I have very little use for an iPad, yet I never leave home without it.  Why don’t I have much use for it?  Since I do all of our development and coding, I travel with my laptop 99% of the time and the iPad becomes just an “extra” device to weigh down my bag.  For the occasions where I can live without my laptop, that’s where this device becomes my go-to gadget.  For many it’s a laptop replacement.  For me it’s my iPhone, optimized.  I love the ability to stream/watch movies without squinting, write a paper using Pages, or draft emails longer than 3 sentences with an almost full sized keyboard.  The “tweener” from iPhone to laptop has worked its way into its own portable device realm.

How we got it

JAMB Innovations got two brand new iPads for testing just 4 days after its release.  How did we get so lucky?  The old fashioned way.  The same way I got my iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS (each on launch day) – I waited in line.  I got up early on a Tuesday morning and went to the Apple Store at about 7:50am.  There were about 6 people sitting on the floor outside the store in a line, so I knew something was up.  An Apple associate was standing outside the store handing out cards for “reservations” and unfortunately only 2 per customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I picked up a 32GB AT&T 3G version in white, and a 16GB WiFi version in black.  At 9am the line was about 25-30 deep, yet the associate couldn’t give away the last iPad (another 32GB AT&T 3G in white).  Despite my enthusiasm to take it of his hands, he would not budge.  The purchase process was simple and streamlined, unlike a typical day in (what Adam calls) the “iStore.”

I left the store at 9:30am with 2 iPad 2s in hand, 2 smart covers, and 1 HDMI adapter.

First Impressions

Noticeably Lighter

One of my major gripes about the first iPad was the weight.  During simple tasks the old device is comfortable, but when using it for a prolonged period of time it feels heavy in one hand.  I always ended up propping it on my knees due to the fatigue.  Although the specs shaved only a few ounces off the iPad 2, it is noticeably lighter in your hand.  It no longer feels clunky nor tiresome to use.  The tapered edges make it easier to handle, and easier to pick up from a flat surface.  Even the addition of the “Smart Cover” doesn’t add bulk, unlike Apple’s original iPad case.

Noticeably Faster

The iPad 2 is quick.  Certainly any new item you pick up will seem fast because it’s new and you just started using it.  Within a day’s worth of use I sat back saying – “WOW I didn’t realize my original iPad and iPhone 4 were so slow!”  It’s not like putting a Lamborghini Gallardo up against a Toyota Prius, rather it clearly lacks the tiny bit of lag that makes the older devices now appear slow.  The best example would be the Netflix app that loads up nearly 2 seconds faster on the iPad 2.  Will 2 seconds make a difference to you at the end of the day?  I hope not.  We put uPregnant XL to the test and it loads up 0.3-0.4 seconds faster than the original iPad.  It is enough to notice only when the two devices are side by side.

Smart Cover

The Smart Cover is arguably one of the greatest innovations in current technology.  Apple has made an iPad case not only simpler, but more intelligent.  The case has a series of magnets that hold it closed when asleep, and automatically wake the device when opened.  The design has 3 large creases in it allowing the user to fold it into a triangle to display prop up the iPad 2 from a table.  In this position the device feels just as stable as an angled keyboard and is quite comfortable.  If you sit the iPad 2 up it creates an excellent viewing angle for movies, slideshows, or even as a digital picture frame.

Although the Smart Cover works brilliantly while laying flat on a table, you cannot use it standing upright.  The iPad 2 sits at a 90º angle and a mere light breeze away from crashing down onto its face.  With the original iPad and case you still could not use it upright, but it did have a gentle lean making it more stable on its feet.  You didn’t need to hover over the old device waiting to catch it from certain death.

Another inconvenience of the Smart Cover is its inability to stay open.  The cover stays closed very well, but does not offer the same function while open.  Many users merely fold the cover in half so the magnets attach to itself, but you still need to keep the flap held open.  Granted you had to do this with the first iPad with cover, but since the back was flat, it felt natural.  With the tapered back, the iPad 2′s Smart Cover is slightly awkward when held fully open, but makes the most sense when folded in half.

Are either of these problems deal breakers?  Absolutely not!  But the lack of protection in the back, and the difficulty in keeping the cover open may have users searching for other options.

Battery

In our preliminary tests with iPad 32GB 3G versus iPad 2 32GB 3G, we are noticing a difference in battery life in favor of the original iPad.  With only WiFi active, and the same email account set to “push,” side by side at full charge without any interaction showed a 2% decline on the original iPad, and a whopping 12% decline on the iPad 2.  We are still working on doing an official battery test, and we will also have an Apple Genius take a look at our device to make sure it is ok.  All we can say is that on our 3G device our iPad 2 is draining much faster than the original model, and fast enough that we are going to get it checked out.

Camera

I refuse to review the camera.  If you’re purchasing the iPad 2 for the rear camera, I doubt any of this review is helpful to you at all.

Facetime

As medical professionals, Facetime could change everything.  For better or for worse, that’s the more interesting question.

I don’t envision medical providers using this feature very much between patient and provider relationships.  Medical providers get enough phone calls, and they don’t need to be complicated with a camera.  Conversely, I think this could revolutionize the way that providers overcome language barriers.  How many times did you not have the dual-handset “language line?”  How many times have you had to share the phone back and forth with a patient to get through a history?  How many times have you waited tens of minutes for an interpreter?

Facetime could change interpretation with all language barriers, including sign language.  Unfortunately, that could put hundreds of good interpreters out of a job.  My recommendation – give the current interpreters iPad 2s or iPhone 4s and communicate the same way you normally would – just faster!

The X Factor

For a refreshed device, nothing appears revolutionary.  I do not have one single feature that makes this leaps and bounds beyond the original iPad.  Apple though, IS the x-factor.  They have figured out what features matter to users to release a new one within 1 short year, yet leave out enough having us yearn for more.

It is like my view on the iPhone 4.  I cannot envision a ground breaking new feature that will make a newer model above and beyond the current specs.  It will not be until I use the iPhone 5 that I can remark on the brand new feature that I cannot live without.

In summary the iPad 2 is an evolutionary device and is not revolutionary.  Although this could change with 5.0 software, it is to the original iPad as the iPhone 3GS was to the 3G – just enough better to warrant an upgrade.  It’s super fast, much lighter, and has an excellent form factor.  For many, it can replace a laptop if you only have a desktop at home.  For those with a laptop and iPhone 4, you may be left scratching your head as to where this product fits in for you.  If you don’t have an iPad yet, don’t go for the deep savings with the old model – buy a new one.  If you already have an iPad, it’s going to be up to you and your wallet whether you need this new device.  Oh wait , but it has a camera!