It looks like third time is a charm - As in third golden master. Or I guess first - really as both iOS 4.2 GM's were bypassed for iOS 4.2.1 - so for the public there is no iOS 4.2. Just a jump to iOS 4.2.1. We have mentioned some of the new features in the past - but a quick summary of the new features are:
1. AirPrint - Which allows direct Printing to an ePrint Printer, or to any printer connected to your Mac - while you Mac is turned on. Update - Per printing to any Printer connected to a mac that was true in the beta version of Mac OS 10.6.5 - but was removed for the GM version.
2. AirPlay - Which allows streaming of audio or video from your iOS device to your Apple TV.
3. Improved Bluetooth control - allowing for AVRCP control. You know skip tracks, volume control, and more from your bluetooth headset.
4. Find my iOS device - for free. You can easily set up your iOS device for the find my device feature and if your device gets lost - you can locate it on a map, send a message to it, lock it down or even remote wipe it - all for free - no more need for a paid mobileme account.
NOTE: If your iPhone is Unlocked and/or your iOS device is Jailbroken - you should not update to iOS 4.2.1 at this time. Please wait for more info on this to come shortly (hopefully).
If you are on an iPad - you get all the features from iOS 4.0 and 4.1 as well. So for iPad owners it is a major plus plus update. For iPad owners you also get - folders, multitasking, GameCenter, Unified Mailbox, iAds, and a bunch of smaller features.
If you have an iPhone 3G - iOS 4.2.1 brings one key new feature - Usability - as in you can use your iPhone 3G again. If you updated your iPhone 3G to iOS 4.0 or iOS 4.1 - you may have noticed a little bug where in your iPhone 3G slowed to 1/4 impulse power. Well now it looks like your iPhone 3G is back up to full impulse power. Granted not at warp speed like the iPhone 4 - but back to what you were used to in iOS 3.x
In Apples announcement for iOS 4.2.1 they said the following:
"The Find My iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch) feature is now free to use without a MobileMe℠ subscription and helps you locate your missing device.* The Find My iPhone app is a free download on the App Store℠ and lets users easily locate a missing device on a map and have it display a message or play a sound. Users can even remotely lock or wipe data from a lost device to protect privacy."
I set this up for my iPhone 4 and it was quick to set up and easy to use and I did not have to pay for mobile me for this. So I do find it interesting that Apple made one of the most compelling reasons for getting mobileme - a free option. I wonder if this means in the near future all of mobileme features will be free to iOS owners. I hope so.
According to Apple you can use Find My iPhone for free with your iPhone 4, iPad, or 4th generation iPod touch that has iOS 4.2 installed. Or you can use Find My iPhone with a paid MobileMe subscription. Again not sure on that paid subscription thing now. But lets say you have in addition to an iOS device from 2010 (iPhone 4, iPad or iPod touch 4th gen) that have a pre 2010 iOS device. Like the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 3G and you want to set up find my iPhone on them - are you SOL - NO no you are not. You just need to set up your 2010 iOS device first.
Life hacker has an article that goes over this. I have not had a chance to try this out on my 3GS yet - as I have not updated it to iOS 4.2.1 - as it is jailbroken and I was going to wait. But if anyone else does this with success - as the authors of the lifehacker article claim to - please let me know. But it does look like it is easy to do assuming you also happen to have a 2010 iOS device.
One other feature I did not mention that is added to iOS 4.2.1 is the ability to set specific SMS alert tones for your contacts. You are still limited to using the stock SMS tones - but that list of stock SMS tones has grown - but sadly most are still long tones - which is not the best for Text messages. Who wants a 10 sec tone when you are getting a test message every 5 secs. Just sayin. So this is not custom SMS tones - it is specific SMS tones from a predetermined list of tones that you can assign to your contacts - which is still much better than how it was before - if you are someone that is looking to set up specific tones to different people.
Feedback from many different listeners has been very positive for this update. The one issue that has been reported more than once was after the initial update - the Apps and podcasts did not get sync'd over and it required another sync to get that content brought over. So as long as you are NOT jailbreaking and / or unlocking - it does look safe to update. But you should still backup before you do the update - as always.