This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
Without a doubt, the iPad 2 continues in the Apple tradition of attracting legions of followers who waited in line for hours to be one of the first to acquire the latest and greatest in consumer electronics. With long lines all weekend in many stores, buyers were faced with numerous choices if they did make it to the front of the line. Which carrier – AT&T (News - Alert) or Verizon? What color – white or black? And, of course, how much memory – 16GB, 32GB or 64GB? It obviously wasn’t uncommon for customers to buy whatever was available as opposed to what they preferred.
Weight and Thickness
Although the new iPad is slightly lighter and thinner than the original, the difference isn’t great. I placed the old and new in each hand, and they felt quite similar.
Need for Speed
Where you do notice a difference is in web browsing, as many pages loaded twice as fast in my tests, which used the same version of iOS (4.3) on both units. The web browsing experience is getting close to instantaneous, and that makes the device that much more attractive as a constant companion. I found myself clicking link after link and marveling at the response times.
The rear camera on the iPad 2 was long-awaited, and although many have complained about the one-megapixel resolution, the quality of the photos are good. I also tested FaceTime (News - Alert) videoconferencing with an iPhone 4. It got a bit choppy at times, but generally the quality was on par with other FaceTime conversations I have had in the past –of course, those were all on iPhone 4s.
Apple (News - Alert) put an uncharacteristic amount of effort into promoting its new Smart Covers, which come in a variety of colors. They are lighter and thinner than the previous black-only cover for the original iPad. The concern I have about this new design is that the exposed metal of the iPad 2 is unprotected and if you drop it, you could damage the corners of the device or potentially the glass screen.
I spent some time with GarageBand on the iPad 2, and it is indeed a work of software and musical art – making a great device that much more functional. The good news is this software runs on the original iPad as well. Photo Booth made popular on the Mac works only on the iPad 2, and it allows you to take photos with interesting effects. It is certainly a fun app and adds some value.
The iPad 2 is much more aggressive than the original device in terms of dimming the screen and turning it off altogether – a logical tradeoff that has to be made when weight is shaved off and an extra core is added to the processor. Another interesting aspect of this device is it seems to generate little to no heat – which when you realize the computing power inside the device is quite amazing.
LED Backlit Screen
The new LED backlit screen is better than the old iPad screen in terms of brightness. I didn’t notice a dramatic difference when using the screen but side-by-side improvement was fairly obvious when watching video and concentrating on an area of the screen like a person’s face.
Room for Improvement
It is difficult to understand how smartphones can have 12 megapixel cameras and the iPad 2 doesn’t have this same capability. Worse yet is the fact that Apple ignores this reality by leaving camera resolution data off its page dedicated to technical specs for the iPad 2. The speaker quality seems similar to the original; for a device touting multimedia capabilities, this is an obvious area for improvement. The back of the iPad 2 will get scratched in regular use and the Smart Cover I tested didn’t adhere magnetically to the back of the device as well as it could have. And although it is tough to be critical about Apple when it comes to design I wonder why the iPad 2 doesn’t have the same square design made popular by the iPhone (News - Alert) 4. The rounded/beveled edges of this new tablet seem to hark back to the yesteryear of tech instead of being a fashion-forward statement we are so used to with new Apple product rollouts.
Also, Apple could have benefited from including even more free software with the iPad 2.
Larry Szebeni contributed to this piece.
Rich Tehrani is CEO of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO (News - Alert)). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi