Today I got my iPad 2. A WiFi 16 GB Black model, bought in the United States and shipped through UPS’ Worldwide Saver Express. After a bit of trouble with the Italian customs (luckily, I didn’t pay additional clearance fees) and a missed delivery because I didn’t wake up in time this morning (hey, I stayed up until 6 AM last night reading Instapaper), I finally managed to get my hands on the iPad 2.
Before I share my thoughts: this is not a review. I’ve had the device for less than 6 hours and I’m just getting started with it. Rather, this is a collection of thoughts from a blogger who waited 10 days for the shipment of a device he had to write about regardless of the lack of availability in his country. I watched the unboxing videos, read Cody’s articles, saved dozens of reviews in my Instapaper queue. But getting one, in spite of the fact that I basically knew everything about it, is different.
The iPad 2 is different, actually. It feels “new”, but not in a revolutionary way. It feels new in my hands that have gotten used to the iPad 1 in the past year. Maybe that’s why the tapered edges and thinner design felt weird at first: where did my thumbs just go? Heck, this thing is thin. That’s what I thought. I think if you really used the iPad 1 over the past 11 months, once you grab the iPad 2 you can’t help but feel the difference. Maybe you won’t see it, but your thumbs will feel it. The iPad 2 requires a new grip. It’s almost surreal how thin this device is. Yes, it’s thinner than an iPhone 4. For the sake of comparison, the iPad 1 looks like an old brick now.
About the tapered edges: the new button placement will have to grow on me. Being inserted in the “curve” of the edges, I had some difficulties at first trying to adjust the volume or take a screenshot. Whilst the iPad 1 had flat edges (made of an additional aluminum section) with buttons clearly placed on top of them, with the iPad 2 you kind of have to “slide” your finger over the tapered edge to get to the buttons. I’m sure I’ll get used to this in a few days, but right now they just feel off. With this new design, I hate how the cable fits into the dock connector (see picture above).
The cameras aren’t great. In fact, they do take some crappy photos. The front facing camera is mostly fine for FaceTime and Photo Booth, but it’s not good at anything else. The rear-facing camera takes decent 720p videos, but photos look way too grainy on the iPad’s screen.
The speaker: I heard some people saying the overall volume output and quality didn’t improve with the iPad 2. They’re wrong. The new speaker grill design provides clearer audio than the iPad 1, and the device definitely goes a little bit higher than its first-generation brother.
As I expected, Photo Booth is perfect for the iPad, but I wish Apple implemented more sharing options. Currently, you can only share via email. Where’s Twitter, Facebook and MobileMe? You can actually send photos and videos to MobileMe from the Camera Roll, but Photo Booth desperately needs more sharing functionalities. These pictures are made to go online.
The Smart Cover is just as genius as Cody described it. The polyurethane model feels a bit cheap though, and I think I’ll get a red leather one as soon as they become available in Italy.
I enabled multitasking gestures through Xcode 10 minutes after installing all my apps from iTunes. The iPad 2 is the device meant for these gestures, they just feel so natural and responsive — which brings me to me last point (at least for now): it’s fast. In the same way I couldn’t believe how crazy thin the device was until I touched it, the same applies for speed: you won’t realize how fast the iPad 2 until you test it for a few minutes. Folders open faster, Safari is incredibly snappier, switching between apps is a pleasure — especially with multitasking gestures. Remember on the iPad 1 how you had to wait a couple of seconds for an app to “become active” after you switched to it? And the fact that the screen wasn’t immediately responsive to touch during those few seconds? It’s all gone. You switch to an app — boom, it’s there and you can use it. As for Safari: pages are kept in memory while you’re browsing, but I noticed the browser will reload them after you switch between a few apps and, overall, just keep in Safari buried deep down in the multitasking bar for a while. Still: if you’re spending time browsing in Safari, pages will stay there, fully loaded. That is great.
Every app on the iPad 2 feels faster out of the box. The new A5 processor, more RAM and improved graphic performances really make for a better experience — and the iPad 1 wasn’t slow. But it will be once you try an iPad 2. It’s simply remarkable, and I’m curious to see whether iOS 5 will manage to make things a little slower like iOS 4 did for the iPad 1. But right now, speed if the most important feature of the iPad 2.
These are my first impressions with the iPad 2. It isn’t a revolutionary device, but it outperforms the original iPad in every single aspect. I’ve spent a few hours with it, and I’m deeply satisfied with my purchase. So, yes: for now, this is the new iPad I was waiting for, and I think it will only get better from now on. We’ll see.