“The third post-PC blockbuster product” – this is how Steve Jobs described the iPad at his latest media event for the iPad 2. Regardless of how you feel about the company or its products, there's no denying that Apple is one of the best when it comes to product design and marketing. Avid consumers flock to the latest Apple hardware each year, often waiting in hundreds of lines for hours.
The original iPad was launched in April 2010 and sold 15 million units in nine months. That equates to approximately $ 9.5 billion in revenue for Apple and is possibly one of the most successful technology launches in history. Granted, not even Apple could predict the rapid success of the iPad.
Competitors soon saw the value in this newly discovered tablet market and went to work at a feverish pace, even though they were already at a disadvantage and had to catch up. So far, there have only been a handful of notable launches like the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the recently released Motorola Xoom. Many more will follow, but according to Apple they still hold> 90% market share in this new segment and we tend to believe them.
That brings us to the highly anticipated iPad 2, which hit stores on March 11th. The iPad 2 improves on the original in many ways, including a significantly faster dual-core CPU, improved graphics, and a thinner footprint. If the 300+ employees who stood in front of me on launch day or the ongoing shortages in the US are any signs, then both Apple and its loyal customers have a promising year ahead of them.
Outwardly, the most noticeable difference between the original iPad and the iPad 2 is how slim it is – a full 33% thinner (13.4 mm versus 8.8 mm). It might not sound like much, but when you consider how thin the original iPad was, the difference is significant. In fact, the iPad 2 is a few millimeters thinner than the iPhone 4.
The iPad 2 also manages to save 0.2 pounds for a total weight of 1.33 pounds on the Wi-Fi-only model. The difference in weight isn't really noticeable in my opinion, nor is the 1/8 inch smaller bezel that surrounds the screen. The IPS display with a size of 1024 x 768 and 9.7 inches remains unchanged, although the original iPad display has a much more yellowish hue in direct comparison.
Apple built two cameras into the iPad 2 – a VGA-quality front-facing lens for FaceTime and a rear-facing camera that can record 720p video. Unfortunately, the lens quality on the back of the iPad 2 isn't nearly as good as it is on the iPhone 4. I would probably only use it for taking still images if I had nothing else on hand. Otherwise, it's not a substitute for a point-and-shoot or even a decent smartphone camera.
Scanning the scope of the new tablet also reveals some changes. At the top is a headphone jack and power switch, both in the same position as before, but the microphone has been moved to the center. The volume rocker and the orientation lock switch are also in the same location as the dock connector. The speaker has been moved to the back of the tablet, and luckily the grill doesn't look like the hideous models that made the rounds in the months leading up to the iPad 2's unveiling.
Speaking of the back of the iPad 2: Apple redesigned it with curved edges and a flat back. This allows it to sit more evenly on a flat surface. The curved edges also give the iPad 2 a more natural feel in the hand, although there may be concerns about connecting headphones or docking ports to the iPad 2 as some of those ports are left exposed on the curved back.
Perhaps the biggest differences with the iPad 2 are in the hardware. The 1 GHz dual core Apple A5 processor and the PowerVR SGX 543MP2 dual core GPU. Other hardware improvements include a jump to 512MB of RAM to meet iPhone 4 specs. Almost everything else was taken internally from the original: 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB capacity, Wi-Fi (802.11a / b / g / n) and the same battery life of 10 hours – the latter thanks to a newly designed, thinner battery pack.
The iPad 2 we have on hand is a black Wi-Fi mockup that is just 32GB, which was the only one available in my Apple Store when I walked in. There are 18 different iPad 2 configurations in total: 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB, Wi-Fi only, equipped with Verizon and AT&T, all with white or black bezels.