The Apple Store employee had seemed a little disappointed, my husband said, that he did not need to activate the device for me, but Apple’s process for activating devices is so easy, and always has been. You plug it in, you open iTunes. You register and you name your device. Then you do your first sync, which can take a while, especially in my case. I have the white, 64GB wifi only iPad 2. And I loaded it with 33GB of data on the first sync, mostly TV shows that I am actively watching, but also all of the universal apps that carried over from my iPhone app library, which is quite extensive. So, my first experiences with the iPad 2 are much like my first experiences with any iOS device, and this is a good thing. I knew exactly how to get it going, I knew how to activate it myself. I did not need to read the user’s manual (though I encourage newcomers to iOS devices to do this).
Once I got it loaded up with all of my stuff, I spent some time just holding it. One of the things that I disliked about iPad when it came out were the hard edges on the device. My husband keeps his in a rather large case that’s suede lined on the inside and has a hand strap on the back that you can hold the iPad with, and the Apple case that came with iPad upon release was just a piece of garbage. The corners on it were sharper than the ones on the iPad itself. It was like using your iPad through some sort of sick torture device.
The iPad 2 is a totally different animal. It feels like it belongs in your hands. It’s as though they designed it for you to actually hang on to it, which is a big step up from the first gen unit. The smart cover is just flat out superior to the Apple case for the first gen iPad. It’s actually useful and is stable. I have no problems folding it up and balancing the iPad in one position or another and the first gen Apple case was anything but stable. In fact, I’m considering just buying the back half of the invisible shield for iPad 2 when it’s released, because I don’t think I will need or want another cover, that’s how impressed I am with the smart cover.
I loaded on a few of the apps I’ve heard so much about. Friendly for Facebook and Twitter app for iPad were the first two iPad specific apps I put on and then I downloaded Flipboard, which has just completely changed how I get my news and information. All you other news apps can just eat your heart out, Flipboard blows the doors off of any news aggregator app I have played with to date and my God this thing is quick. The load times for apps is just staggeringly short compared to the first gen iPad. My husband watched as I flipped open apps and closed them and navigated my way through things and was just impressed by the speed increase. To me, the motion felt very natural, but I have to admit that I am a long time iOS user. It behaves precisely as I expect it to based on prior experience with iOS devices. We even ran speed tests on the two devices and the speed tests showed my iPad 2 doing things in half the time that it took the iPad to do them. That’s a really nice improvement on the previous gen device.
When I finished playing around with all of that stuff and got the iPad set up the way I wanted it, I called up my daughter on her iPod Touch using FaceTime. We do this from time to time across the house, just to play around with FaceTime and it’s a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the cameras on the iPad 2 are not all that awesome. I love that I have the camera at all though, especially since my husband has taken to calling me on FaceTime over his lunch break and I am lacking in some sort of cool stand for my iPhone 4 so that I can talk to him and bustle around the house at the same time.
Maybe a better camera is something that will come along with future iPads, like the retina display, which is already being rumored for iPad 3, but for right now, it’s not here. So for picture taking. I’ll stick with my iPhone 4 and Camera+.
I was a bit worried that the white border around the screen would distract me from watching video on my iPad, but it really doesn’t do that at all and the new speaker sounds good enough that I did not feel it necessary to get my headphones out of my bag so I could watch a show while I was alone in the room.
Everything else is the same as it was with the first gen iPad and while that may seem a bit lackluster for some, the first gen iPad remains exactly as Steve Jobs described it 11 months ago, magical. IPad is singlehandedly responsible for taking the floundering tablet market and turning its frown upside down. That sort of feat truly is nothing less than “magical”, especially in the midst of an economic downturn.
If you’re looking for a tablet in today’s market, there is nothing that compares with the iPad 2 in terms of capability, usability and price. Maybe something will come along later, RIM’s PlayBook looks very promising, but until they actually release the device to market, iPad really has no competitors to speak of and everything else is too expensive, encumbered by requiring you to sign up for a two year contract with a cellular service, just to get the device in the first place or it’s just a knock off of the iPad that will set you back significantly more than an iPad will.
Oh, and did I mention that I haven’t put it down yet?
To the Apple Store at Riverpark Square in Spokane, Washington: You were incredible. You did a great job at managing the line. You kept the sidewalk clear for passersby and you provided cold people with hot chocolate and bottled water to keep them going as they waited for you to prepare the store for their entrance. I never saw a single Apple Store employee treat anyone in the line with anything less than respect. Spokane’s local news media completely ignored the launch of iPad 2, but your excellent work did not go unnoticed by those of us that watched the line from the skywalk above the Apple Store, or by the people that actually stood in that line.