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Apple Releases iOS 4.3 Ahead of iPad 2 Schedule

Apple originally said during its iPad 2 event that it would roll out iOS 4.3, alongside the new hardware, but the company has let loose the software a couple days ahead of schedule.

Available now as an update for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad users is iOS 4.3, which includes faster Safari mobile browsing performance with the Nitro JavaScript engine; iTunes Home Sharing; enhancements to AirPlay; the choice of using the iPad side switch to either lock the screen rotation or mute the audio; and the Personal Hotspot feature for sharing an iPhone 4 cellular data connection over Wi-Fi.

“With more than 160 million iOS devices worldwide, including over 100 million iPhones, the growth of the iOS platform has been unprecedented,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iOS 4.3 adds even more features to the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, across three blockbuster devices—iPad, iPhone and iPod touch—providing an ecosystem that offers customers an incredibly rich experience and developers unlimited opportunities.”

New iTunes Home Sharing allows iOS 4.3 users to play music, movies and TV shows on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch from their iTunes library on a Mac or PC over a local Wi-Fi network.

The big new feature, in our opinion, is the Personal Hotspot that's been a part of Android since 2.2 Froyo. This allows the iPhone 4 cellular data connection to be shared with up to five devices in a combination of up to three Wi-Fi, three Bluetooth and one USB device. Once the feature is enabled, a status bar displays how many devices are currently connected. Every connection is password protected and when not in use Personal Hotspot turns itself off to save battery life.

Of course, the Personal Hotspot requires supporting data plan, which in most cases calls for the same tethering-enabling option via the carrier. Read more about that here.