Apple releases iOS 4.3 for iPhone, iPad, iPod

Apple has released the latest version of its mobile operating system a day earlier than expected.

iOS 4.3 is available now through the usual iTunes download, and includes all the things we expected - and at least one surprise.

The biggest draw is probably Mobile Hotspot, which allows up to five suitably-equipped devices to use your iPhone 4 as a wireless modem, although most carriers seem to be lumping additional charges for tethering onto already over-inflated monthly bills.

O2, for example, wants users to cough up an extra £7.50 a month for a measly 500MB of data, which won't go far if you've hooked five users up to the account.

As long as you have a decent 3G signal, Personal Hotspot will work with your Mac, PC, iPad or any other Wi-Fi enabled device and the connection can also be shared over Bluetooth or plain old USB.

Every account is password-protected, and the iPhone will detect when a connection is no longer being used and put the phone to sleep to save battery power.

Apple TV owners will be pleased to know that AirPlay has had a lick of paint, and can now stream video from Apple's Photos App, so you can shoot a clip on your iPhone and view it on your big telly in seconds with no faffing about with syncing or cables.

Apple also says that AirPlay-enabled Apps and web sites can also be viewed through the TV - but we're not entirely sure how a web site qualifies to become 'AirPort-enabled'. We suspect it probably needs to start with www.apple... but it's an interesting foretaste of things to come, if Apple does decide to widen its walled garden.

Safari has finally been given the speed boost we have all been expecting for months, with the addition of the Nitro JavaScript engine to the mobile browser. Apple reckons Safari now renders Java-laden pages twice as fast as the previous version.

In what some will see as Apple's next step towards iTunes-in-the-cloud, the media management App now includes Home Sharing, which allows any iOS device to stream music, video, audio books and podcasts from a Mac or PC's own iTunes library - although for the life of us, we haven't been able to work out how to switch it on in the few minutes we've had to play with it. Perhaps someone with a few more fully-functioning synapses could let us know what we're doing wrong in the comments below, otherwise we're going to have to break out the on-line manuals, which is against our religion.

That's about it for the update, apart from usual performance enhancements and security tinkering... and the fact that Apple has listened to its users for once and has allowed the iPad's side switch to be toggled between screen rotation lock and a mute button.

Oh and there's one more thing... the update's underlying code has revealed that the iPhone 5 will almost certainly include the same dual-core A5 chip spotted in the impending iPad 2.