Should I Get An iPad 2?
The number of readers who asked me about whether to get an iPad 2 made it inevitable that I would devote this column to answering that question. A word of warning, though: people already enjoying an iPad may find that the answer about upgrading differs from the answer for those who have yet to purchase their first modern slate-computing device.
Courtesy of Apple.
The iPad’s status as the “only” true slate-computing device on the market has gone by the wayside. Many competing devices have hit the market in the last few months. They include Motorola’s Xoom, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, and Blackberry’s Playbook.
With all due respect to the competition, I rank the iPad 2 at the top of the heap. In fact, I would take the original iPad over any of the other slate devices currently available. If you want to get a slate device, I strongly recommend that you get the iPad or, even better, the iPad 2. Why? Because in the iPad 2, Apple has done almost everything right. That is not to suggest that the iPad has bested its competitors in every category; but, for my money, when it comes to slate computing devices, Apple did more right than anyone else to date.
If I wanted to avoid an iPad for some reason, my next choices would be the Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab (in that order). The last two both use the Android Operating System. I like the Android OS, quite a bit. In fact, I rank it as the second best mobile OS available (after the Apple iOS). The Xoom uses Android 3.0, making it preferable to the Tab, which uses Android 2.2. Google optimized Android 3.0 for slates. It designed Android 2.2 for smartphones, but subsequent modifications made it work with slate devices, such as the Galaxy Tab.
The Galaxy Tab has a 7" display. It easily fits in a coat pocket, making it a very convenient traveling partner. Samsung has a new model coming out called the Galaxy Tab 10.1. The 10.1 will run Android 3.0 and have a 10.1" screen, making it about the same size as the iPad 2.
The Xoom has the largest footprint and heaviest weight of the top rated slates. It outweighs the iPad 2 by several ounces. It also accepts memory cards allowing for expanded ability to store information, a feature missing from the iPad 2.
Although one or another slate may have a better display or a better camera than the iPad 2, I do not believe any of them offers as full, rich, and varied an experience as the iPad. Apple’s iTunes Store gets a large part of the credit for that. None of the other slate devices can access the iTunes store or sync with iTunes software. While you do have the Android Market for many Android-based device and the Blackberry App store for the Playbook, neither of those can play in the same league with the iTunes Store.
The iTunes store offers several hundred thousand applications for the iPad, iPhone, and/or iPod Touch. Apps designed exclusively for the iPad or redesigned to optimize the iPad’s features represent a smaller, but rapidly growing segment (around 60,000, I am advised). Most apps designed for the iPhone work on the iPad too, but you don’t always get the full benefit of the larger screen of the iPad as many iPhone apps appear in an iPhone-sized window on the iPad. You can, generally, double the size of the window, but the result often appears pixilated, making it less attractive. The iTunes store also gives you the ability to purchase additional audio and video media for the iPad.
The commercials say that they have apps for just about everything at the iTunes Store, and when you browse through the iTunes App store, it appears that they do. With available apps you can use the iPad 2 for a wide variety of business, personal, and other functions. It works as an audio player, a video player, an image display device, a calendar, a mail device, an address book, a word processor, an Internet appliance, an eBook reader, a reference and research tool, a videoconferencing device, a health appliance, a medical records-keeping device, a travel agent, a game device . . . and the list goes on and on and on. The iPad has a number of apps specifically designed for courtroom work including apps to help select a jury, keep track of evidence exhibits, keep track of documents, facilitate preparation of witness examinations, and assist with multimedia presentations. You can even get a rules-based calendaring app for the iPad.
In the iPad 2, Apple presents a slimmer, lighter, faster, and better version of the iPad at the same price as the original iPad. The addition of cameras allows the use of the iPad 2 for FaceTime, Apple’s videoconferencing technology (subject to the limitation that it only works when you have a WiFi connection). The additional speed comes from a dual core A5 processor created for the iPad 2. The iPad 2 also comes with faster graphics, making it better for games than its predecessor.
Courtesy of Apple.
The iPad 2 comes with two cameras (compared to none in the original iPad). The front-side camera takes VGA-quality still and video shots (up to 30 frames per second (fps)). The backside camera takes HD video recording in 720p at 30 fps. It also takes still photos and provides a 5x digital zoom. The iPad cameras work satisfactorily for FaceTime and both still and video recording; but you have many better options for still and video recording. A higher resolution camera would have been nice, but I do not consider it a deal breaker. I would not buy an iPad (or any other currently existing slate device intending to use it as a digital camera or as a video camera.
The iPad 2 offers the same three memory options as the original iPad: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. I went with the 64GB version, as more memory is a good thing to have and the memory in the iPad 2, like the original iPad, is not upgradeable. The iPad 2 comes in a WiFi only and a WiFi +3G version with all three memory configurations available in each category.
The original iPad only came with 3G for the ATT system. The iPad 2 offers you a 3G version for ATT and a 3G version for Verizon. Because the iPad 2 comes in black or white, you actually have 24 versions to choose among. Pricing remains the same as for the original iPad with the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB WiFi only versions costing $499, $599, and $699, respectively, and $629, $729, and $829, respectively, for the WiFi +3G versions. The ATT and Verizon versions cost the same thing. You cannot get a carrier discount from either service provider.
Apple did not offer a 4G version of the iPad 2. That will likely occur in the iPad 3 (look for it in mid 2012) as the so-called 4G networks expand in availability and coverage areas. It is particularly disappointing as 4G speeds would improve the iPad experience online, and Verizon has a robust 4G data network that provides decent coverage in most major metropolitan areas. Undoubtedly, battery life also impacted Apple’s decision as 4G devices tend to burn batteries faster than 3G at the present time. As battery technology adjusts and improves, Apple will likely move to the 4G platform. For the present, however, Apple seems very content with its 10 hours of use per charge spec on the 3G iPad 2.
ATT offers two data plans for the iPad, $15 for 250MB and $25 for 2GB. If you have the 2GB plan and use more than 2GB, you pay $10/GB. Verizon offers you four plans to choose among: $20 for 1GB, $35/3GB, $50/5GB, and $80/8GB. Overage prices for Verizon are $10/GB for all plans except the 1GB plan. In that plan Verizon charges $20/GB for over-plan usage. Verizon will cost a bit less than ATT except for light data users (less than 3GB/month). If you use 10GB a month, ATT will cost $85 and Verizon $80. As both go up from that point by $10/GB, that $5/month differential remains in place for all higher-level users.
When deciding which iPad to get, you will want to consider your potential uses for the iPad, as that will help you decide about which level of memory and whether to go with the WiFi or WiFi + 3G version. After that, if you choose to go with a 3G version, look at which carrier provides better service in your primary use areas and pick that carrier. The only remaining choice, color, represents a personal preference.
The more media and/or apps you plan to store on your iPad, the greater will be your memory requirements. The iPad does a very nice job displaying HD movies; however, HD movies take up a lot of memory (in the range of 3–4GB per movie) by comparison to standard definition movies (generally between 1 and 2 GB per movie). If you plan to use the iPad for business and will add substantial amounts of data for work, opt for larger memory. Under any circumstance, get at least the 32GB size. I got the 64GB size in both the original iPad and the iPad 2, and I still have to regularly juggle contents as I continually run short of memory. I do not think it likely that Apple will include an SD card slot in the iPad 3; so I hope that when Apple releases it, they will offer a 128GB version.
I chose the 3G versions as I want access to the Internet as much as possible and without having to depend on the availability of WiFi. Nor do I want to have to depend on public WiFi for security reasons. I think that I have given myself the best possible utility in that I have used Verizon’s MiFi for Internet access for the last several years for travel. The MiFi gives me my own secure hotspot wherever I can get a signal (almost everywhere now). I got it for my laptop, but it accepts up to five connections, so I can connect any of my laptops, my iPad, and my iPhone at the same time. I recently upgraded to the 4G MiFi, giving me higher speed in most major metropolitan areas and traditional 3G speeds when I cannot access the 4G LTE system. I got an ATT 3G iPad 2. As a result, when I bring my MiFi along, I have access to both the ATT and the Verizon networks.
I found it very easy to justify getting an iPad. I regularly use it for both work and recreation. If you have no slate device, I have no problem recommending that you get an iPad.
I have had a number of people who already have an iPad ask me whether it makes sense for them to upgrade to the iPad 2. That presents a much more difficult question. The improvements to the iPad 2 over the iPad 1 disappointed many of us. The memory options remained the same; Apple did not incorporate its retina display technology into the iPad 2. Apple did not add an SD card slot or a USB port to the iPad 2; all features that many of us had on our wish list for the iPad 2. Apple did, however, make the new iPad lighter and faster and added cameras. Although the extra speed is nice, it is not noticeable in many applications. The weight difference, while noticeable, is not that significant, and the reduced thickness does not make that much of a difference (except that it means that a lot of accessories (especially cases) made for the original iPad won’t work well (or at all) with the iPad 2.
If you have a need (or at least a strong desire) for videoconferencing and want to do it on the run, then upgrading to the iPad 2 makes good sense. The addition of cameras offers that capability in a WiFi environment.
If you do not have a need for the cameras, then whether you upgrade or not depends on whether you want to spend the money to have the newest and best; but in truth, unless you need (or at least really want) FaceTime or can justify getting the iPad 2 so that you can give the original iPad to someone else, the improvements to the iPad 2 probably do not justify the cost of buying one if you already have one of the original iPad devices.
If you do get an iPad 2, you will want to pick up some accessories to maximize your use and enjoyment of the iPad. You will want to get Apple’s Smart Cover for your iPad 2. It adds little bulk or weight, protects the screen, folds nicely to provide a stand in landscape mode (not in portrait). You can easily remove it if it gets in your way (magnets hold it in place on the iPad). I put Zagg’s Invisible Shield on my iPad 2, added the Smart Cover, and packed it inside a neoprene sleeve. Protected in that manner, I can safely and confidently carry it in virtually any type of case. I generally prefer a lightweight ballistic nylon messenger-style bag that has no padding (I particularly like the Tumi line for such cases), so the neoprene case functions as a padded slate-compartment for the iPad. If you prefer leather, you might want to take a look at the Levenger messenger cases. My favorites, the Bomber Jacket Day Pack Messenger and the Bomber Jacket Tech Traveler, will accommodate the iPad, an iPhone (or other smartphone), keys, a camera, and several other necessities.
If you plan on doing any significant amount of typing, you will likely want to acquire a Bluetooth keyboard. Virtually any Bluetooth keyboard will work with the iPad 2. Apple makes a very nice full-sized wireless Bluetooth keyboard that works with iPads. Zagg partnered with Logitech and offers a keyboard built into a case that will hold the iPad securely face down (to protect the screen). You will need to remove your Smart Cover to store the iPad in the keyboard case.
If you plan to use the iPad to display photographic images or otherwise want to transfer data from an SD card, get Apple’s camera connection kit. While you are about getting accessories, you will probably want to pick up some of the other connectors, such as the VGA adapter and digital AV adapter.
Last, but certainly not least, while Apple ships its devices with functional and adequate earphones, you have many better choices available. The acquisition of a good pair of headphones or earphones will substantially improve your enjoyment of the iPad, and I encourage you to consider acquiring an upgraded set.