If you care about technology at all then you’ll already know that Apple has announced the latest iteration of its current 800 pound gorilla, the iPad 2.
Those lucky enough to be the first to handle (fondle?) this device use adjectives and phrases like, “svelte,” “razor thin,” and “wicked fast” to describe and differentiate Apple’s new glass and metal slab from the previous generation, and from others in this rapidly growing market.
While the hardware specs of the iPad 2 are impressive, they are not the whole story, a point acknowledged by His Steveness himself. Apple’s ecosystem — an ecosystem that lets users create, discover, and be entertained with little more than a few taps of the finger — is really what has kept, and likely will keep Apple ahead of its competition. The foundation of which, on the mobile devices at least, is iOS 4. A large part of the media event on Wednesday dealt with the upcoming iOS 4 upgrade and the apps that take advantage of the new iPad hardware and the iOS software.
The question for many, of course, is, “Do I buy a new iPad?”
I’m on the fence on this question. My 32GB WiFi/3G first gen iPad isn’t even a year old and it has served me well. I’ve spent many hours playing increasingly sophisticated games, have flipped through digital paged in several books and magazines, and used it as my photography portfolio on more than a few occasions. It has been a trusted companion, always ready when I need it. It does everything I need it to do. Why should I buy an iPad 2?
Because the damned thing is wicked fast, thinner than my iPhone 4, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, that’s why!
Even so, I will likely stick to my meager budget and hold off buying that drool-worthy slab until I either earn a small financial windfall, or find one lying on the street. It’s not like I’m living through any sort of hardship. This iPad (the one I’m currently writing this article on) is fast and thin enough. And while it may not leap very high, it gets whatever job I throw at it done with finesse.
I will, however, upgrade to iOS 4.3 when it arrives on 3/11/2011, and, hopefully, it will bring enough OS goodness to minimize any budget busting desires.
Many of you are likely to be thinking along the same lines as I am, so the question for us is, “what will iOS 4.3 bring to our venerable first generation iPads?”
Well, one thing the new OS will give us is better AirPlay, which allows us to beam movies and photos from our mobile devices to AppleTV. Now, in iOS 4.3, AirPlay isn’t exclusive to Apple-made apps, any app can be made to display on your wall covering TV. For me, this is goodness personified.
I should warn you that I’ve talked about all of the following apps before, but I’m hoping that the updated AirPlay will breathe new life into all of them by letting us stream to our heart’s content.
And what would I stream with these newly enhanced powers?
Vevo is the iPad’s version of what MTV use to be back when they were about videos instead of cheesy reality shows. New videos show up often and the app pops up an alert to lets you know when they do.
If you like a particular video you can buy it in-app or add it to your playlist. You can follow your favorite artists and keep track of concert dates and new album releases.
Rocking with Vevo on your iPad is cool. Rocking with Vevo AirPlayed to you TV and sound system is music bliss.
While we are talking about streaming, let’s get our big-brain/humanitarian hats on and take another long look at TED.
Technology, Entertainment, and Design conferences that are held in various venues around the world attract the best and the brightest people on the planet. They all come to share their talents and ideas with their peers and us mere mortals, sometimes in hopes that their notions will catch and spread like a California wildfire, but more often just to show people that a difference can be made in the world by even one person if he or she sets his or her mind to it.
I was so happy that TED made an iPad app. Watching the speakers on my iPhone was good, but not something you want to do more than a few minutes at a time. On the iPad’s larger screen, the TED videos makes for comfortable viewing. When TED is updated to take advantage of the new AirPlay, watching TED videos on my big TV will make it seem like I’m there sitting among the movers, shakers, and doers of our world.
The TED app is a free download, and something no AirPlaying iPad should be without.
OK, another app that I want to see updated to use Airplay is Fotopedia: Heritage.
Fotopedia: Heritage is one of those stellar apps that you come back to again and again, especially when you want to show off your iPad. There are over 20,000 photos of sights from around the world: The Taj Mahal, Bourges Cathedral, Yellowstone, The Great Wall of China, and so much more are all available just by tapping the screen.
The photos are gorgeous on your iPad, imagine what they would look like on your big HD TV. Just as AirPlay will allow us to run a slideshow of our photos, I’m hoping it will also allow slideshows from Fotopedia. You could grab a beer or a glass of wine, put on some tunes, then sit back, relax and enjoy the magnificence of our world, one photo at a time.
Grab Fotopedia: Heritage. It shouldn’t be free, but it is.
If you want something a bit less sophisticated you could always tap ABC Player and catch up on episodes you might have missed.
ABC Player was one of the first apps that let iPad users watch recent broadcast TV shows for free in an iPad native application. True, you can just go to the website to watch, but websites are often so busy that it’s hard to find a show, much less a particular episode you want. The app makes it easy to catch up with Castle, find out what No Ordinary Family is into, or see what Super Nanny has to say.
It’s TV, so watching it on your big screen is a natural. What is super-natural is that, once ABC Player becomes AirPlay compatible, you can watch what you want, when you want on that big screen. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
The same is true for the PBS for iPad app. Watch episodes you might have missed, catch specials, or take in a few shorts movies or show clips.
Often, I don’t have time to hunt down and watch a full episode of Nova or Nature. The PBS app offers outtakes from various shows on subjects of interest. (Check out the 9 minute clip, “How Smart is an Octopus?” It’ll leave you with a new appreciation for those animals.)
You can shoot PBS videos to your TV through AirPlay now, but I’m hoping that after the iOS 4.3 update, we’ll be able to see the whole app on the big screen.
Once iOS 4.3 is released expect to see an avalanche of app updates that should let the free apps I’ve mentioned, and many others, take full advantage of AirPlay. Bring it!
OK, that’s a wrap!
More free apps below with direct links.