Apple first described some of the new features in iOS 4.2, the operating software for the Apple gadgets, at a media event in September.
The iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad don't have ports for hooking up with printers, which makes the AirPrint feature one of the biggest advances for all of Apple's gadgets. With the new software, the gadgets can find printers on home networks, then send text, photos or graphics directly to the printer over Wi-Fi. To start, iPads, iPhones or iPods with AirPrint will only work directly with certain Hewlett-Packard Co. printers.
The software update also includes AirPlay, which lets iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users send video, music and photos directly from the gadgets to the TV screen through the company's Apple TV set-top box. Someone who is watching a movie on the go on an iPad could walk into the living room and switch to the TV with a few taps. Apple also said special AirPlay-enabled speakers for streaming music will be on sale in coming months.
Apple said it is also making its Find My iPhone app available without charge for owners of the iPhone 4, the iPad and the latest iPod Touch model. The app helps people find their missing device on a map; people can also remotely lock or delete data from a lost device.
The update brings many features already available for iPhones and the iPod Touch to the iPad, including a form of multitasking, or the ability to keep some programs running in the background while doing other things. For example, users will be able to start up the Pandora music program and keep listening while switching to another application. The update also makes switching between programs faster.
With the new software, iPad users can also consolidate multiple e-mail accounts into one inbox, play games against other Apple gadget owners and rent TV episodes from the iTunes app.
This is the iPad's first holiday season on the market, and Apple is positioning the software update as another reason to buy.
"IOS 4.2 makes the iPad a completely new product, just in time for the holiday season," said CEO Steve Jobs in a statement.
People can download the new software by syncing their devices with iTunes.