To absolutely no-one’s surprise last night, Apple lifted the lid on the next generation of their iOS tablet, the iPad 2. “Faster, lighter, thinner” was the mantra of the night, as a relatively healthy-looking Steve Jobs took to the stage to present the Cupertino team’s latest toy.
While most of the additions were exactly what we expected to see (dual cameras, FaceTime apps, a tweaked design) there were a few details that came out of left field.
We take an in-depth look here on what’s on offer with the iPad 2.
Size and build features
The iPad 2 retains the 9.7 inch size of its predecessor, but is both noticeably thinner and lighter to boot. At just 8.8mm thick, it manages to be thinner even than the iPhone 4, while weighing just over 1.3 pounds makes the whole unit a third lighter than the original iPad. A built-in speaker and microphone allow for audio in and out, while a 3.5 mm headphone jack allows you to playback media without annoying those around you. Front and rear facing cameras now make an appearance, with the on/off switch still located at the top right of the slate. The volume buttons stay on the right hand side along with a switch that can be set either as a screen-orientation lock or mute toggle. The home button stays in it’s customary bottom-centre position of the bezel, with the bezel itself a similar size to that of the original iPad. The iPad 2 will be availabe in two colours, black-fronted with chrome backing or an all white design. Unlike the iPhone 4, the white iPad 2 will be ready on launch day.
The iPad 2 makes use of the A5 “system-on-a-chip” dual-core processor, which Apple promise will lead to dramatic improvements in gaming and multi-tasking performance. Clocked at 1.2 GHz, it’s twice as fast as its predecessor the A4, without putting any extra strain on the battery life. Most notably, Steve Jobs promised GPU abilities would leap up thanks to the new chip, capable of 9x better performance than the previous iPad, which could see some very impressive iPad 2 games waiting in the wings.
If there was one big let down at the iPad 2 launch, it was that there has been no real improvements made to the tablet’s screen over the original model. Still 9.7 inches diagonally, the multi-touch capacitive display retains the 1024 x 668 resolution of the first iPad. Many had hoped to see the high-resolution Retina display introduced with the iPhone 4 implemented, but it proved not to be the case. Maybe the iPad 3 will get it instead.
As many had expected, the iPad 2 was revealed to have dual-cameras, front and rear. Paired with Photobooth, iMovie and FaceTime apps, they make a welcome addition, capable of 720p HD video capture. However, don’t expect them to be a suitable replacement for a stills camera, as each has a sensor only capable of snaps less than 1 megapixel in size. They’ll look fine on the iPad 2’s 1024 x 768 screen, but won’t be anywhere near the quality of even a dedicated compact camera.
Despite an incredible reduction in weight and thickness, as well as the inclusion of a more powerful chipset, the iPad’s impressive battery life remains untouched on the iPad 2. You’ll still squeeze 10 hours of usage out of a single charge, with a month’s worth of standby time. You may notice that dip by an hour or so however should you be connecting to the web over a 3G connection.
As with the iPad, the iPad 2 will come with three built-in storage size options; 16GB, 32 GB and 64GB, with the pricing of each tablet rising accordingly. It was hoped that Apple may have introduced some expandable memory capabilities in the form of SD or microSD slots, but this proved not to be the case.
As with the original iPad, two different models will be available at launch: a Wi-Fi-only unit and a Wi-Fi and 3G model, the later giving you internet access whilst on the go through a cellular connection. Wi-Fi is of the 802.11a/b/g/n variety, while the 3G model also covers UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). Both also have Bluetooth 2.1 and EDR technology, handy for linking up accessories wirelessly, while many accessories will make use of Apple’s proprietary 30-pin dock connector port.
Accessories: Smart Covers and HDMI-Out connectors
Two interesting accessories will launch alongside the iPad 2. First is the Smart Cover, designed to protect the screen without adding weight or bulk to the slim design. Snapping on to the edge of the iPad 2 magnetically, the Smart Cover folds up onto itself to become a stand for the tablet. Available in five polyurethane colours and 5 leather styles, they will be available as a sold-separately add-on at launch. You’ll also be able to do real-time iPad-to-HDTV mirroring with the iPad 2 thanks to a HDMI-out connector. Allowing you to push apps and videos to the bigscreen, the connector cleverly lets you simultaneously charge the iPad 2, perfect for those long Mad Men marathons.
New hardware and a new build of iOS mean a host of new Apple-built apps for the iPad 2. The dual cameras allow FaceTime to make the jump to the tablet, capable of making calls to any other FaceTime enabled device, including Macs and iPhones. The wacky photo-editing abilities of Photobooth also hit the iPad 2, alongside a finger-friendly version of iMovie. Rockers will be happy to see Garageband land on the iPad 2 as well, with force-sensitive software instruments, multi-track recording and the ability to record with real live instruments too.
Pricing replicates that of the original iPad’s various models and configurations. US prices for Wi-Fi models are $499 for 16GB version, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. Wi-Fi and 3G versions cost $629 for a 16GB iPad 2 3G, $729 for a 32GB 3G model and $829 for a 64GB 3G-enabled model. 3G iPad 2’s will be carried by AT&T and Verizon at launch in the States. UK pricing has yet to be announced, but we’d imagine it would replicate those of the original iPad’s launch, with a 16GB Wi-Fi model starting at £439, with prices rising incrementally depending on the model bought.
Perhaps most surprising of all was the news that the iPad 2 will be shipping so very quickly. Those living in the USA will be able to grab the next-gen tablet from March 11th, while 26 other countries, including the UK, will be able to get their hands on the slate two weeks later on March 25th.