Apple introduced the iPad 2 yesterday, a device that’s more than likely to keep Apple on top of the pile for yet another year. But is the iPad 2 worthy of the attention (and hard-won dollars) of original iPad owners?


Apple introduced the iPad 2 yesterday, the rightful heir to the tablet throne and a device that’s more than likely to keep Apple on top of the pile for yet another year. But is the iPad 2 worthy of the attention (and hard-won dollars) of original iPad owners? Om says no, but I can’t help but feel otherwise.

Less Laptop Envy

For at least this first-gen iPad owner, the iPad 2 seems like a major step up in a few areas that count. The iPad 2 might not be a complete reinvention of the original design, but it does hit all the right notes for users who like their tablets, but wish they could be just a little bit more like the notebooks they’re increasingly replacing.

When I bought the original iPad, I was really hoping that it could fully replace my MacBook as a mobile work machine. And it almost could, especially when Apple introduced multi-tasking to the platform. But in many ways, the iPad fell just short. With a much more powerful processor, built-in cameras for FaceTime and video calling (others will no doubt get on board, just as Skype and Vtok have for the iPhone) and video-editing capabilities, the iPad 2 makes up a lot of that ground.

Don’t Underestimate the A5

Apple isn’t big on playing up specs, and instead focuses on user experience. It’s smart, but in this case, it might not do justice to the tech. The new iPad 2 features an in-house designed A5 chip, the successor to the A4. The A5 is a dual-core, 1GHz system-on-a-chip, with a reported 512 MB of memory, double that of the A4. According to Apple, the new A5 provides the ability to do at least twice the work at once as its predecessor, which will make a huge difference for processor-intensive tasks.

The A5 also provides the iPad 2 with up to nine times the graphics performance of the original iPad. A nine-fold improvement means worlds of difference when it comes to using the new iPad for video and photo editing, and for gaming and watching movies. All with the same long, notebook-beating battery life that the original iPad offered.

It sounds good on paper, but it should perform even better in terms of actual use. And just like iMovie won’t be available for the original iPad, many other apps will spring up that can take advantage of the muscular A5 but would wilt on the older A4. We probably can’t yet imagine what developers will do with a beefed-up iPad.

A Game of Inches and Ounces

When it comes to tablets and other mobile devices, size and weight are factors that have a greater effect on usability than many realize. It was a lesson that really hit home with me when I tried using the 7-inch Galaxy Tab for two weeks, and one that was at the forefront again when Kevin and I were debating the merits of an iPhone with a 4-inch screen.

Apple made the iPad 2 quite a bit thinner and lighter than the original, shaving off a full third of its depth, and 15 percent of its weight. The iPad 2 is actually thinner than the iPhone 4. Even small changes make a big difference when it comes to device portability, and these changes aren’t that small. Even Om admitted that the 3.2 ounces the iPad 2 saves feels substantial when held in the hand. Now imagine using it day after day, carrying around in your bag wherever you go. A device that feels considerably more portable is one you’ll more often have on you, which is one of the key selling points of a tablet.

The iPad 2 may not have wowed those who had inflated expectations, but it’s by no means an insubstantial update. You could wait for the possible arrival of an iPad 3 in fall, something I think is unlikely, but if you’re looking for a better tablet experience, the iPad 2 is a sure bet, and one that’s a physical reality, not a speculative phantom.

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  1. If you don’t believe what a difference design and an ounce of improperly positioned weight can make in a tablet, go visit Best Buy or Verizon and hold the Motorola Xoom in your hand. It’s night and day… even compared with the current iPad.

  2. There is word on the web that the original iPad will support the new apps like iMovie. It just won’t be able to utilize the camera feature in iMovie.

  3. What good is iMovie if you can only shoot on your iPad or iPhone. How about importing directly from your own HD camera? Sounds like fun but you now need a computer to import your video, add it to itunes and import to imovie?

  4. I never expected a tablet of any kind to replace a full notebook with its larger screen, keyboard, disk drive, USB ports, etc. But I also knew that I didn’t always need a full notebook. If you have ever sat across a table from a client and opened a notebook in their face you know that a notebook computer can be both a physical and virtual barrier between you an another person.

    My iPad, purchased day 1, has been a huge success in my world – specifically in business situations where I couldn’t, or didn’t want to use my notebook. To say that I got my money’s worth on that investment would be an understatement – it paid for itself in the first few meetings with potential clients last April when the iPad was still a novelty.

    Now I’ll hand my original down to one of the kids, or maybe a client who would really enjoy the gift. The performance boost and weight reduction make this an easy decision for me.

  5. Om is wrong.

  6. “The iPad 2 might not be a complete reinvention of the original design, but (…)”

    Why is a complete reinvention of the original design perceived as a good thing in itself? The design is great, both aesthetically and functionally and barely 1 year old. People seem to be addicted to “new” and don’t even question themselves anymore before craving for it.

  7. For those who browse and consume video, the iPad 2 is certainly a better deal than the iPad 1, even with the $100 discount Apple is offering. But for those who read a lot, either iPad has become a risky purchase thanks to Apple itself.

    That’s because, come July, Apple may yank the Kindle and B&N ereader apps off iPads and iPhones. Then the only way iPad owners will be able to buy books is through Apple’s iBookstore, which has far fewer titles and features than Amazon.

    Even the largest benefit I currently see for the iPad over the Kindle, the full-featured Instapaper app, is now in doubt. The app Apple recently rejected, Readability, is simply Instapaper with a conscience. Since its strips away ads from what is displayed, it offers websites from which the original articles came 70% of its subscription income. If Apple bans that, then it might also ban the free Instapaper, especially if Apple decides that Instapaper competes with its new paid subscription service.

    Apple is certainly amazing. Other companies use FUD–fear, uncertainty and doubt–against their competition. Apple is the only company I know that uses FUD against its own customers. It could very easily enlighten us about what will happen to competing ebook readers come July, but it hasn’t.

    1. How certain is the collision course with Kindle? I would be VERY upset with Apple if they pulled Kindle support from the iPad.

      I understand Apple wanting to have a market advantage by selling both hardware and content, but prohibiting competition sounds like an antitrust suit waiting to happen.

  8. dreamsburnred Thursday, March 3, 2011

    Ya…im even thinking of getting it. Much improved Apple.

  9. Hey Darrell, will you go 3G…but with Verizon or AT&T? I have AT&T iPhone, but i’d consider the Verizon iPad. Some variations between AT&T and Verizon’s plans. But is the real choice between speed and reliability? I understand AT&T’s 3G network to be faster (maybe even 50%?), but Verizon’s network to be more reliable. But i’m not making calls on an iPad, so does speed trump reliability if there are no calls to be dropped?

    wondering your (and other readers’) take on that.

    1. cakes,

      I have the WiFi-only iPad and my phone is the HTC/Sprint EVO which can act as a hotspot for up to 8 users on Sprint’s 3G network, and the 4G network where available. Two big advantages to this approach for me:

      1) I get to play with both Apple and Android devices and apps.

      2) No need for a separate account for the iPad. I would have the phone anyway, regardless of the iPad, and the phone is always with me.

      Using the EVO as a hotspot, in 3G areas, consumes about 10% – 15% of the battery per hour so there’s plenty of juice for browsing outside of WiFi coverage. If I need more battery life for either the EVO or iPad I carry the excellent Zagg Sparq 2.0 charger/battery in my bag which will recharge both the iPad and phone.

      1. Robert, interesting approach! As I have iPhone, it’s not likely i will use it as mobile hot spot with WiFi iPad because I’ll have to pay for that data one way or another. Still considering, and thanks for sharing.

  10. I’ll bet word processors suffer a lot less lag on the iPad 2 compared to the original gen. It seemed to kick in at about 5 pages of text, so maybe it’ll be able to handle 10 now… ;)

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