The first surprise was the host. Steve Jobs, the company’s famous CEO who has been away on medical leave. He insisted that even though he’s currently away, he had to be here today for this special announcement.
So what did Apple show us?
Well first of all, Jobs claimed that the iPad 2 has been completely redesigned since the original iPad a year ago. It’s certainly a lot thinner now, only 8.8 mm (that’s 0.2 mm thinner than an iPhone 4).
It’s also a lot faster. Apple unveiled the brand new A5 processor (the successor to iPhone 4’s A4). This processor is dual-core and should give you 2x as much CPU power and 9x faster graphics than the A4. Clearly Apple are moving firmly into HD video and high quality gaming. And Apple claim that despite the higher processing power, you’ll still easily get 10 hours of usage from a charge of the battery… nice.
And guess what, this one will come in two colours, black and white, right from the launch. Maybe Apple are changing their ways!
The iPad 2 will also be running a new version of iOS, 4.3 . This and all it’s features are still a bit hush hush, but it’ll be arriving with the iPad 2 and available for download on all other current iOS devices from 11th March.
Perhaps the worst kept secret of the announcement was the dual cameras that are now built in. It was perhaps the biggest complaint anyone had about the original iPad and now Apple have fixed it and fixed it well. The iPad 2 has a rear-facing camera that can shoot 720p HD video at 30 frames per second. Add to that a front facing VGA camera also with 30 fps recording and I think we can safely say the camera issue has been resolved. No flash though…
And with a camera comes some camera apps. FaceTime is here as expected allowing video calls between iPad, iPhone, iPod and Mac. There’s also photo booth, the Mac’s instant photo software allowing you to make yourself and your mates look like fools. Great fun!
But the best addition has to be iMovie. The iPad seems like the perfect device to use iMovie on. You’ll now be able to shoot high definition video and edit it straight on your device. The same app on iPhone was disappointing due to the small screen and the lack of processing power when it comes to HD video. But the iPad can easily handle this easily and with a larger screen brings more of an OS X feel to the editing process than the fiddly portable app look. Having the ability to shoot and edit video quickly on the move on a small device is a fantastic tool to have, especially for an aspiring journalist.
Another OS X app was ported to iPad and shown in the conference, garage band. Now I’m no musician, but I’m sure having a portable version will be great. And after playing a ‘drum’ app on my iPhone, I can vouch that playing virtual instruments on a touch screen can be great fun!
One of the things which annoyed Apple (apparently) was the fact that everyone brought themselves an iPad and then covered them with cases to protect them. To solve this, Apple has launched the smart cover at a pricey $39. It is pretty clever though. Using magnets the smart cover will cover your screen just by unfolding it and placing it on the screen. It’ll also turn your iPad on and off by placing it on and off the pad. And if that wasn’t enough, it can also double up as a stand for it. Clever stuff!
Of course in true Apple tradition, the iPad 2 will be available soon, within the next 9 days in America! The rest of the world will have to wait until 25th March, but it’s hardly a long wait. The price of the iPad will also be staying exactly as it is for the iPad 2 with prices starting at $499 (although you can expect UK prices to be bumped up a bit 😦 ).
The answer is, not yet. I’ve been unsure about whether to buy one for a while now and I thought the iPad 2 would convince me. The fact is, there’s not quite enough to make me want to run out and buy one at launch.
For example, connectivity is still poor, being reliant on Apple’s dock system. There needs to be USB support on a tablet device and preferably a firewire too.
Also, that brilliantly large screen deserves a fantastic display, so why no retina as we saw with the iPhone 4?
I also deny the comment that this iPad has been completely redesigned. It’s a bit different, but it’s very much the same iPad but thinner, with cameras and some lovely new features under the hood. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I was hoping for.
But one thing is for sure. Apple have stamped their authority all over the tablet computer again and smashed the ball back over to Android to react. This does look like the best tablet around and who knows, as I learn more and see others around me purchase them I’m almost certain I will end up buying one!