Apple Drops iOS 4.3 Ahead of Schedule

Apple today released iOS 4.3, a few days before expected, with the following new features: personal hotspots for iPhone, enhanced AirPlay for video streaming, faster Safari browsing, expanded ability to share iTunes libraries and a lock-mute iPad switch.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) was slated to issue the update on March 11, the sale date of the iPad 2, but iOS 4.3 is available now as a download for those with Apple mobile devices.

One big treat for iPhone users is the Personal Hotspot feature, which supports up to five devices on a shared iPhone data connection.

Also in iOS 4.3 is Home Sharing, which lets users access shared iTunes libraries from their mobile devices. This tool used to be limited to Macs and AppleTV, but now extends to iPhones and iPads, so you can wirelessly stream music stored on Macs that are on the same Wi-Fi network.

There's also a new switch option for the iPad that allows users to change the rotation lock control into a mute switch, using iPad settings.

Users will also see faster mobile Safari performance, due to improvements in how it processes Javascript.

Finally, there will be third-party apps can now utilize the AirPlay API to stream video to TVs using Apple TV.

The update comes at a time when rival OS Android has eclipsed both iOS and the BlackBerry platform to rank No. 1 in U.S. market share for mobile operating systems, with 31.2 according to comScore, and 29 percent, according to Nielsen Wire. Apple's iOS checked in with a steady 24 percent share, year-over-year in the comScore survey and 27 percent in the Nielsen report.

However, despite Android's meteoric rise in the past 14 months, its recently come under fire for some security issues related a malware hack in the Android Marketplace.

Also, unlike Apple which controls and therefore uniformly rolls out updates to its family of mobile devices, the Android OS updates are released on a staggered basis by wireless carriers, leaving Google and hardware vendors out of the equation. This has caused critics to cite fragmentation in the Android landscape as a detriment to the ecosystem.

Right now about 57.6 percent of Android devices are running version 2.2, followed by 2.1 at 31.4 percent. About 6.3 percent are still on Android 1.6, according to the Android Developers site.


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