Initial impressions of the iPad 2.

First things first. The reports of Steve Jobs’ failing health seem greatly exaggerated. On March 2nd Steve, dressed in his trademark black polo-neck shirt and blue jeans, spoke at the keynote announcing the launch of the iPad 2. Now the launch of any Apple device generates a lot of media buzz but people in the industry had their eyes fixed on this particular event. About a month earlier Steve Jobs had taken a medical leave of absence from Apple and news reports suggested he might have had a recurrence of the pancreatic cancer that he once fought off.
Some Indian publications went to the extent of giving Jobs only 6 more weeks to live but he belied any such rumours with an energetic and competitor-bashing keynote speech launching the iPad 2.

Earlier i had written an article detailing the rumours about the iPad 2 where i stated that the it was expected to be more powerful than its single-core predecessor. To no one’s surprise, Jobs’ revealed the ultra-slim iPad 2 and announced that it had a 1Ghz dual-core chip (dubbed the A5) embedded in it. The inclusion of the A5 suggests that Apple will be targeting the gaming market as the A5 vastly improves the iPad’s rendering capabilities. This upgrade was probably necessitated due to the fact that the iPad’s nearest competitors – the Motorola Xoom and RIM’s Playbook, both have dual-core processors. The screen resolution still remains the same and so does the ‘look’ of the device. A minute change is the addition of the front-facing camera which will be used primarily for video- conferencing using Apple’s FaceTime, a feature first introduced in the iTouch 4. Unfortunately, the rear camera remains unchanged from the first generation iPad and is the same one used in the iTouch 4. The photo quality is quite poor and can be used only for basic photography. Although most iPad users will probably not indulge in serious photography, Apple should take note that the Xoom boasts of a very capable 5 megapixel camera.
One area where the iPad 2 is light years ahead of it’s competitors is it’s incredible (and i cannot stress on that word enough) battery life. Despite running a dual-core processor with a 10 inch screen, it managed an astonishing 10 hours and 26 minutes continuous video playback in a benchmark by endgadget. (as compared to 8:20 by the Xoom and 6:09 by the Samsung Galaxy Tab)
The iPad 2 ships with the iOS 4.3 which, barring a new FaceTime icon, has aesthetically nothing new to offer. It does however have an improved JavaScript engine in Safari which according to Apple significantly improves page load times. iOS 4.3 also increases AirPlay functionality so that you can stream media wirelessly from your other Apple devices and print out photos with a wireless printer. Also as an added bonus, familiar faces on the Mac like GarageBand, iMovie and PhotoBooth now come in iPad versions.

But if anything has to sway your decision to buy this piece of hardware, it has to be the sheer sexiness of the iPad 2. As if the iPad wasn’t eye-catching and sleek enough already, the iPad 2 is lighter and slimmer. A minor criticism of the original tablet was that it was difficult for users to hold onto the device for extended periods of time but early reviewers who got their hands on the iPad 2 raved about how sleek and comfortable it felt. Apple have also introduced shiny new protective covers called SmartCovers that tidily align themselves on the iPad with the help of magnets. When the SmartCover erm.. covers the iPad, it automagically invokes the iPad’s Sleep mode. The covers also double up as a stand that props the iPad while either typing or viewing media. The SmartCovers come at an added cost- $39 for polyurethane and $69 for leather and will probably just add to Apple’s vast profits.

Should you buy the device? Well, the iPad 2 is certainly a necessary upgrade on it’s previous iteration. It isn’t a revolutionary new device but definitely one that would bolster Apple’s position in the tablet device market. They also managed to incorporate all these cool new changes and retain the pricing of the iPad – $499 for the Wi-Fi model. If you’re looking to buy a tablet device, then look no further than the iPad 2! If you’re undecided, give it a test-drive and see if you aren’t floored by this gorgeous device.

Oh and the iPad 2 comes in white too.