Apple's second-generation iPad mostly impresses, but Apple still managed to leave some key technologies out.
The Apple iPad 2, announced at an event in San Francisco today, mostly bumps up key specs such as the processor, adds cameras, and sheds both weight and bulk. Despite all the nifty improvements, InformationWeek is slightly disappointed that Apple failed to deliver on a few vital differentiators.
The iPad 2 will be sold in three wireless configurations: Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi + 3G (AT&T), and Wi-Fi + 3G (Verizon Wireless). Looking at the spec sheet, it indicates that the AT&T variant of the iPad 2 supports quad-band GSM/EDGE and quad-band UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA. The Verizon Wireless variant uses EVDO Rev. A. These are 3G technologies. The iPad 2 doesn't have HSPA+, nor does it have LTE.
Also, Apple has completely left Sprint and T-Mobile out of the loop. With no baked-in support for their 3G/4G networks, Apple is keeping the nation's third- and fourth-largest network operators in the iOS dark.
Apple failed to add near-field communications (NFC) capabilities to the iPad 2. Granted, the tablet form factor isn't exactly what comes to mind when you think "mobile payments," but it would have been a good precedent to set. Google's Android platform (at least the 2.3 Gingerbread version) supports NFC, though only one phone is properly equipped. Getting the chips into mobile devices of any shape/size will help drive the NFC and mobile payment ecosystem forward. Sadly, not with this generation.
No Accessory Improvements
Apple didn't change a darned things about the iPad's accessory support. Most disappointing? That Apple didn't move (or at least duplicate) the 30-pin connector to the side of the device for better landscape compatibility. The iPad 2 also doesn't have an SD card slot for expandable memory.
The one thing that Apple did announce is a new adapter -- which costs a whopping $39 -- that provides HDMI out to devices such as televisions. It's great that the iPad 2 finally gets HDMI support by way of an adapter, but a dedicated port would have been better.
No Display Improvements
The iPad 2 uses the exact same display as the original iPad. It measures 9.7-inches across the diagonal, and has 1024 x 768 pixels, giving it a disappointing 132 pixels per inch. By way of comparison, the iPhone 4's Retina Display has a pixel density of 326ppi. Perhaps we'll see a better display on next year's model.
No Pixie Dust Or Unicorn Horns
The first iPad was "magical." Apple CEO Steve Jobs crowed on stage today that Apple has sold more than 15 million of them. You could say the iPad was magical for Apple's bottom line, but the iPad 2 doesn't have the same instant, drool-inducing appeal that the original iPad had. It's just a spec bump and not much more. There was no "one more thing" at the press conference today, and Apple didn't deliver any stunning new features or capabilities (though Garage Band and iMove look pretty darned good).
This leaves me wondering just how many of the 15-million-iPad-army will pony up another $500 to $800 for a new iPad. Are the cameras, faster processor, and thinner/lighter design worth the upgrade cost?
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