When the original iPad tablet released last year, there was certainly a lot of uncertainty around whether this new device would catch on within the market. There were many predictions floating around with fairly low or average figures, however I doubt anyone would have guessed that this Apple device would sell over 15 million units in 9 months.
With this mind boggling success comes the inevitable competition and there is a whole bunch of hardware and software solutions that are set to battle the iPad. It is only this year though that this rivalry will really have any kind of impact – due to manufacturers being caught off guard by this triumphant tablet recreation and in 2010 at least, Android suffered with a non-tablet software platform that just wasn’t really fit for purpose.
2011 finally sees the competition take a jab at Apple’s dominance in this field as Google finally releases an Android platform designed specifically for tablets, HP releases their WebOS version and many other variations along the way.
The Apple announcement on March 2nd 2011 was an extremely important step as it needed to continue this epic victory and take on the other industry giants, who are now touting their impressive hardware specifications and user-friendly interfaces.
Apple iPad 2 Announced
I am sure many of us were delighted that Steve Jobs took to the stage, especially when he has been struggling with such ill health. As always we began with a few statistics, however the one that really stood out was the number of apps specifically designed for a tablet device. A staggering 65,000 are currently available – designed to allow users to create, digest information or simply have fun.
The iPad 2 features the new dual-core A5 processor, that according to Apple at least is twice as fast as the original iPad. The graphics though receive the biggest leap in performance as they announced a 9x increase, which should really bring a whole new level of touch-screen games and educational apps screaming to the platform.
Two cameras also finally make it to the iPad 2, one for the front and one to the rear. The rear camera capable of 720P HD video recording and the front a more modest VGA variant, both great for FaceTime video conversations and augmented reality apps no doubt.
The Apple iPad 2 as you would expect is thinner than its predecessor, in fact as much as one third and that makes it thinner than the iPhone 4. By now you are probably worried about the battery life, although Apple promise that the same 10 hours of usability still remain and have not been impacted by the faster performance or the sleeker design.
There is no ‘retina’ display in this generation, the resolution matching exactly that of the original iPad – however I don’t expect that to put people off if they are looking for a tablet in 2011 as all the offerings out there hover around the same detail for this screen size.
For those sick and tired of carrying bulky cases around to protect the iPad, Apple have designed a new ‘snap’ on solution that uses magnets to attract a cover to the correct alignment and shield the screen. Removing the cover informs the iPad automatically to wake up from its sleep and vice versa sends it back to its slumber. Pretty simple, but very impressive and comes in a range of colours and a couple of materials including leather.
For teachers, lecturers and businesses who wish to make presentations using the iPad 2 certainly can, thanks to a new accessory that mirrors exactly what is visible on-screen on the tablet to a HDMI compatible display.
- Display: 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology, 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
- Chip: 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 custom-designed, high-performance, low-power system-on-a-chip
- Cameras: Back camera: Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio; still camera with 5x digital zoom, Front camera: Video recording, VGA up to 30 frames per second with audio; VGA-quality still camera
- Video-Out: Video mirroring and video out support: Up to 1080p with Apple Digital AV Adapter or Apple VGA Adapter (cables sold separately)
- Battery: Up to 10 hours of surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching video, or listening to music
- Sensors: Three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor
- Colours: White or Black
- Storage: 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
- Dimensions: Height: 9.50 inches (241.2 mm), Width: 7.31 inches (185.7 mm), Depth: 0.34 inch (8.8 mm)
- Weight: 1.33 pounds (601 g)
Apple iPad 2 and the Competition
So why do I believe at this fairly early stage that the iPad 2 has it in the bag for 2011? Is it because Steve Jobs says so? Certainly not!
It is hard to ignore the fact that Apple has enjoyed almost a whole year without any serious competition in the tablet domain. Any appearances from other manufacturers have been fairly poor representations of Apple’s iOS tablet operating system and have gone to some pretty extreme lengths to tempt us away. Incredibly cheap prices with poor hardware specifications though were never really a contender to the might of the iPad and these were although nice to use, were never going to compete with any realistic chance of eating into Apple’s dominance.
This year, although far more serious attempts at an actual rival contender are appearing in abundance – Apple still has one year of apps and games to boost their appeal. It is not just the number available, it is the quality as well. Yes of course there are plenty of dismal offerings as well among the collection, however the developers that are drawn to the Apple App Store seem intent on bringing the best designed concepts to this platform first, if not exclusively. The range is pretty awe inspiring and these are all designed specifically for a tablet device and not a smart-phone.
Then you have to consider the huge Apple ecosystem that simply grabs you with both arms and never seems to let you go. What starts out as a few apps, a few songs and a couple of movies soon turns into collections spanning gigabytes of storage and leaving this user-friendly space is not exactly appealing for most. As an avid Windows user, I was dragged almost kicking and screaming into the Apple universe by the iPhone 3GS – now I have had to accept my new allegiance.
Most people assume the main choice is between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. If this is the case, Apple can certainly sleep well this evening. Yes Android 3.0 has a set of interesting features, impressive looking interface and a wide range of hardware choices in all shapes and sizes yet they always seem to be a step behind. Of course in some areas they will step ahead, however Apple are really setting the trends at the moment and pretty much dictating to the market what the consumer wants rather than us actually asking for it. With that kind of power and actually insight where they seem to know what we want before even we as a consumer does, Android seems intent on immitating the basic fundamentals of an iOS tablet operating system.
With so many iPad’s already on the market, the chances are the interested tablet consumer will have already made their mind up of which device they will purchase before they even visit a store. Spend ten minutes with an iPad and your perception of what a computer is fundamentally changes within an instant. In fact it’s not really a computer in the traditional sense at all and that is partly why this new technology generation appeals to so many. You are not caught up in the how and why, it is almost automatic for an individual to touch the screen and developers honing that reaction to almost perfection. The consistency in layout and design through-out Apple’s iOS is a comforting user-experience that is cleverly emulated by many app developers.
Finally of course is price. While the iPad alternatives will look incredibly snazzy with their 10 inch screens and demonstrations – the iPad2 with its incredibly sleek design and extremely competitive prices will no doubt win the day for the average consumer. I am sure other tablets will please those that either loath Apple or fancy separating from the rest of the crowd and will have a very loud voice in cheering its virtues, yet I still believe there is a huge amount of of work to be done by the competition.
As remarkable as the technical specifications are of the iPad2 and its rivals, the real factor that will determine whether a purchase is made will be based on function and market penetration rather than a jazzy list of specs and in this regard Apple are way ahead without lacking hardware credentials.
I am sure the Apple die-hard fans will sap up all of the hype and purchase this new tablet without any hesitation or real reasoning, however I am sure whoever buys the iPad 2 will enjoy what it offers regardless of the core features that amount to icing on the cake. The real success story is that of the collection of thousands of excellent quality apps, third party support by both software and hardware that is unparalleled and an emotionally inspired response to a piece of technology shared among the millions.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Apple iPad 2 has a rosy future ahead and while the competition may be nibbling at Apple’s feet, there they shall remain unless they finally realise they need to innovate rather than simply imitate. It will be fascinating to see how the year pans out for all the major players.