Apple releases iOS 4.3 one day ahead of iPad 2

For those not lucky enough to pick up a brand spanking new iPad 2 when it goes on sale tomorrow, Apple has something of a consolation prize for you, allowing you to bring your current iPad or other iOS device to the latest version today.

Version 4.3 of Apple’s iOS software adds features needed for the iPad 2, but it also incorporates new functionality for existing devices. The biggest feature is the addition of four-finger multitouch. Users will be able to use new gestures by swiping all four fingers on the screen simultaneously. These new gestures include the ability to close apps, switch between apps, and bring up the multitask bar.

Another big addition is Home Sharing, which makes it easier to stream content from an iPhone/iPad to a computer, eliminating the need to hook up a physical USB connection.

The new iOS firmware also improves the built-in Safari browser, including a more powerful Nitro JavaScript engine, as well as increased connectivity with Apple TV. For those with an AT&T iPhone 4, this update also finally grants the ability to use the phone as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

Other additions to iOS 4.3 include:

– Additional notification sounds

– Font switch addition for Notes app

– Photo Booth for iPad 2

The update comes one day before the launch of iPad 2, which is expected to be much less of a spectacle than the release of the original iPad or any of the iPhone launches. That’s mainly because the original iPad only came out a year ago, and the updates to iPad 2 are incremental (though noteworthy) at best. Even Apple’s biggest devotees will find it hard to justify buying a new version of a $500 – $800 tablet less than one year after buying the first one.