First Impressions: iPad 2 & iOS 4.3

Less than 24 hours after release and you are probably all sick of posts about the iPad 2 by now, but I wanted to get my initial impressions out about the new iPad 2 and iOS 4.3 release while they are fresh in my mind.

As TDL readers will probably know I was live blogging the event, (sadly not actually sat at the BBC watching it live) but never the less I got to see the news as it broke revealing what rumours were true from the many hundreds that had spread around the Internet like wild fire over the past few weeks.

The iPad 2 Itself

So first we come to the iPad 2 itself.  The new design is sporting a thinner and lighter chassis of 8.8mm thin and weighing in at just 601g for the WiFi only version, stick that next to an iPad 1 which was 13.4mm and 680g for the WiFi model you can see how Apple have gone all out to make this more portable than ever.

Other new features include a slick new 1GHz A5 dual core CPU replacing the 1GHz A4 chip in the iPad 1, they are boasting that this gives the iPad 2 up to twice the processing power and 9x the graphics power, although we are not sure yet what or if they have done anything else to improve graphics performance.  There is also no word yet as to if there has been any RAM upgrade for iPad 2 but we know they are keeping the 3 on-board memory options of 16GB, 32GB, 64GB.

One thing which was rumoured but didn’t change was the display, this remains a 9.7″ 1027×768 LED backlit LCD, so dreams of a larger iPhone 4 style retina display are gone.

Other improvements include a built in gyroscope and 2 built in cameras, one at the front and one at the rear.  The front camera is said to be a standard VGA web cam and the rear capable of taking 720p video, obviously the main intention was brining FaceTime to the iPad which they are doing in iOS 4.3.

I wanted to throw in a quote from SlashGear here, they did a benchmark test on the iPad 1 & 2, the results are below and you can see for yourself the performance increase:

We ran a Spider benchmark on both devices and came up with the following:
iPad 1 rang in at 8492
iPad 2 with 2021
Lower is better. In fact it’s so good, we wrote a whole [post] about it.”

The article makes for interesting reading so check it out.

Another big point for the iPad 2 is the capability to bus out whatever is on your screen via a HDMI dongle which can be purchased separately for $39.  Apple claimed that you could play 1080p video from the iPad using this but we where a bit confused as to how necessary this would be given the iPad’s display and camera are only capable of 720p, but I guess its nice to have if you are carting around 1080p videos on the off chance of playing them on a TV.

The final point I wanted to get onto was the new magnetic case cover that Apple have adopted, as Jose from the TDL Mobile show rightly points out this is not a breakthrough feature created by Apple but more of an adoption of technology RIM have been using on the BlackBerry for years.  Its a nice feature however and looks to have been implemented nicely with a fold over magnetic cover for the screen which auto brings the iPad 2 in and out of sleep mode depending on the cases position.  The case can also be used as a stand for the iPad 2 while in use and is available in various colours in polyurethane or leather priced at $39 and $69 respectively.

Anyhow I think I have gone into enough detail for an initial impression on iPad 2 for now, the only other things I wanted to mention was that the cost of iPad 2 will be the same as the iPad 1 so if you are thinking of getting one you will not have to pay any more for the privilege.  The iPad 1 has also dropped in price by £100 by the looks of things and rumour has it Apple has now stopped production of it so what’s left on the shelves is getting sold off.  You will also be able to get hold of a new iPad 2 in black but also with a white bezel which could be setting precedence for future iPhones.

The new iPad will be available to order in the US on March 11th which is quite surprising, Apple really are closing the door on the release to purchase time frame.

Anyone who wants to get their hands on one in other countries including the UK will be able to do so on March 25th with Orange and T-Mobile announcing this morning that they will have stock on day one.

I’m sure more information will become evident after release date so lets move onto some of the new features in iOS 4.3.

iOS 4.3 New Features

For those devs who have had hands on experience with iOS 4.3 most of the features are old news, there has also been plenty revealed about the new features in many articles so I am just going to concentrate on what was announced yesterday during the Apple event.

First of all they have implemented the Safari Nitro JavaScript engine from the Mac which is said to bring twice as fast browsing performance than that of iOS 4.2, this will bring a much better browsing experience for iOS 4.3 users.

Next they have been busy making some major improvements to AirPlay.  For those unfamiliar AirPlay is the way Apple iOS users can push out video to an Apple TV or other AirPlay compatible device.  Up until now it has been only really useful for pushing out things like YouTube videos to Apple TVs however Apple have now improved the feature which will allow many more applications to take advantage of the system.  Alongside AirPlay now being able to stream pictures and slide shows from the Photos app to your TV third party apps and websites will also be able to hook into the feature which could prove to be really good.

Personal Hotspot mode is also coming to the iPhone 4.  Now this is by no means revolutionary, Android users will have been used to this for a long time and I even had it on my Windows Mobile 6.5 device, however it has been a long time coming to the iPhone and is a nice addition.  It will allow you to hook up 5 devices at once to use your iPhones data connection.

ITunes home sharing is up next, improvements to this service means you can stream music from your iTunes library on your PC to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad over your WiFi connection, this is a nice added feature meaning you don’t have to carry your music around on the iPad as well as your PC, (unless you are going out of the house that is).

Finally the iPad toggle switch is getting what everyone wants, the ability to select if you want to use it as a mute or rotation control, not much more to say on that really.

IOS 4.3 is coming to iPhone 3GS & iPhone 4 GSM, iPad & iPod Touch 3rd and 4th generations on March 11th and is a free download as per usual.

New Apple Software

The last thing I wanted to touch on briefly was the new iPad software Apple announced at the event.  There where 3 new packages they revealed, Photo Booth, iMovie and GarageBand.

PhotoBooth is an app that lets you take advantage of the new cameras on the iPad 2, allowing you to manipulate your pictures and add numerous effects to them which is nothing ground breaking but a nice looking app to show off the new camera feature.

Secondly they revealed iMovie which I quite like the look of.  The app will enable you to take your videos which you have recorded on the iPad 2 and edit them up on the same device and finally publish them to services such as Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo just to mention a few.  I was talking to Ian Dixon last night about this and he mentioned it would be great for things like covering shows like CES, you can shoot, edit and upload the video from the same device meaning you need carry less equipment with you and it can all be done on the fly.  The app provides many effects for easy, professional creation of your home movie edits and I am looking forward to giving this a go.

Finally they revealed GarageBand for iPad, this looks pretty awesome, I love music apps and the instruments and effects on this are something I am very keen to try, although I was unsure of some of the helpful features which meant you don’t really need to have any musical talent to create music.  The app features an 8 track recorder for mixing up your new tracks and you can also plug a guitar in to lay down those genuine guitar riffs.  The drums feature also looked very nice with the on screen image being that of if you where sat in front of a real drum kit, it will even know how hard you are hitting the drums apparently, but please remember that a drum skin is a lot cheaper than a new iPad screen!

Conclusion

I may well have missed some vital points in this post, and if so please let me know.

In conclusion I must say that the new features Apple have brought to the iPad 2 are nice, they have obviously put a lot of work into figuring out how they can keep a grip on the tablet market.  However having said that there is nothing there that is ground breaking which was in my opinion what the iPad 1 was.  The original iPad, (as we have always said on TDL Mobile) was a nice to have gadget rather than a must have and the iPad 2 is no exception to this rule.

If you have a spare £500 burning a hole in your pocket and want to invest in an Apple tablet I would highly recommend getting an iPad 2 but if you like me already own an iPad there is nothing in the new feature list which would make you sell up and upgrade.

Maybe iPad 3 will be the point where iPad 1 owners will choose to make the upgrade but for now I am happy with what I have.


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