More iOS 4.3 News: “Find My Friends,” New Device References

Yesterday, we learned that iOS 4.3 will have new features including more multi-touch gestures, the ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot, and third-party support for AirPlay  (s aapl) streaming. Today, more features continue to be revealed, and at least one previously removed option has been added back.

With the release of  iOS 4.2, orientation locking became software-activated across iOS devices using the multitasking interface. The physical hardware switch on the side became a mute button, same as on the iPhone. Apparently, this resulted in a negative reaction strong enough to elicit a response from Steve Jobs, who said the change was permanent in an e-mail to one customer. Somewhat surprisingly then, under Settings in iOS 4.3 there’s now an option to use the slide switch to either mute sound or lock rotation. It’s nice to see Apple correct a mistake, especially after Steve Jobs declares it a feature.

From MacRumors, a new feature coming in iOS 4.3 is reported to be “Find My Friends.” Named similarly to “Find My iPhone,” “Find My Friends” is strongly reminiscent of a service like Google Latitude. That service shows the location of selected contacts on a map in proximity to the device owner. Unfortunately, “Find My Friends” appears to be linked to MobileMe (which isn’t yet free), which could severely limit its benefit, and that would be a big mistake. Hopefully, like “Find My iPhone,” Apple will ultimately open up this feature to everyone.

Finally, Engadget first reported that within the developer build of iOS 4.3 there are several new device identifiers: iPad2,1; iPad2,2; iPad2,3; iPhone4,1; and iPhone4,2. The first generation iPad is “iPad1,1” and “iPhone 3,1” refers to the iPhone 4, so the new numbers indicated next-generation devices. New models of iPads and iPhones are a given this year, and the best guess for these multiple identifiers would be Wi-Fi, GSM and CDMA versions of the same devices.

As interesting as these new features and devices are, the biggest change may not be in iOS 4.3 itself, but in how Apple approaches its mobile OS updates. Since iOS 4.1 we’ve seen major changes and feature additions, including AirPrint, AirPlay and Game Center; hardly what one expects in a point release. It appears Apple is moving away from seminal yearly releases and instead adding major features and improvements regularly. If so, Apple fans have Google (s goog) to thank for increasing the competitive pressure in the handheld computing market.

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