Apple’s second generation iPad — the “iPad 2” — has been available to purchase (or, perhaps more accurately: available to purchase, albeit sold out) for one month now in North America, and for several weeks internationally. But, has the iPad 2 lived up to the hype? Has it re-defined the market, like its predecessor — or, as we have said before — was the iPad 2 merely an “evolutionary” hardware update, bringing nothing new to the game? To quote the famous film: let’s “analyse this.”
Apple’s first generation, original iPad — which hit the market around this time last year — essentially defined “the tablet” as we know it. Previously, touch screen computers consisted of an inaccurate touch screen, and some horrendous operating system that was barely touch engineered. I have to admit: when I first heard that Apple’s famous “iSlate,” or whatever it was going to be called, would run a version of the iPhone OS (now iOS) as opposed to a touch engineered version of Mac OS X, I wasn’t happy.
Then, after thinking about it, I realised how stupid I was to think that: the iOS is a purpose built operating system, designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. If Apple’s iPad was going to be a touch screen product, too — which, as a tablet, it would be — then surely an “iPad optimized” version of the iOS would fit, right?
Fortunately, that was Apple’s logic, too. Soon, iPhone OS became iOS: the iPad launched with iOS 3.2 (a version of the software update that was slightly different to the previous version: a wallpaper for the Home screen was, essentially, the only major change), and before long critics — including myself — had an iPad in their hands.
What did I think? — I thought the original iPad was the most beautiful, well designed, brilliantly conceived thing in the history of the universe: nothing compared to it, and I loved it. (I should note that once the iPhone 4 was released, my adoration was somewhat transferred.)
Key features of the original iPad: 9.7 inch screen, high definition (1280p) display, single core A4 chip — the same as the iPhone 4 — and 256MB of RAM. The device launched in three Wi-Fi only and three Wi-Fi + 3G versions, with the following HDDs: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB.
The iPad looked great. But, the root of its success is — like all of Apple’s iDevices — in the App Store: something the iPad had from day one. Before long, iPad optimized and iPad only apps started filling the new store (which now boasts 75,000+ native iPad apps), meaning new iPad owners had a high definition version of Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and more to play on all day and all night.
Arguably the best and worst thing about Apple, is the fact that the company refreshes its line of iOS devices each and every year: since 2007, a new iPhone has been unveiled around June (at WWDC), and every fall a new range of iPods is presented to critics. Obviously, this meant that Apple fans expected to see a new version of the iPad hit Apple Stores around April 2011 — though despite this, the original iPad went on to sell incredibly well throughout the fourth quarter of the year of its release: Christmas proved to be incredibly successful (at one point, the iPad was the number one Christmas gift), and the fact that Apple held off on announcing the original iPad’s successor gave fans even more opportunity and inspiration to part with the cash, and buy a first generation iPad.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the iPad 2 announcement was that Steve Jobs — despite suffering from (what we assume to be) a form of cancer — gave the keynote presentation. Here’s what Steve said about the iPad 2:
— It’s thinner, thinner than the iPhone 4
— It’s lighter
— It’s got two cameras, one front facing, and one rear facing
— It’s got a built in gyroscope, just like the iPhone 4
— And unlike the iPhone 4, it boasts a dual core A5 processor
— It’ll be twice as fast as the original iPad
— And graphics, too, will be faster, by nine times, apparently
On paper, it might sound like Apple made a few huge leaps forward with the iPad 2, but when you think about it, the changes aren’t phenomenal: twice the speed of the original iPad is meagre (and the improved graphics, while noticeable, don’t feel nine times faster than those of the original iPad). We all saw front and rear facing cameras on an iOS device last June, when Apple announced the iPhone 4 (in fact, we saw it a couple of months before that, when Gizmodo leaked the iPhone 4). We saw a gyro then, too — something I don’t massively appreciate in my iPhone 4 or iPad 2.
After queueing for the best part of the day on the international launch (which was March 25), I got my iPad 2. And to be honest, most of my first impressions — and lasting impressions — correlate with what Steve Jobs said, back when he gave that keynote presentation.
The iPad 2 is lighter, thinner, and quicker than the original iPad. Somehow (and honestly, I don’t know how — you’d think I did in this profession, but I don’t), somehow, the display looks better. I can only guess that this is down to the way Apple manufactured the display (apparently, the touch panel has been glued rather than screwed — perhaps a different kind of panel was used) — meaning photos, websites, apps, and videos all look much better on the iPad 2.
Smart Covers are awesome: they don’t protect the front of the iPad, but they’re undoubtedly an essential — if not the essential — iPad accessory. And if you don’t believe me, just watch the video over at Apple’s website.
I think it’s very interesting that the iPad 2 started cheaper than the original iPad did, last year (in several countries). To me, this means that Apple is aware that the second generation iPad is nothing spectacular: it’s evolutionary, rather than revolutionary — and for this reason, the company is adding the iPad 2’s remarkable price to its list of features; it’s another reason to buy an iPad.
A key question — for me, at least — is what can we expect from the third generation iPad?
A rough estimate would be:
— Higher resolution display; Retina quality?
— Near Field Communication capable
— Similar sized screen
— Thinner, lighter, and faster
— Better cameras; support for FaceTime HD?
However, this is a very rough estimate. We’ll have a better idea towards the end of this year, after seeing the iPhone 5, and when iPad 3 rumors start to circulate. Does this mean you should hold off on buying the iPad 2? Probably, if you don’t want to resell your iPad 2 to buy an iPad 3, but who can wait a year?
If you have any questions about the iPad, or any opinions on my thoughts and opinions, feel free to post them in the comments below.