pricing--not quite the same thing.)

Even so, given that so many high-profile publishers have already introduced apps to convey their content (check out Richard Branson's Project), it's a no-brainer that Apple will give them the iOS tools needed to better monetize it. At this point, it's really just a matter of when.

And if you believe Gadgets and Gizmos, the big day will be this Thursday, so Apple can steal a bit of thunder from whatever Sony announces that same day (possibly a PlayStation phone).

What are your thoughts on iOS 4.3? Think it'll drop this week? And are you ready to start paying for digital editions of your favorite print mags? Me, I want to keep my print editions but also get the iOS versions as part of my paid subscriptions. What say you, publishers? (I'm guessing, "Er, no.")