iPad 2 Observations

28Mar11

I queued for 6+ hours to be one of the first to buy an iPad 2 in the UK on Friday 25th March. Waiting itself was a more pleasurable experience than I had anticipated. The company was good and the atmosphere fun. We were of course ridiculed by passers by (who would probably not hesitate being first in the queue for a sale at Next). But when my time came I picked up a black 64GB/3G+WIFI iPad 2 and hurried out of the shopping mall, painfully aware that my iPad could be seen clearly through the white Apple bag, raising my chances of being mugged considerably. After spending a few days with the iPad 2 I have jotted down some initial observations…

• At first glance the form factor of iPad 2 looks very similar to it’s predecessor. But once held in your hands the differences become apparent. It feels implausibly thin yet both rigid and solid. The flat back makes it feel less awkward. I remember my first two weeks with the first generation iPad. It took a while for my wrists to get used to it’s weight and for me to work out how best to hold it. For someone purchasing an iPad 2 as their first tablet I suspect this would be much less of a factor. Although only a little lighter, iPad 2 feels more like an oversized Kindle than a first generation iPad.

• The overall experience is much improved by the increased CPU performance. There is no lag when flicking through pages of app icons and no noticeable redraw (AKA the chequerboard effect) when scrolling quickly through long Safari pages. Third party apps that were previously a little slow are also more pleasurable to use. Tweetmag and Zite spring to mind.

• The extra RAM greatly improves the multitasking experience. For example, a previously closed Safari tab rarely has to refresh itself when switching back to it.

• I purchased both the leather and polyurethane Smart Cover. The leather marks easily but feels better in the hand and smells better too. The polyurethane seems more durable but on reflection I think the leather case will have more character as time passes. If I had a criticism of the Smart Cover it would be that a few more magnets could have been added. Specifically a couple of magnets on the back of the iPad itself would have helped prevent the cover flapping around when folded back on itself when held one handed.

• The back of the iPad 2 is as vulnerable to scratches as the first generation model. I picked up a nasty scratch on my old iPad by placing it down on a coffee table that had a grain of sugar on it. Beware. Aluminium is no where near as durable as it sounds. I will be picking up a BOOKback ASAP.

• As widely publicised, the cameras are a disappointment if you intend to shoot stills. For Facetime and the odd video clip they are fine. I think Apple would have been well advised to remove altogether the ability from the Camera app to take stills.

• Battery life seems better than my first gen iPad. This may well be due to degradation with the older iPads battery. It has been heavily used since its purchase a year ago and charged/discharged almost every day since.

• A new dock is available for the iPad 2. But it is possible to use the old style dock. Inserting the iPad 2 into the first gen dock is a little tricky the first few times, but it becomes easier with practice. Once sat on the dock it looks fine. I will likely save myself some money and stick with the older docks (of which I have three).

• I occasionally use a stylus to take notes in apps like Penultimate and Notes Plus. There seems to be more drag when using the stylus on the iPad 2 screen. This makes it a less pleasurable experience. I am not sure why this is. Maybe a new coating on the glass?

• There are some potentially confusing changes to the Sound preferences. Because the iPad 2 can accept incoming Facetime calls, it has the ability to ‘ring’ much like a phone would do. By default the volume rocker does not affect the ringtones or other system sounds (incoming mail, device lock, calendar alerts etc). It only alters the volume the audio originating from video and music apps. This behaviour can be altered within the Sound preference pane.

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