Front and rear-facing cameras
When the iPad was introduced a year ago, many complained to Apple about the lack of a camera. Apple listened, and the new iPad has two of them. The iPad 2 sports a front-facing VGA camera and a rear-facing 720p HD camera, bringing it more in line with the iPhone 4 and latest iPod touch. The camera's resolutions won't set any records, but I look forward to FaceTime video chats on the big screen!
The iPad 2 includes a built-in gyroscope, which will enhance some cool games like the Jenga app Steve Jobs demonstrated at the iPhone 4 announcement. As you rotate the iPad around an axis, the app can sense the rotation and respond accordingly. And with the iPad 2's large screen, just think of the astronomy, geography, and augmented reality apps and games that can be created.
Thinner and lighter
Remarkably, the iPad 2 is thinner and lighter than the original. It tips the scale at 1.3 pounds (compared to 1.5 pounds for the original) and measures 8.8 mm in thickness (compared to 13.4 mm for the original). In fact, the iPad 2 is actually thinner than the iPhone 4 (9.3 mm)! And while the edges are tapered, the back of the new iPad is flat, making it more stable when resting on a flat surface. (The rounded back of the original iPad likely led to sales of cases to make the iPad more stable on a flat surface.)
Available in black and white
Effective with its release, the iPad 2 is available in two colors: the standard black and the not-so-standard white. The original iPad was only available in black, and the iPhone 4 was supposed to be available in white as well as black. However, the white iPhone 4 has been as elusive as a certain white whale.
Twice as fast as the original
The iPad 2 sports Apple's new A5 dual-core chip, allowing the device to simultaneously work on multiple and multithreaded apps and achieves twice the performance of the original iPad, according to Apple. Response time should improve, even while the underlying operating system is doing its daily activities like downloading e-mail, updating contacts and calendars, communicating via Bluetooth, etc. Previously, Bluetooth might disconnect while recording video because the CPU was unable to interrupt and respond to the BT device. Multiple cores can address this. Special attention has been paid in the graphics department. According to Apple, the new chip provides up to nine times the performance of the original. This should be apparent in 3D-intensive games like Infinity Blade as well as when recording and editing video. Finally, while it's faster, the new processor is reported to consume no more power than the original. Apple lists the battery life at 10 hours.
Available for both Verizon and AT&T networks
The iPad 2 is available for both the Verizon and AT&T networks. (You have to pay $130 extra for the 3G models). When you purchase your iPad 2, make sure you get the correct model. The version that works with AT&T's network doesn't work with Verizon's, and vice versa. It had been rumored that Apple might have a single device that could support both networks, but they're not there yet. The price remains the same and is as follows:
iPad 2 Wi-Fi only
16GB: $499 32GB: $599 64GB: $699
iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G
Separate models for Verizon and AT&T; 3G service sold separately 16GB: $629 32GB: $729 64GB: $829
Used and refurbished iPad 1
In addition, the original versions of the iPad have been marked down by $100 and refurbished iPads are available while supplies last. All are available through Apple's online store (store.apple.com).
New accessories and apps
In addition to the iPad 2, Apple announced several new accessories and apps for the device. Digital AV Adapter cable $39, store.apple.com A wonderful and welcome new accessory is Apple's Digital AV Adapter cable, which adds an HDMI port so you can connect your iPad 2 to an HDTV and display ("mirror") the iPad 2's screen on your TV. In addition, it has a 30-pin pass thru connector allowing you to charge the iPad while you're using the HDMI port, unlike the old VGA cable. The cable also works with the original iPad as well as iPhone 4 and the 4th generation iPod touch. However, it will not mirror the display on these devices. It will only display video for apps capable of video output (Videos and YouTube for example). As a developer, this mirroring feature will be great for demos. Teachers can use it to display iPad apps on a larger TV screen in class. Finally, it may address some of the concerns many have had with making presentations using Apple's somewhat limited Keynote app.
Smart Cover $69 (leather), $39 (polyurethane), store.apple.com While many manufacturers capitalized on Apple's nondescript case for the original iPad, Apple has put significant time and attention into this new accessory. The Smart Cover attaches to the iPad 2 and auto-aligns via magnets. When the front flap flips over to cover the display, the iPad 2 goes to sleep automatically; when it is removed, the iPad turns on. (The microfiber lining keeps the screen clean.) The Smart Cover can also fold up to act as a stand for the iPad. As with Apple's iPhone 4 Bumpers, the Smart Cover covers only part of the device, exposing as much of the Apple gadget as possible. Many users want their iPads more fully protected. Third-party case makers will no doubt introduce cases that incorporate the magnetic attachment concept. In fact, several have already contacted iPhone Life about enhanced iPad 2 cases, including Case-Mate, Marware, and TouCoul. We will review them as they become available.