New iPhone OS 4 Beta Reveals New iPhone and iPad Plans

Apple issued the fourth beta of the iPhone OS on Tuesday evening, and it was immediately dissected in a search for clues on what's ahead for the company's mobile software. Well, there were plenty of hints on what's to come, and not just for the iPhone but for the iPad and iPod Touch as well.

One of the first major features revealed in the beta is the addition of tethering, which enables users to connect the iPhone to a laptop and let it serve as the means for 3G network Internet access.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) promised tethering with the launch of the iPhone 3G in 2008 but AT&T has been leery of the feature out of concerns for its already-contested network. However, a screen enabling users to set up tethering has appeared in Beta 4 -- but iPhone owners shouldn't get their hopes up until the final version appears: iPhone OS 3 betas also had tethering last year and that feature disappeared from the final product.

Apple enthusiast blog 9to5 Mac did its own bit of digging and found a second clue of future plans: There are references to an LED flash for the camera, not just in the iPhone but in the iPad and iPod Touch as well. The iPad and iPod Touch currently have no camera, but the Vietnamese site Tinhte.com reinforced the findings with details from what it claims is a new Apple leak, the third it's published two weeks.

Tinhte.com earlier showed off what it claimed was a fourth-generation iPhone, then revealed details on the entry-level MacBook that proved true. Now it has details on an iPod Touch with a camera. The pictures show a primitive operating system built for testing, and the back is stamped "DVT-1," which could mean it's a verification test unit. Apple typically introduces new iPods in the fall, so this device would appear to be a few months from release.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

The reference to an iPad camera is notable because Apple has traditionally released a new revision to its device operating system once per year, when the new iPhone comes out. So if OS 4 sticks to pattern, there won't be a version 5 until summer 2011. That would indicate an iPad with a camera coming some time before that.

9to5 Mac also noted references to a "Mac OS X 10.7." Apple has made no mention of a new operating system for its PC, so like the iPad camera reference, this may be future-proofing. Apple shipped version 10.6, "Snow Leopard," in August.

Other changes to Beta 4 are cosmetic but also convenient. Many of the basic iPhone apps, like the clock, calculator, compass, and voice memo apps, are all gathered into a folder called "Utilities." The iPhone is coming with a set of wallpapers that can customize the home screen in place of its flat, black background. The photo viewer also now works with any orientation, so you don't have to hold the camera a certain way to see pictures.

Testers on tech blogs Gizmodo and Engadget also said that the OS is faster and has far fewer delays, and that's using the older processor in existing iPhones. The new one, if the teardown done by the Vietnamese sources are accurate, uses the fast A4 processor found in the iPad.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


iPhone, iPad, Apple, ipod touch, iPhone OS