In just over a week of availability, the iPad 2 is on a 4-5 week back order online, and is practically impossible to get with expedience in any shop anywhere in the country. Even for Apple, it has all the looks of a staggering sales achievement for what is, on paper, a very modest spec-bump to a machine already owned by over 15 million people. Something's going on here.
Apple's ability to somehow find and goad the fervent, ga-ga, spirals-for-eyes consumer hidden inside even the the most frugal, stoic and principled technology buyer should be no surprise to anyone by now. The last ten years or so for Apple has been a period of consistently winning products, which makes it easier to miss the heavy psy-ops that accompany each new launch into the marketplace and into your hands. But they're there.
So when the time comes to write a review for one of said products, it's often tough to figure out what exactly you're writing about--the product, or the creamy aura of marketing that surrounds it; the two are so wedded together that it's often hard to see where one ends and the other begins. But for the reviewer, whose job in the end is to provide useful information about something others wish to learn about or consider for purchase, it's important to keep things focused on the slim aluminum and glass tablet computer in your hand.
But keeping these two things separate has been hard for me with the iPad 2, a subtle, measured refinement of what was already a great product. Is the iPad 2 the best first tablet you can buy right now? Without doubt. Is it so much better than its 11-month, 19-day-old predecessor to warrant an immediate $500-$830 upgrade? It is not. With that out of the way, let's get down to it.
Starting from the inside, the iPad 2 has a new processor, a dual-core chip Apple calls the A5 and claims is 2x faster than the original iPad's single-core A4. RAM is up to 512MB (from 256MB) and graphics performance is cited as a significant 9x boost. In addition to GSM for AT&T, there's also the option to have a CDMA radio built in to connect to Verizon's 3G data network without a bundled MiFi hotspot. A gyroscope for more fine-grained orientation measurements is also inside, like in the iPhone 4.
On the outside you'll see a dot on the front and a slightly larger aperture on the back for the front- and rear-facing cameras. The case has been thinned by 4.6 mm (33%), the weight shaved by around 80 g (~15%), with the aluminum bezel surrounding the display reduced to a hair-width of glass. It's available in a new color, white, and has internal magnets to attach a nifty new folding Smart Cover, which can also wake the iPad from sleep.
What's good is that this is the same iPad so many people loved the first time around, smartly improved. The most noticeable of these improvements is probably the processor upgrade. While the original iPad is by no means slow (even when running today's most demanding graphics-heavy games) it's the speed with which the iPad 2 glides in and out of different tasks that sets it apart. Doubling the RAM helps here too: app switching via the double-tapped home button is more responsive, and if you're switching to Safari, there's a better chance the page you were viewing will be stored in RAM when you return to it, eliminating the need for a reload.
And let's not forget the Smart Cover, the $40 magnetic screen protector that has been cited by some early reviewers as reason enough to upgrade (oof). It is indeed conceptually and aesthetically miles ahead of the original Apple case--a black rubbery sheath that concealed all the glass and metal Johnathan Ive worked so hard to perfect. The Smart Cover is not as adept at propping the iPad up in your lap, though--when folded into a triangle, the panels tend to wobble, and at certain angles, the magnets tend to disengage.
Not a whole lot. Like its predecessor, the iPad 2 is the standard by which all tablet computers are now judged. Part of the reason for the rushy 12-month update cycle is to keep this competitive advantage; as the rest of the electronics world is pushing their first serious tablet efforts out the door, Apple's already on version two.
What the "what's bad" list turns into, then, is two things. First, a list of the improvements that should not be mistaken for groundbreaking leaps forward:
- The slimmer form factor is great-looking, but in your hand, the iPad 2 does not feel significantly lighter than the iPad. Nor does it feel markedly thinner--if anything, it feels a bit tighter and less "hollow" from the lack of convexity on the back panel.
- For now, my guess is you will not find yourself using the cameras often, unless you are a constant Face Time video chat user (do those people exist, I wonder? Speak up in the comments if you are one of them). The image quality is poor, and other than quickly taking grainy photos of your cat doing something funny as it sits next to you on the couch, I don't see too many photo opportunities well served by whipping out a 9-inch picture frame to grab the shot.
- The processor and graphics muscle, while certainly noticeable and nice, do not yet leave the original iPad in the dust. Certain games optimized to use the iPad 2's graphics advantage will be crisper on the screen, and some apps will run with a bit more fluidity, but it will be a long time before apps come anywhere close to overwhelming the original iPad's A4 chip; many of today's most popular games still run beautifully on an original iPhone from 2007 (gasp!).
The second "what's bad" list are all those things that the best tablets of today still don't do well (and perhaps, by their nature, never will). It is an important list to keep in mind when considering a tablet purchase:
- Work with files. If you need to take files from the internet or a digital camera, modify them, then send them off somewhere else on the internet, a tablet is probably not for you. Highly specialized apps and no exposed file system are the culprits here.
- Handle lots of text. Bluetooth keyboards are nice for the occasional bout of emailing or writing, but if these bouts are anything more than occasional, finding a flat surface for your keyboard every time will have you longing for a laptop.
From $500 to $830, depending on your choice of flash storage capacity (16, 32 or 64 GB) and whether or not you want a cellular data connection (with either AT&T or Verizon) in addition to Wi-Fi. See the full pricing breakdown here.
I'm realizing now this review may come off a bit contradictory and weird. Don't get me wrong--the iPad 2 is great. It's a measured, smart improvement of what was already the industry-wide benchmark for personal, touch-based computing (a type of computing that, after a year of maturation, still has thrilling potential). Apple's new version of Garage Band for the iPad is a perfect example of this potential--music software clearly becomes something new and exciting with a well-designed touch interface. The app currently has 1,547 five-star ratings out of 1,897--a great ratio for the typically troll-filled iTunes store.
But keep in mind that Garage Band, while introduced on stage along with the iPad 2, also works perfectly well on iPad 1. I cited what I think is the role of the reviewer earlier here because we could all stand to remind ourselves of this reality when considering Apple's now standard 12-month life cycle for its products. Similarly, I was thrilled to find Tiny Wings, Angry Birds, and most other games I play on the iPhone 4 perfectly playable on my original 2007 iPhone, which I dusted off from a drawer.
While this may seem hypocritical from someone whose job is in part to keep up with the latest gadgets, I am a believer in using the gadgets you own. Using them for as long as is practical, rather than using them only to plan your next gadget purchase. With Apple dangling fresh carrots in front of our noses before we've even had a chance to digest the ones we just ate, this can be hard. But it's something I think is important. A recent Wired cover story by Joel Johnson (again I'm linking to a think-piece by Mr. Johnson in an iPad review!) reported from the factories of Foxconn, Apple's Chinese manufacturing partner, serves as a great reminder that treating gadgets as disposable commodities does not happen in a vacuum.
So if you've gotten this far, you'll know that I think the iPad 2 is great. If a tablet is right for you, it's the one to get. But if you already have an iPad, save yourself the upgrade anxiety, the gadget karma and several hundred dollars by at least waiting to see what comes around with next year's iPad 3. Because in less than a year, we'll be doing this all over again.
Jeez people who try to have the latest i anything are a bunch of suckers. I don't need that crap. I have the original palm pre for almost two years now and it does everything i need it to. Plus my $270 laptop is way better than any tablet.
I agree about the "suckers" wanting the next best thing, but the other thing I realized is that with people buying up the these products it just drops prices on software for the PC users of the world. Happy days...
What Is Science but A Continual Lesson of The Challenge To Studying The Entire Known Existence of Everything.
I admit to being a gadget nut, but as I already have a tablet (iPad 1), I'm not going to spend that kind of money just to upgrade it. I don't mind spending money on new electronics, but until it's actually something that I don't have yet, I will save my money.
Maybe the iPad 4 will be sufficiently different that I can justify that expenditure again... So I'd better start saving now, because it'll probably come before next tax season. :-)
I'm presently tech demoing the Motorola Xoom for my work and with the latest 3.01 and Flash 10.2 update, its been wonderfully stable (seriously, I was shocked). With the Beta of Firefox 4 installed, I've not had ANY trouble accessing SharePoint resources or anything else for that matter. Sure, you occasionally encounter a website that insists (INSISTS!) you run a mobile version of the site, but most let you switch and move on (or you can locate the real URL from a search). The screen is bright and clean, the on-screen keyboard is easy to use and performance and crispness of HD video is great (once you figure out what the encoding levels need to be at). I love the built in corporate email client too (WAY faster/better than Android 2.2's version - in which case users were either forced to deal with the laggy performance or spend $20 on Exchange TouchDown). I'd offer a comparison with the iPad2, however, none of my sales contacts are able to get demo units (nor do they want to even sell me the iPad2 as their profit margin is next to nothing - thank you uncle Steve). My biggest complaint though is a limited number of Honeycomb specific apps, but that will change eventually. Looking forward to what the next couple of years reveal in this segment. If I were to make a choice right now based on the week or so of playing with the Xoom - I'd buy it... but you always have that feeling of "maybe something better is coming out".
Ipad 1 for sale! After reading this article I found myself breathing easier since I just bought my Ipad literally a week before they announced the II. And after finding that they still can't save and manipulate files I even smirked. I guess until full pc function is added I'll just have to be content with my hoards of ibooks, movies, songs, and apps. Speaking of apps I havent yet downloaded the Time Warner Cable Ipad app but I am very excited at the possibility of mobile TV anywhere I can get a WiFi signal. ( I dont plan on buying a wireless carrier plan, my iphone does most of what my Ipad does already)
This is one of the best written articles I've ever seen on PopSci. I joined this site just to say that. The flipside to that of course is that most of the articles on this site are far too short and devoid of info. But anyways, carry on, nice article
The best use of a front facing camera I can think of comes from augmented reality. There are some seriously cool applications being developed that mix together reality and computer generated content. Assuming that app developers will have access to the video stream from the cameras.
I bought a new iPad 2 on the first day, and sold my iPad 1 yesterday. For many people, the iPad 1 will be just fine -- for now. For me, there were 3 reasons to make this upgrade:
A) 3G from Verizon
B) Rear camera for augmented reality applications
C) Rear camera as a scanner for QR code applications
Twenty somethings can do these things with their iPhone 4 (and yes, I have a Verizon iPhone 4 as well). But my eyes are older and I find the larger screen much more readable.
Yes, I'm enjoying the cool magnetic cover, and I also purchased the HDMI adapter for connecting to a HD-TV or HDMI projector.
Lest you think I'm an Apple fanboi, I don't use a Mac. But Apple got it right with tablets; they just work! I did buy the keyboard, and the only thing I wish for is an app which allows my iPhone to be a WiFi mouse for my iPad 2, when using LogMeIn Ignition for remote controlling Windows
PCs and servers. How 'bout it, Apple?
I bought the iPad2 and I can say I am blown away. The ipad 2 is beautiful in every way. I love the apps. The screen is crisp. And everything moves so smooth and seamless. I did not the original ipad but I know people who do own the original. I don't think it's a big difference and people who own the original should not feel bad now with the ipad2 being released.
I buy all things apple because they "Get it". They know exactly how to make a product and have everything tie into all their products.
I also bought the apple tv2 and works great with ipad2 and airplay.
I upgraded my 2008 Macbook to the latest Snow Leopard just so I can run a program that allows me to use multiple monitors properly like what Linux and Windows machines can do natively. And now my system is a laggy buggy mess.
Sure, Apple "gets it". But when they don't boy does things go downhill really fast. It's the very reason why I won't jump on the iphone/ipad craze going on. When you start investing money into itunes and the app store you are stuck with them for good. You end up either being blindly loyal to them praising every whipping they give you or you decide to cut your losses and leave.
As a video editor Apple products were my number one choice, even to the point where I didn't need to consider other products. But their adamant refusal to include blu-ray burners on their systems, their little spate with Adobe, and a myriad of other problems caused by their arrogance has put me off from their products.
It may not be so bad for someone who has simple needs but for me I will be upgrading away from Apple, let alone touch their mobile products.
I think your review is fair and balanced. I bought the second model for the camera and with grandchildren (the three year old can use facetime and we find it useful for our granddaughter who is almost 1). I liked the first version so much that I bought V2 without reservation. I like the form and feel of it. I have debated since I bought the first one whether to ditch my laptop and I end up taking both on longer trips. The Air does some things the iPad cannot.
But I also appreciate your the things which tablets need to improve on - I have worked around the working with files through Goodreader and Evernote. While not perfect they help me organize lots of data and files of many types. Upad seems to be evolving into a third version of that type of application.
I find the bluetooth keyboard very useful but hate to carry that also. When I am flying without the Air - the keyboard comes along.
But there are two problems which needs to be fixed and were not. In iBooks and even in the Kindle APP there is no easy way to collect all those notes and highlights for the books I read. In the Kindle they dump into a text file - the Ipad should make provision for that.
The second gripe relates to Airprint. I just bought an 8500 HP top of the line all in one printer which does not connect to Airprint - they have one model but not all of them do. Admittedly when I really need to I can email a file to another computer and print it but it would be easier if there were a wider array of printers available for printing with Airprint.
One final comment. I have not used the Motorola but I did give a serious test of the Samsung which I found to be clunky and not very usable. The bottom line is that I liked the iPad V1.0 enough to buy the V2.0.
We have found one use for the rear-facing camera that gave us suprisingly good images, provided that you couple it with a loupe. The combo turns the iPad into a reasonably good digital microscope:http://www.rainydaymagazine.com/RDM2011/Home/April/Week2/RDMHomeApr1411.htm#iPadMicroscope
Using the build-in camera software, the images captured were quite sharp, with correct colors, and can even be in video.
"We Entertain When It Rains"