Apple iPad 2: hands on
To appreciate the new iPad you need to get your hands on one, Steve Jobs said. So we did.
The new iPad is an evolution from its predecessor, not a revolution. That was the word that began to seep out in the build up to yesterday’s launch and so it has proved. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t a very impressive device.
The iPad 2 is strikingly thin and though it isn’t that much lighter than the original iPad, its slender form makes it feel less hefty overall.
The improvement in the form factor is similar to the change between the early iPod touch and the more recent model but in the iPad's case the difference is even more stark.
I never really liked the white version of the iPhone 4 - yes, I was one of the lucky few to have seen one - but the white iPad 2 looks good and is bound to be very popular. I'd still prefer black, personally.
The new tablet, which is running a new version of Apple’s iOS, feels faster. Apps open and close very quickly and even switching between screens seems faster.
The difference is subtle because the original iPad never really felt slow but there seems to be an extra zip to things on the new device.
The changes powering that speed are hidden away inside; more obvious are the two cameras, one on the front and a second on the back.
I’m not entirely convinced of the need for a camera on the back of the device. The iPad is certainly not an obvious gadget to use for taking photos, though it’s possible that app developers will find a use for the rear camera, perhaps for augmented reality.
The front-facing camera is a more obvious addition. FaceTime works brilliantly but it’s Photo Booth that really shows what the device can do.
The photo app, which lets you play around with funny self portraits, shows several realtime videos of you at once, each with different effects applied. The app is a trivial one but this bit shows the power of the device.
The new Smart Cover is one of the highlights, perhaps because it's something we've never seen before. Its magnetic hinges fix it to the side of the iPad and it slips into place over the screen, putting the device to sleep as it does so.
Lift the cover off and the iPad wakes up. The cover then rolls up to form a handy stand to put the iPad in position for typing or watching a video.
It's the sort of thing that Apple's critics will dismiss as gimmickry but it's actually a very clever solution to the problem of protecting the iPad screen without adding too much bulk to the device.
The time that I had with the iPad 2 was nowhere near enough to form a detailed impression. I want to try it with a range of apps to get a sense of how performance has improved and I’d like to sit on the sofa with it for an hour so that I can tell how much lighter it feels in practice.
One thing’s for sure: I’ve had long enough with it to know that I’d like use it more.