Hands-On With The iPad 2 – Tips & Apps

by Thomas MORADPOUR on March 18, 2011 · 6 comments

IT’S NEW, WHAT MORE REASON DO YOU WANT?

OK, I confess, I’m a big Apple fan-boy. When it comes to iPad, I was in line on day one last year, and left the Apple Store with a toy that has been since then glued to my hand 10 hours a day, every day. The only think it does not do for me is coffee – I have a Nespresso machine for that; yes, I’m a gadget freak.

So no big surprise, I upgraded this week to the iPad2.

As it happens, I did not get in line on day 1 this time, but waited until the next morning, only to find every Apple retail store out-of-stock 50 miles around my house, and wait times on the online store creeping up to 4-5 weeks shipments. Horror! Fortunately, I was saved by a very nice friend who help me get my hands on the black WIFI+3G 64Go tablet of my dreams, on Wednesday this week.

And so, I now count myself among the lucky 500,000 or so owners of Apple’s second generation “magical device”.

IS IT WORTH IT?

The iPad2 is ridiculous, great – no debate!

Assuming you’ve held an iPad before, the first thing you’ll notice is how much thinner and lighter it is now. A much nicer experience to hold for, say, longer reading sessions or Real Racing 2 HD steering! Further helping the form factor, the new magnetic cover is amazingly cool – big bonus please for the designers who treated the device and its cover in the same process, rather than as an after thought.

More subtle but still noticeable differences appear when you play with it. Apps run smoother. I wouldn’t say they all run “faster”, but app-switching is much snappier, and graphics are significantly better – the improvement in 3D games is un-be-lie-va-ble!

Finally, there’s cameras. I had been looking forward to not using Facetime  on my iPad for a long time, after not using it on the iPhone 4 for the last few months. Joke apart, the cameras are a bit of a let down – not to say they were a decision factor for me, but come on Steve… both are embarrassingly bad in low light, and the back one can’t even take a 1Mo picture. The only thing I’ll use that feature for is capturing whiteboards in brainstormings (not bad), and fooling around with Photo Booth with the kids.

VERDICT?

No brainer if it’s your first… and if you had the previous gen, upgrade if you can’t help it: it’s a worthy evolution, but not a transformation. You may want to wait for the rumored 3rd gen device with most likely improved screen resolution, better cameras etc. I personally don’t see the point of waiting – the next one will always be better anyway.

WHICH ONE TO PICK?

The iPad 2 comes in 18 configurations: 2 colors x 3 sizes x 3 versions (WiFi, WiFi + 3G AT&T, WiFi + 3G Verizon).

For me, the choice was obvious, but here’s a few things to consider when making yours:

  • Size - iPad is an amazing video player… if you decide to take it on business trips or vacations and load it with films and TV shows, take the biggest one you can. Encoded for the iPad, a film will take 1.5 to 2Go, and any TV show episode will fill up 600-800Mo. That goes very fast.
  • 3G? – Many people suggest sticking with WiFi and using a smartphone as a shared hotspot to connect on the road. Smart. A bit of a hassle versus integrated 3G, but smart. Ask yourself if the saving is worth it though, as most smartphone plans now charge extra for this function, when build-in iPad 3G plans start at $15 a month, and come with no long term commitment; you can buy a month, stop the next. Finally, a note to jailbroken iPhone users – AT&T is starting to play hardball on MiFi users, who could until now unlock the wifi sharing capability of the iPhone with no monthly cost… users could now be automatically enrolled in a $20/month tethering data plan.
  • Network - If you go for 3G and there is even a remote possibility that you’d want to use your iPad abroad for longer periods, pick the AT&T version above the Verizon; only the AT&T version includes a sim-card you can switch for another operator’s (and no, the iPad is not network-locked).
  • Color - Finally, white is a great fashion statement, but makes the iPad bezel much more present, especially when watching movies. A personal call…

OK, I GOT ONE, WHAT’S NEXT? … APPS!

Here’s my list of the best Apps you’ll want to download in your first two days… if you’re serious about depleting that 10-hour battery every day ;-)

WORK

  • OmniFocus ($39.99) – quite simply the best GTD To Do list manager; also the most expensive I’m afraid, but worth every penny.
  • iThoughts HD ($9.99) – a fantastic mind-mapping tool, very handy to take free-form notes during meeting discussions that don’t have a set structure (brainstormings in particular); also quite useful to map out thoughts ahead of presentations or strategies… particularly on the road, or on planes.
  • Sundry Notes (Free) – perfect “sister app” to iThoughts HD, when you need to take more linear notes in the electronic equivalent to your paper notebook (which i never carry anymore). You can type, scribble, add voice recordings and even capture images and text from the internet, straight from within the app.
  • Good Reader ($4.99) – great read-all app that can handle almost everything you throw at it, from PowerPoint to PDF, JPGs and even video.
  • Pages & Numbers ($9.99 each) – yes, they’re good. I don’t use them as much as I thought I would when purchasing the apps, but being able to carry around and edit word/page documents, or spreadsheets, is really nice. Don’t waste time with Keynote though – it’s just not powerful enough to create or edit directly on the device, and you can view easily on Good Reader.

SOCIAL

  • Twitter (Free) – enough said. The best experience of Twitter on any platform, as far as I’m concerned!
  • Boxcar (Free) - adds  useful alerts to let you know when someone starts following you, mentions you, DMs you etc…
  • Spout ($0.99) - this one, you have to see for yourself. A “passive” Twitter client… quite visually unique.
  • Instapaper ($2.99) – lets you save blog articles and web pages for later reading, and integrates with almost every web-enabled app on the device. And of course, if you already subscribed to the service on another platform, it all integrates seamlessly.
  • WordPress (Free) – manage your wordpress.com or .org blog on the go… or rather, manage your comments and posts. You may feel like you’re better off simply using the browser… but hey, at least it’s free, and has a bigger editing window.

READING AND NEWS

  • Pulse (Free) - fantastic RSS reader if you don’t follow more than 60 streams. If you have more, consider Reeder.
  • Zite (Free)- a new app I discovered last week, and became instantly addicted to. Its concept is the “personalized magazine”, which builds off the popular Flipboard, but adding more powerful customization, curated content linked to your Twitter and Facebook social graphs… and learning! The more you use it, the better it gets at serving you content you will like. Now my #1 source of news.
  • StumbleUpon (Free)- same, but random; which is nice too!
  • Kindle (Free)- My suggestion for books is this – download Apple iBooks, be amazed with the page turning effects for 10 minutes. Then download Kindle, buy from the largest book inventory on the market, and enjoy them on whichever device you like – iPad, iPhone, PC, Kindle etc…
  • Marvel (Free)- such a great experience you’ll want to start reading comics again!

VIDEO

  • Hulu+ and Nextflix (Free) - both subscription services offer great HD quality streamed videos.
  • OPlayer HD ($4.99) – the missing player… plays almost any video format, especially the ones the built in iPad video player won’t handle. Was a bit laggy on iPad1, but really benefits from iPad2 extra power!

GAMES

  • Real Racing 2 HD ($9.99) – Real Racing was the reference of car racing games on the iPad 1, and an absolute eye-candy. RR2 is even better, and gets as close as it gets to console gaming, with the extra immersion benefit from holding the screen so close to your face. That’s the one you’ll want to open first to showcase what your new iPad 2 can do.
  • Infinity Blade ($5.99) – powered by the Unreal Engine, this sword fighting RPG game is just mind-blowing. Both visually and in terms of game play. A must buy.
  • Risk ($6.99)- perfect translation of the classic board game, with both vs-computer, and “pass-and-play” modes.
  • Back to The Future ($6.99) – I just downloaded this one yesteardy and played for a few minutes… but the style, animation and gameplay are really fun! For all BTTF fans, a must.
  • and of course the classics: Cut the RopeAngry BirdsPlants vs ZombiesDoodle Bowl

 

Will you be getting one? Did you already? Let me know and share your tips!

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  • http://twitter.com/smartel Sylvain Martel

    Ha , Tom Moradpour, an Apple fan-boy, really ? You surprise me. ;)

    Seriously, I had a chance to play with #2 in the iPad family during SxSW where some friends bought it and i have to that say even if cameras and weight-optimization are great improvements, i’ll rather spend this money on the upcoming Playbook or Xoom. Not that i think they’re better devices but simply because they are offering features this iPad 2 isn’t such as flash compatibility.

    For them wondering if they should choose 3G model or not, if you already have an iPhone with a data plan you don’t entirely use, keep in mind that since iOS release 4.3, your iPhone may now be turned into a wifi hotspot and it works really great. Just sayin’

    Thanx for sharing Tom!
    SM

    • http://twitter.com/TomMoradpour Thomas Moradpour

      Let me know what you think if you buy one of these… I guess I’m so committed to the Apple platform between MBP, iPhone, iPad and hundreds of apps, that it would make very little sense for me to migrate to an Android based platform now, regardless of the quality. But that said, I think the iPad2 will be hard to beat by these tablets… just the size!

      I agree with your point on sharing the 3G connection – however the 4.3 hotspot function you mention won’t be free on many networks (e.g. on AT&T in the States, the cost of activating the function is almost the same as the 2Go monthly subscription on the iPad itself.)

      Tom

      • http://twitter.com/smartel Sylvain Martel

        Oh, i’m committed to Apple as well with iPhone (2) , MBP, iPad, Apple TV, …

        The thing is, i need to explore the digital spectrum in depth for my clients, trying to connect the dots between all the platforms available (mobile and/or social) and make sure they choose the right ones, for the good reasons, bla bla bla ….. That said, devices such as the Playbook or the upcoming TouchPad (HP) are amongst the platforms i need to know better and that are worth my (clients) consideration. iPad2 had not much to add to what we already know.

        And i didn’t know about the hotspot that wouldn’t be free. That sucks.

        • http://moradpour.com Thomas MORADPOUR

          Yes the hotspot thing is annoying.
          Let me know what you learn with these devices – your point makes perfect sense to me.
          Cheers
          Tom

  • http://toddrjordan.com/thebroadbrush tojosan

    Tom,
    Enjoyed reading your take on the iPad2. Can’t help but join you in recommending the Twitter, Kindle, Good Reader, and even Marvel. Reading comics is fun again, and easy!

    The cameras – not sure how much I’d have used them before, but there is an onslaught of new apps targeted at those cameras. These apps include ones that send photos straight to Dropbox for example. An excellent choice for quick/dirty sharing.

    Faster can’t hurt either.

    Regarding the iPad 3 or Pro to come out later, I’m not sure it’s worth the wait for most folks. I’m not imagining a faster processor but perhaps improved screen and cameras. Not sure of the benefit except to heavy video gamers and movie watchers. For those working with productivity apps, likely no improvement.

    We’ll see I guess. My wife gave me permission to go buy one. Likely the 32 gig wi-fi black model.

    • http://twitter.com/TomMoradpour Thomas Moradpour

      Go for it!

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