ipad1[1] CNet reports that, under the new OS 4.2 beta for the iPad, Apple is completely changing the function of the screen orientation lock switch. Instead of freezing the screen in its current orientation, it will now raise or lower the volume to zero or 100%, like the version of the switch found on the iPhone. (This is what Apple had originally planned the switch to be for, before changing its mind and turning it into an orientation lock.)

[In OS 4.2], when users want to lock the orientation–something that can be quite handy when trying to use the iPad at odd angles, they must pull up the new multitasking bar, swipe to the left, and select the screen orientation lock. This is the same functionality that popped up in version 4.0 for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

A few other minor changes are mentioned, such as folders containing up to 20 apps rather than the iPhone’s 12, but the switch function change seems to be quite big enough by itself. And if the comments on the CNet article are any indication, it’s sure to turn controversial on its release—not one person replying to the post welcomed the change.

As one person pointed out, it is already possible to mute the iPad just by holding the volume control down for a second. I use that lock all the time myself on my own iPad, particularly while e-reading, and don’t really welcome the notion of having to make several screen gestures rather than simply flipping one switch. Why do we need to sacrifice such a handy, useful feature for something nobody needs? What on earth is Apple thinking?

And, of course, this is the same company that rejected a version of the Camera+ iPhone app that included the optional ability to reconfigure the iPhone’s volume control to control the shutter on the camera.

Apple rejected the feature, dubbed "VolumeSnap," because it uses the volume buttons in a "non-standard way, potentially resulting in user confusing [sic]," [Camera+’s developer] said.

What about an operating system change that uses the screen orientation lock switch in a “non-standard way, potentially resulting in user confusing”? Gee, Apple, hypocritical much?

Hopefully Apple will at least make this behavior configurable in the setup menu, so that anyone who wants to keep using the switch to control screen orientation locking will be able to do so. If not, I wonder if I’m being too optimistic if I expect a repeat of the iPhone 4 antenna uproar.


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