The iPad (2) Scores Again

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

To avoid the suspense, I’ll start with the bottom line: The just-announced iPad 2 (shipping on March 11) is a winner. If the original iPad (now referred to as the iPad 1) was an “inside-the-park” home run (as I originally described it), the iPad 2 is a straight-up home run. The ball lands squarely in the stands. Not out-of-the-park, not even in the bleachers. Still, good enough to score. And, given today’s increasingly competitive market, that’s impressive.

Getting past the baseball metaphors, here’s what I’m saying: The iPad 2 is superior to the iPad 1 in all the most critical statistics. It’s thinner and lighter and promises to be much faster. Plus, it adds front and rear-facing cameras — and a gyroscope. It even comes in white. And it does all this without increasing the price! This makes for a product undeniably more compelling than the iPad 1.

iPad 2

Still, to hit it out of the park, I would have expected more. The screen resolution remains unchanged, the storage sizes haven’t been bumped up, and the speakers are not improved. I was especially disappointed that there were no new features for connecting external storage devices to the iPad or for accessing new cloud-services. My hoped-for killer feature, assuming my prediction is correct, is presumably not yet ready-for-prime-time. Perhaps we’ll see it when the iPhone 5 arrives this summer. [For a chart of how the iPad 2 specs compare to the iPad 1 and Motorola Xoom, click here.]

A more general problem with what’s new in the iPad 2 (assuming you’re looking to find a problem) is that, except for the cameras, they don’t immediately allow you to do anything obvious that you couldn’t already do with an iPad 1. By themselves, features such as slightly thinner and lighter don’t make a compelling case for why you should trade-in your old iPad for a new one.

However, Apple’s announcements today were not limited to the iPad 2 itself. Apple also showed off an assortment of new peripherals and software that significantly enhance the iPad 2 experience. A downside (for convincing you to buy an iPad 2) is that many of these new options also work with the iPad 1, iPhone and/or iPod touch.

Here’s what most caught my attention:

Video Mirroring. This is gigantic news for me. Via the new Apple Digital AV Adapter, Apple has eliminated one of the primary reasons I still jailbreak my iOS devices. I will now be able to display anything (not just movies and slideshows) that is on my iPad to any large screen HDMI-capable device — both video (in 1080p) and audio. And you can charge the iPad at the same time — via the same adapter.

According to the iPad specs page, the new video mirroring feature will also work with Apple’s existing VGA adapter. Very nice. Whenever I give a talk, the projectors are always VGA. It’s good to know that I won’t need any adapter-to-adapter kludge to get this to work.

According to the Apple Store listing, the Digital AV Adapter will also work with the iPad 1, iPhone 4 and latest iPod touch — for “video out” but not for mirroring. I assume this means you can only use the new adapter with these other devices for the sort of “video out” you can already do with other adapters (e.g., movies and photo slide shows). I expect mirroring support will be added to these other iOS devices in their next generation.

On reflection, the new Adapter doesn’t entirely eliminate what I can do with jailbreak mirroring software. Jailbreaking allows me to display my iOS device screens on a Mac, which is convenient for recording video of the display. Still, Apple’s new Adapter and mirroring support is a big step forward.

Smart Cover. The new cover is presumably just for the iPad 2. To see how it works, watch the video. It’s better than any text explanation I could offer. The Cover definitely exudes coolness, but I see lots of opportunity for case makers to offer products that appeal to users who want something more substantial.

AirPlay and the rest of iOS 4.3. An iOS 4.3 update ships with the new iPad on March 11 (and will be generally available for all recent iOS devices at the same time). The biggest new feature here is an upgrade to AirPlay. Apple is now opening up AirPlay to third-parties, so that any app in the App Store will be able to wirelessly stream to an Apple TV. As I’ve discussed before, it won’t be fast enough to work with games. However, for any app that uses video or photos, it will be great to be able to easily and wirelessly shift the display to an HD TV.

In general, the new features in iOS 4.3 are not specific to the iPad 2. Home Sharing, for example, allows any iOS device to access your Mac’s entire iTunes Library. No downloading is required (you’ll need the just released iTunes 10.2). The Personal Hotspot feature doesn’t apply to the iPad at all; it’s just for the iPhone 4.

New iOS apps from Apple. Apple announced four new apps for the iPad today: FaceTime, Photo Booth, iMovie and GarageBand — all available March 11.

FaceTime and Photo Booth are built-in apps included as part of iOS 4.3. A version of FaceTime already works with the iPhone 4 and the latest iPod touch. Photo Booth appears only compatible with the iPad 2.

The other two new apps will be sold via the App Store. The iOS version of iMovie is an extension of the version that already runs on the iPhone 4 and iPod touch — and will now also work with the iPad 2.

I’m especially intrigued by GarageBand. This iPad-only app (apparently both for iPad 1 and iPad 2) is not just a touch-screen-based port of the Mac version of GarageBand. It offers new touch instrument and smart instrument features. These promise to make playing music on an iPad incredibly easy, even for those with little or no musical background. Of course, you can also use GarageBand as a multi-track recording studio. Do a quick search of YouTube and you’ll find a wealth of videos showcasing the iPad as an impressive musical instrument. With GarageBand, it just gets better.

There are dozens of third-party music-playing and music-recording apps currently in the App Store. GarageBand will probably mean the end of many of these apps. Overall, this may prove to be a good thing. I prefer one app that does most or all of what I need for a specific task — rather than having to acquire a dozen apps and shifting among them.

As for connecting external instruments to GarageBand, Apple’s video on the iPad 2 shows an adapter for connecting a guitar. It’s not from Apple. It’s apparently the new Apogee JAM adapter, available March 31. JAM only works to connect electric guitars. While it’s made specifically for GarageBand, Apogee says it will work with “other iOS compatible music and guitar applications” including ones that run on an iPhone or iPod touch.

Can we expect other adapters for connecting other instruments, such as digital pianos, to the iPad? I would guess yes, but have seen no announcements as yet.

The big question: Which 3G model? The biggest as-yet-unanswered question for me concerns which iPad 2 to get. I am already committed to getting a Wi-Fi + 3G model. The question becomes: Should I get the Verizon or the AT&T model? That’s right, there is no hybrid version of the Wi-Fi + 3G iPad 2. You have to decide when you purchase an iPad which carrier you want. 

The answer will depend upon several factors. Will the data plans for the two carriers be different? If so, which carrier will be cheaper or otherwise offer more flexible options? How important will it be that the carrier for my iPad 2 match the carrier for my iPhone? Will I be able to connect the iPad 2 to the Personal Hotspot of an iPhone 4 regardless of any carrier differences? I assume so (as the Wi-Fi connection should be carrier agnostic), but I’m not sure. Finally, the consensus is that AT&T’s network is faster but Verizon’s is more reliable. Which quality should more influence my decision?

It’s really too bad that there is no hybrid iPad 2. It would be great to be able to switch carriers and try them both — and shift carriers down the road as new pricing plans alter which one I like best. Alas, it is not to be.

Finally, speaking of purchasing an iPad 2, Apple changed its policy this time around. There is no online pre-ordering of the iPad 2, with delivery the same day as it goes on sale at Apple Stores. Rather, you have to wait to March 11 to order an iPad online. If you want one in your hands that day, you’ll have to wait on a line (as opposed to “online”) at your local retail Apple Store. Perhaps Apple wants to make sure the lines outside their Stores will be impressively long (unlike when the Verizon iPhone debuted). If so, I suspect their wish will be granted.

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Comments

sflocal

Well, according to John Martellaro from the prior article, the new iPad is a “disappointment”.  smile

Honestly Ted?  Who’s right?  You seem to be focused on the entire package and experience.  Yet John seems focused strictly on under-the-hood specs which frankly, is irrelevant nowadays when Apple can get so much out of their hardware with a tight software design.

You need to tell John to move away from the PC-paradigm.

Ross Edwards

I’m with you: I wanted it to be a standalone device.  I don’t care as much for myself, but my parents and others in my family were ready to ditch their XP and Vista notebooks and make “the iPad leap”, but won’t do so if they have to keep their old computers to sync.  (These are people who are borderline computer illiterate; even a basic MacBook would be overkill for them.  But a portable web terminal with photo and video and music output and a simple-as-retarded touch-menu iOS interface?  Perfect!)

I suspect the only time syncing will be REQUIRED is if there is a system failure or OS upgrade.  We know from the iPhone that apps can update in place with no sync needed.  With that in mind, we might take the plunge and get them iPad-2s regardless of the missing standalone aspect.  I just hope I don’t get a call from my dad who says they just parked the motorhome at a campground outside of Butte, Montana and why isn’t their iPad working, it says “please connect to iTunes” on the screen?  I’m not going to tell them to mail it to Phoenix.  No good!

Lee Dronick

“I was especially disappointed that there were no new features for connecting external storage devices to the iPad”

I suppose that it could be done via the dock port. Can one, or more, of you hardware knowledgable types comment on the feasibility of that?

honkj

————-
I suppose that it could be done via the dock port. Can one, or more, of you hardware knowledgable types comment on the feasibility of that?
—————-

ya,  it’s called a computer,  you plug it in,  and low and behold,  you can back up the entire iPad onto the computer…. 

what the heck do you need an external storage device on an iPad for? 

what would you store there that you wouldn’t on the syncing computer?

geesh…

Hagen

?I was especially disappointed that there were no new features for connecting external storage devices to the iPad?

I’d be surprised to see this done by anyone, Apple or otherwise.  Doing so breaks open the file system in iOS and requires you to actively manage your files and documents.  All of Apple’s work to this point seems to be trying to prevent that. Even Apple’s current Camera Connection kit seems very limited in these sort of storage uses.

As for offering cloud-syncing or whatever else is needed for the iPad to be a truly independent computer, I’d expect that to require some major upgrades/rewrites in iOS… certainly not anything before iOS 5.0, and maybe later than that.

Lee Dronick

?I was especially disappointed that there were no new features for connecting external storage devices to the iPad?

I?d be surprised to see this done by anyone, Apple or otherwise.? Doing so breaks open the file system in iOS and requires you to actively manage your files and documents.?

True that.

geoduck

By themselves, features such as slightly thinner and lighter don?t make a compelling case for why you should trade-in your old iPad for a new one.

Oh I can see that. Unless you are seriously jonsing for an iPad with a camera I can see how this might not be enough to push an upgrade (unless of course you’re absolutely MADE of money.)
But there’s a fair number of us that held off on the iPad, waiting for one with a camera. For us this is perfect.

Lee Dronick

But there?s a fair number of us that held off on the iPad, waiting for one with a camera. For us this is perfect.

I am in that category. Now I just need to figure out which model I want.

geoduck

I’m looking at the 32Gb WiFi only.

Lee Dronick

I?m looking at the 32Gb WiFi only.

I don’t think that have a need for the 3G option and the data plan. The savings can go towards getting AppleCare.

MOSiX Man

I don’t see the as-is speaker as a plus or a minus. Really, even with an additional (small, relatively weak) speaker, would the iPad really have good ‘stereo sound’? Why waste space building in an additional speaker when any users who are going to be listening to anything worthy of decent speakers, are likely going to attach earphones or external speakers anyway? The built-in speaker on the iPad is like the speaker built into the iPhone and iPod touch, and maybe one step up from the one built into a Mac or PC; It’s there because it needs to be there, but should not need to be exceptional.

Also, I bet that playing music or other substantially loud audio, via two decent-quality stereo speakers, would drain the iPad’s battery quite a bit more quickly that would playing the same sound at the same relative volume, via earphones.

esegre

I have an Ipad 1 and a 3GS iphone,it is jailbroken for the sake
Of using MyWi for hotspoting .
Since i always carry my iphone, when i travel with the Ipad I
Always have internet access for the price of my iphone limitless
Data plan ,and now it will become legal so I don’t see the need
For a 3G model and also see no need to decide between ATT
Or Verizon( here in Mexico its actually Telcel,Telefonica and Iusacel)
Since all three have tethring a pure wifi ipad is all i need.

cb50dc

“the new Apogee JAM adapter… only works to connect electric guitars.”

Assuming comparable signal levels, why can’t it accept a 1/4” plug from any mono source?

Substance

As much as I love John’s analysis, I have to admit that on this one I think Jeff is spot on.  For the features that really matter to people, the iPad 2 is a winner.

I too would love to see Apple extend our digital hubs to be accessible over the Internet, but for me that’s more of a MobileMe update than an iPad update.  That can always come later along with a corresponding iOS update.  Yesterday was about the iPad hardware, and Apple delivered.

One final comment about the built-in speaker.  Even though the lousy built-in speaker on my MacBook Air has been one of my few complaints with the device, I don’t think it’s nearly as big a deal for the iPad.  Why you ask?  Because with the iPad, if I want to listen to high quality music I would either be listening to it through headphones or streaming it to an AirPlay-compatible device.  Yes I know the latter is optimistic and forward-thinking, but I think in a couple of months we’ll be hearing a lot about AirPlay in the broader tech press.

Ted Landau

Responding to a a few comments:

“What the heck do you need an external storage device on an iPad for?”

Read my prior column on the iPad’s Coming Killer Feature for my answer to that.

“I don?t see the as-is speaker as a plus or a minus.”

I agree that good speakers on the iPad are not crucial. However, I believe that people depend on the speakers built-in to the iPad much more than on an iPhone or iPod touch. I certainly do ? especially when I want to play something for more than one person.  In any case, it’s another metric where Apple could distinguish itself from coming competition. It chose not to do so.

“Assuming comparable signal levels, why can?t it accept a 1/4? plug from any mono source?”

I have no idea. I based my statement on what was provided by the company’s website. We’ll know more when the product ships.

“As much as I love John?s analysis, I have to admit that on this one I think Jeff is spot on.”

First, I assume you mean “Ted,” not “Jeff.” smile

Second, I believe John and I are more in agreement than the titles of our articles might suggest. In particular, we both agreed that the iPad 2 was not as big an advance over the iPad 1 as we had hoped to see. We also both believe that the iPad 2 will be a big success regardless. And deservedly so.

JohnnyO

When deciding which iPad to purchase, remember that if you want the GPS, regardless of your need for 3G, you’ll need to purchase a 3G enabled version.  You won’t need to purchase a data plan from a carrier.

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