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Monday March 7, 2011 4:29 am
10 iPad 2 questions answered
You have to hand it to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. No matter how ill he may be, his showmanship and stage presence remain undimmed. So much so that it took, as it often does, days for the euphoria of the iPad 2 unveiling to wear off. As that happened, though, I, like others, started to have these little, "Hey, wait a minute…" moments. And from there, the inevitable questions about the latest magical device from Apple started piling up. Here are the ones I've been considering or hearing from others. Fortunately, I think we have answers for virtually all of them.
Why No Memory Specs?
Apple's busy touting the iPad 2's huge performance increase (over the original), which comes courtesy of the A5 chip. That makes sense, a dual-core processor should beat the pants off a single core CPU. However, as with any computer, the CPU is only part of the performance story. What's the easiest way to increase system performance? Add memory. We know that the first-generation iPad has 256MB of RAM, but Apple isn't saying how much is in the iPad 2. "More" seems like a reasonable guess.
Why No 4G?
Apple's new best friend, Verizon, has a brand-new LTE network, but you won't find 4G on the new Verizon iPhone 4 or the latest-gen iPad. Why is that? Price is one reason: Adding a 4G radio would certainly have increased the price on the top-of-the line iPad 2. Also, Apple pays pretty close attention to the market and early market research indicated that almost 50 percent of potential iPad buyers were picking up a Wi-Fi-only model (Apple does not break out Wi-Fi-only iPad sales figures). I have a 3G-ready iPad, but I've never activated the service (I find ample Wi-Fi access almost everywhere I use my iPad). I suspect that's a common scenario. If a good percentage of iPad owners aren't using 3G—even when they have it—why would Apple jump to introduce 4G?
Why No Apple TV Gaming?
There was some conjecture that Apple might try to make Apple TV and the iPad 2 into a de facto console-gaming solution: The games would reside on the iPad, and they would play on your HDTV via Airplay and Apple TV. The iPad, then, would essentially become the game controller. Apple seems committed to keeping iPad gaming firmly on the iPad and it always tries to avoid subpar user experiences. Any iPad game scaled up to play on your HDTV could look bad, plus, Wi-Fi might not support real-time interaction.
Why No 7-Inch Tablet?
Have you not been listening? Last year Steve Job's called 7-inch tablets "dead on arrival." Now, the Cupertino leader has been known to change his mind. He famously dismissed Apple making phones only to turn around and deliver the groundbreaking iPhone. Even so, 7-inch tablets have not set the world on fire. Apple will gladly point those who want a smaller iPad to the iPhone or iPod touch.
Why No Flash Support?
Really? Did anyone think Steve Jobs was going to change his mind on this? Apple reportedly believes Flash support would cut iPad battery life from 10 hours down to 1.5. That's unlikely, but note how proud Jobs was that the iPad 2 has gotten more powerful without sacrificing a lick of battery life. He's right about one thing: When it comes to mobile devices, nothing is more precious than long battery life.
Why No Display-Resolution Boost?
I really thought Apple would go above 1,024 by 768 to at least 1,280 by 1,024. But screen resolution and perception are somewhat fungible. Some screens simply look better than others, and with the relatively small screen size of most tablets, including the original iPad, iPad 2, and Motorola Xoom, telling the difference between HD imagery and average screen resolutions can be difficult. You don't, for instance, realize how good the iPhone 4's Retina display really is until you hold it up next to another similarly sized phone. Plus, while the HD-ready Xoom has a 1280-by-800 screen resolution, the pixels-per-inch comparison between the iPad 2 and the Xoom puts the screen image quality somewhat closer: The Xoom is approximately 149ppi and the iPad 2 is 132ppi. Again, it goes back to perception. If your apps, movies, and photos look good enough to you on your iPad, then perhaps you don't need a higher-res screen. Two other, fairly obvious reasons: Higher resolution would definitely have an impact on battery life, and keeping the same screen resolution means no upscaling for existing iPad apps.
Why Can't the iPad 2 Be a Phone?
The iPad 2 has more power and more carriers than its predecessor, yet it still can't act as a phone—not at least without third-party application assistance. How easy would it be for Apple to add the phone features (voice plan, virtual keypad, voice dialing, etc.)? Once again, Apple has a phone and they want you to buy it if you plan on making calls. The iPad is not a device you should be holding up to your ear. Obviously, if the iPad 2 works with a Bluetooth headset then you don't have to hold it against your head. As I see it, Apple's strategy is to convince consumers that the iPhone, iPad, MacBooks, and Macs are all very distinct devices, each with their own skill set and purpose. Turning the iPad into a phone would muddy the waters, confuse consumers, and possibly eat into iPhone sales.
Why Didn't We Get a 128GB Model?
Going from 64GB to 128GB of flash memory might have added another $100 to the price of the high-end iPad 2. Apple seems determined to keep its pricing strata the same as it was for the first-gen iPad. Also, I've heard from some iPad users that they have trouble filling up their 64GB first-gen iPads. I guess that's a good problem to have.
Why No SD Card Slot or USB Ports?
It's likely because the iPad 2's new cameras mean you can snap and store photos and videos on the tablet and you don't need to collect them off your camera's memory card. Plus, with iOS 4.3's new home-sharing capabilities, you may find it easier to grab what you need directly from your PC. The other reason may be that once Apple committed to the thinner design and radically tapered edges, an SD card slot simply wouldn't have fit. Same goes for USB ports. And if you want a super-thin Apple device with USB, go buy a MacBook Air.
Can the Smart Cover Really Clean the iPad 2's Screen?
I'll be honest, I prefer a full cover for my iPad, but that magnetic Smart Cover, which will only work with the iPad 2, is pretty cool, and Steve Jobs said it'll even clean the screen when you open it. Wait a minute. It'll do what? I have a little trouble believing that claim, since you usually have to rub the Gen 1 iPad screen vigorously with a cloth to obliterate all the finger smudges. Sorry, there's no way a cover—even a micro-fiber one—can clean simply by folding over the iPad 2's glass face. That just sounds like "magical" thinking to me.
This article, written by Lance Ulanoff, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc..
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