Apple's done a number of things to improve the speed and utility of its popular tablet device. The Apple iPad 2 features the faster A5 processor, two cameras, and a gyroscope. However, one of the more interesting iPad 2 innovations can be found outside the product: The new Smart Cover. It's also the source of the iPad 2's first entertaining parlor trick.
That cover, a mixture of leather (or polyurethane), microfiber and magnets snaps neatly onto the left side of the iPad 2 (there are no special notches on the iPad, the cover simply auto-aligns itself). The Smart Cover's second trick is to put the tablet to sleep when you lay it down on top of the screen. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that the active part of the cover is only in the last quarter panel. In other words, the iPad 2 doesn't sleep until the last part of the cover touches the screen. This means that there's also some sort of electronic mechanism within the cover and the right side of the iPad 2.
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?
No, the Apple iPad 2 is not a game changer. Instead it simply, firmly establishes Apple once again as the front-runner in the tablet wars. Apple and chief executive Steve Jobs (who made an appearance and received a standing ovation) focused on all the right areas to ensure that the Apple iPad will remain the tablet you have to rule out before you buy any others.
As I predicted, Apple added not one, but two cameras. This makes perfect sense, though I was not particularly happy to hear an Apple exec say on stage that the iPad is perfectly suited for these cameras and FaceTime. Why couldn't the first-generation iPad, which I own, also have been considered perfect for at least one camera? Apple didn't say anything about the resolution on the cameras, though we know the rear one can capture 720P, more or less - the Apple definition for "High Definition." Please, no one tell Steve Jobs that someone on the iPad team sneaked by an accessory that outputs full 1080p from the device (more on that later).
At today's Apple event, where the world was first introduced to the iPad 2, one thing stood out to me above everything else. Many of the new features and specs had been leaked, or correctly guessed, months ago, but no one knew that Apple would pour its innovative energies into a case for the new device. But they did, and the new Smart Cover might be the best case I've ever seen for a mobile device.
The Smart Cover is a single sheet, made of either polyurethane or leather and either pink, orange, green, blue, several shades of gray, black, cream or red. It snaps magnetically onto the side of the iPad, and closes over top of the screen. It protects the parts of the iPad that need protecting—the screen—and leaves the parts that don't—the rugged, aluminum back and sides—to the elements. It makes the case thin, the iPad lighter, and best of all makes the case and iPad extremely easy to separate. The magnetic system should work like the MagSafe adapters on Mac computers, which are a popular feature.
At this mornings iPad 2 event, Apple showed the video above for the first time. It's about six minutes long, and gives a peek into everything you should expect from the new iPad, as well as some details about what's going on under the hood, and a look at the new iMovie and Garageband iPad apps.
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