Apple has released a beta version of its iOS operating system that shows some of the features that will be coming for iPhone and iPad users and hints at the form that future versions of those devices might take.
The beta version of iOS 4.3 was released to developers overnight to give them time to prepare their apps for new features.
As is typical after these releases, the new features have been posted online and beta users are already digging around within the OS to find hints of future changes.
New features in iOS 4.3 include increased AirPlay support, allowing apps and websites to send video from an iPhone or an iPad to an Apple TV, and support for a ‘personal hotspot’, which will allow an iPhone to create a wifi hotspot that other devices can use.
The new version also brings more multitouch gestures - for example swiping fingers up the screen will reveal the multitasking menu.
Apple has also added an option that lets users choose the function of the switch on the side of the iPad.
When the iPad was launched, the switch served to lock the screen orientation of the iPad but in iOS 4.2 Apple turned it into a mute switch - matching the iPhone and iPod touch. The new option allows users to choose what the switch does.
A hunt through the code for the new version of the iOS reveals clues about the future of iOS devices. MacRumors has found a reference to something called ‘Find My Friends’, leading them to speculate that Apple plans a location-based social service of some kind.
9 To 5 Mac has found images that suggest the next version of the iPad will have a camera - though perhaps not a higher-resolution screen.
Meanwhile, Engadget has found references to new model numbers for iOS devices - including two new iPhones and three new iPads.
The second iPhone is likely to be a version based on the CDMA mobile standard for the American Verizon network. The three iPads are likely to be a wifi model, a model on the GSM mobile standard and a CDMA version.
Finally, Boy Genius Report says that future versions of iPad and iPhone might do away with the Home button and work entirely on touch gestures.
BGR’s source says Apple is already testing devices without the button. Whether the concept makes it beyond the test stage is something we’ll find out soon, perhaps later this year.