The next-gen iDevice rumour silly season never really does go away, but with the second iPad due to be announced in just weeks, things really are kicking into overdrive right now.
But aside from the usual conjecture and speculation, we have some very real substance to go on for a change. Apple has just handed developers the code for iOS 4.3 – the version of the Apple operating system that both the iPad 2 and the forthcoming iPhone 5 will run – and observers sifting through the code have unearthed a couple of tasty morsels of information.
Of course, Apple making provision for certain functions and conditions in future devices in its OS code doesn't necessarily mean those features are guaranteed to appear, but it certainly gives a hint as to what the company is thinking. Here are the major points to emerge from picking through the bones of iOS 4.3:
No more Home button? Several observers have noted the support for a variety of new multitouch gestures in the latest iDevice OS, including the ability to return to the Home screen with a five-fingered grab-and-pinch motion. As such, the interface now allows all navigation around iOS to be done purely on the touchscreen, with no specific need to press the Home button at all.The obvious response has been to suggest the iPad 2 and iPhone 5 will do away with the Home button altogether, leaving an unadulterated front surface that is pure touchscreen. Whether it will actually happen is another matter – the Home button is synonymous with particularly the iPhone, and provides an important tactile point of reference, so it would be a brave move to remove it altogether.
Apple-flavoured Wi-Fi hotspot: one of the key new additions in iOS 4.3 is support for using your iPad or iPhone as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot – in other words, making its web connection available to other Wi-Fi-enabled gadgets around it. It's a first for Apple, though Android already offers the facility in Android 2.2 onwards. However, whether it will practically see the light of day isn't down to Apple, but rather the providers carrying its devices. After all, allowing phones and tablets to serve as a Wi-Fi hotspots themselves means you can't sell after-market add-on devices that perform the same function.
CDMA iPad and iPhone: over in the US, the first non-GSM iPhone has finally gone on sale on the Verizon network. Not really a big deal for us, as all our networks are GSM anyway, but our American counterparts will no doubt be pleased to see the iOS 4.3 code listing support for three iPads and two iPhones. That tallies nicely with GSM and CDMA versions of both, plus the Wi-Fi-only version of the iPad.