Top five discoveries in Apple's iOS 4.3 beta

Apple releases an iOS.4.3 beta software update for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. What's under the hood?

Apple isn't wasting any time getting to work this January after bringing the iPhone to Verizon earlier this week. The company released the first beta version of iOS 4.3 for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Apple TV on Wednesday night. The new version of iOS promises all kinds of new features such as AirPlay support for third-party applications, four- and five-finger multitouch gestures and the return of the iPad's screen orientation lock switch.

But that's not all. Developers and bloggers have been hard at work overnight teasing out all kinds of new features and digging up fresh rumors about iOS 4.3. The new iOS hints at new iPads and iPhones, the end of the iPhone 3G, a mobile hotspot feature for all and the end of the home button. Here's a look at the top five rumors, guesses and speculation surrounding iOS 4.3 Beta.

New iToys

Deep in iOS 4.3 beta's code are purported references to two new iPhone models and three new iPads, according to Engadget. That's five new iToys for 2011, although we're most likely talking about two new devices. The gadget blog posits, and I'd have to concur, that these are most likely references to GSM and CDMA versions of a new iPhone, as well as CDMA, GSM and Wi-Fi only versions of a new iPad.

Goodbye iPhone 3G?

The next iOS release appears to dump software updates for the iPhone 3G and the second-generation iPod Touch, according to MacStories. Apple's Developer site typically lists different beta versions of iOS that are specific to each iOS device. The lists currently in Apple's developer center for iOS 4.3 leave both the iPhone 3G and the older iPod Touch out. This is not that surprising since AT&T dropped sales of the iPhone 3G once the iPhone 4 was released. Apple also dumped software support for the original iPhone with the iOS 4 release in June. If the iPhone 3G is getting cut now, how soon until iPhone 3GS owners are cut out of iOS updates?

Death To The Home Button?

Apple appears to have reignited its war on physical buttons in iOS 4.3. The company will reportedly do away with the home button on the iPad in favor of four- and five-finger multitouch gestures, according to Boy Genius Report. The new multi-finger gestures are included in iOS 4.3 as a preview so it's unclear if they will make it into the final version of iOS 4.3.

The new gestures let you swipe up to see the multitasking bar, swipe left or right to switch between open apps and pinch to go back to the home screen.

There's no word on whether the home button's wake function will be replaced by a gesture or if you'll have to rely exclusively on the iPad's sleep/wake button at the top of the device. Personally, I'm hoping for a knock-to-wake gesture.

It's not clear if the so-called iPad 2 expected in 2011 would lose its home button or if the rumored home button drop is planned for a later iteration of Apple's tablet. Although BGR says both the iPad and maybe even the iPhone could lose their home buttons this year.

Hardware Rotation Lock

If you were sad to see the iPad's screen orientation lock switch become a mute button in iOS 4.2, it looks like your prayers for the return of the screen lock have been answered. The Settings application in iOS 4.3 has an option to make your iPad's side switch a mute button or a screen orientation lock, according to MacStories.

Hot Hotspot

The mobile hotspot option that debuted in Verizon's CDMA-based iPhone is coming to all iPhone users with iOS 4.3, according to BGR. The feature allows up to five devices at once to use your iPhone's 3G Internet access. But this new feature will probably be added at your carrier's discretion, which means AT&T iPhone users may be left out in the cold.

One thing that hasn't appeared in iOS 4.3 beta, or remains undiscovered, was any mention of an in-app subscription model for newspapers and magazines. We'll have to see if that feature shows up in a later beta of iOS 4.3.

UPDATE: 9-to-5 Mac made another discovery in iOS 4.3 that appears to be references to the next iPad's highly rumored front- and rear-facing cameras. The gadget blog found four files referencing the camera, and images of what the camera shutter effect will look like on the iPad screen. The images were 1024-by-768, which suggests the next iPad may have the same resolution display as the current model.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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