The “iPad” review – which one to buy or should you upgrade?

In case you are here and you don’t know me. Let me do the honors – I am a gadget lover who for the time being is a huge apple fanboy. I did get all the 3 generation of the iPads on the 1st day of release and am an avid user o the device.And, if you are contemplating buying the iPad and haven’t made up your mind on which one or upgrading from the older model to the new one, you are at the right place.

In this post,  I will give you my take on which generation iPad you should buy since all of them are in the market starting from as low as $250 for the 1st generation device. Since there are active users of all the 3 generation  of the device in my household, I thought I can potentially provide my unique perspective 🙂

Generally, I don’t concentrate on the technical review since there are people out there who are doing this for a living. If you are interested, my favorite  website theverge.com has a great tool for a comparison of the 3 iPads. Also, here is the review of the “new” iPad.

No, I don’t do that. What I will do is to provide you a usability review of all the 3 devices. Some retailers and even Apple is still selling all the 3 generations of the iPad (new and refurbished). So which one do I recommend? All of them !!! And depends … Read on….

The first thing is to understand the reason about the huge success of the iPad. Yes, part of it is the design and the hardware. It’s cool. But believe me, with all of them having an aluminum unibody design, they all look equally cool. At the end of the day, the real reason for the success of iPad is the iOS, the apple ecosystem and the apps !!! It’s all about the apps. And iPad currently has the most number of tablet optimized apps when compared to any other platform. Way more …. There IS an app for that…

So, the second thing to understand is the fact that the iOS and 80% of the apps still works fine on all the 3 gens of the iPads. So based on how far you want to push your device, you can do fine with even an iPad 1 :). Click on the following matrix to see what’s possible on each of the devices:

User experience Matrix for the 3 iPads

User experience Matrix for the 3 iPads

So as you can see, based on what you want to do with the device, all 3 devices can do the job for you. So, if you are looking to buy a new device or deciding on an upgrade, click on the following summary matrix to help you make that decision:

Comparison b/w the 3 iPads

Ipad 2: The hands on review !!!

Last friday evening, after rushing to the nearest apple store after office and standing in line for couple of hours, I had in my hand – Ipad 2. The new king of tablets !!! Or is it? You will find out at the end of this blog post 🙂

Hardware:

I am not going to go too deep into the specs of this cool device, since my favorite site Engadget has done the needful. Here is an article that compares the iPad 2’s hardware with its competitors. As you can see, the Motorola Xoom probably edges out the ipad 2 in specs. But I Have fallen for the hardware before and know from experience that its NOT a fair indicator of the ultimate device experience.

In terms of design iPad2 leaves everybody behind. Its amazingly cool looking and sleek (I still can’t believe how thin it is) and more importantly, the lightest. I have handled the Motorola Xoom and believe me, you will immediately notice how thick and bulky it is (Walk into a Verizon store and try it yourself). I think thats a big Pro for iPad in terms of usability. Also, in terms of speed, I think iPad 2 will leave everybody behind. The synergy of its own SW and HW is what Apple thrives on and iPad 2 is fast. Real Fast. I compared it with my old iPad and for same operations in some apps, the iPad2 was almost 2x to 3x times faster. Of course, other more credible people also agree. Also, the battery life lives up to its legendary 10 hours.

Also, the hdmi mirroring, “smart covers” and advanced airplay are some real cool features included with the ipad 2.

However, I was disappointed with the camera quality on the iPad 2. I think there is just one purpose for those on the iPad 2 – video chatting (which was of pretty good quality when I tried Facetime).  Otherwise, the videos that I took were of OK quality.

Software:

Again, I am not going to go too deep into the iOS features. I am assuming that you have used the iPhone or the old iPad. If not, you are missing out. Again, its all about the apps. As I recently tweeted, the iPad has over 70,000 apps written specifically for it. Android 3.0 has probably 50 and the rest of the competition is not even out with their products. Thats a HUGE advantage for the iPad.

The iPad 2 has dual core processors. Many of the apps available right now for iPad are designed to utilize the old hardware and are not designed to use the new power of iPad2. However, some of the games that have come out (e.g. Infinity Blade) are amazing to play on the ipad2. And the fact that its sleeker and lighter makes the gaming experience much better.

One cool app that Apple released is GarageBand. Though this works on the old iPad, its blazingly faster on iPad 2. What it does is that it allows you to record songs with 8 separate tracks and provides amazing tools for creating those tracks. Here is apple’s page for Garage Band.  iMovie is another great app.

Take a look at the guided tours of the cool features that iPad 2 provides.

Of course, the flaw of iPad 2 and the only advantage that its competition touts is Adobe Flash support. Motorola Xoom just recently got its Flash Player and that’s one thing that will work in its advantage. However, don’t get too excited, most of the Flash content out there is not very touch interface friendly yet and don’t make up for the lack of targeted apps.

Bottomline:

I do think that the iPad2 is the coolest gadget out there. There may be tablets out there that have a better hardware specs, but nobody has its complete story together like Apple. Android is in the best position to catch up, but I don’t see that happening for atleast another 2 years.

If you are in the market for a new tablet, iPad 2 is the definitive choice in my opinion. The hardware is almost the same with most of the competition out there. The better design and the apps advantage makes it a no brainer.

If you have an ipad 1 and thinking of upgrading, you may want to wait. The cameras are not that great however the extra speed does matter. And as happened with iphone 3GS and iphone 4, most of the new apps coming out may be optimized for ipad 2 or may exclusively work on the ipad 2. However, when that happens, you can get it.  So I think that you can wait unless you have the extra dough 🙂

I had different reasons for upgrading. I had deliberately bought the lowest model of iPad 1 just because I knew I was going to upgrade to higher model. And I just won an extra 1 in a raffle that I was able to sell 🙂 And of course, the main reason is:

Now no more fights over iPad. Each of us has his own 🙂

iPad 2: Final Predictions

Here are my top predictions for the iPad2 event tomorrow:

Hardware:

Front facing camera 1.2 Mp
Rear Camera 5 Mp
512 Mb RAM
Faster processor (A5?)
Screen with 2x pixel density
Bigger speaker
Thunderbolt?
128 Gb version
CDMA version
Lighter and Thinner
Starting at $399

Software:

Photo Booth
IMovie
FaceTime
Widgets / Dashboard
Kill all apps button
MobileMe for free

Now, let’s wait till tomorrow to see how this stacks up against reality.

iPad 2: Predictions

The net is again abuzz about the next iPad and the potential features it will have. I am not going to join the crowd with predictions about the hardware because a lot of it is given – slimmer, lighter, dual camera, faster, NFC etc. Etc.

No. This is a different type of prediction. It has nothing to do with the hardware at all. After, my recent experience with 2 high feature android devices, I reached a simple conclusion – it’s NOT about the hardware, it’s all about the Software and the software ecosystem.

With Apple just announcing the download of its 10 billionth app and the recent change in terms about subscription (Apple keeps 30% cut of all app revenues), the logical thing for apple to do would be to maximize the volume of iPads sold. The more iPads out there in hands of the customers, the more leverage apple has with content providers, publishers and app developers.

So, here is my prediction – The app store will be a huge revenue generator for apple. So much so that it will subsidize the pricing of the hardware (As is done by the game console makers). When the next iPad is announced, the starting model will cost $399 or maybe even $350. Now let’s wait and see.

Consumer driven innovation: What a wonderful world …

As I look at personal technology in the past decade or less, something jumped out at me and most probably you see it also. The rate at which technology is evolving is phenomenal and simply amazing. We live in wonderful times. However, its usually a general feeling that I am sure we all have, but here I tried to sit down and kind of analyze it from my personal perspective. In this blog I will look at the following tech areas that in my mind has amazed me to no ends: TVs, gaming, smart phones and tablets.

As you will see, each of these areas have had accelerated innovation due to the consumers and we should kind of feel proud to be part of the generation thats driving this revolution and probably the ones that started it.

I will start with my personal experience with TVs. I decided to purchase a flat screen TV 4 years back. At the time, I had to choose between plasma and LCD and after doing my research, I found plasma to better suit my needs and I got that. 4 years later, I am trying to get a second TV for my home theater and when I looked, the choices have completely changed – LCD, LED, OLED, 3D, HD, Smart TV, Google TV…. Are you kidding me???? It s just been 4 years !!!!! It took 55-60 years for the industry to move from commercial CRT TV to LCD and another 15 years for LCD TVs to get mainstream. And now we have moved on to 3-4 completely different tech in 4 years???? Wow!!!!

The CRT TV - a monument. This is what my 1st TV looked like. Wikipedia already talks about the demise of CRT in 2000.

This is probably what my next TV is going to look like. 0.11 inch thick !!!

Next up, Gaming. I fondly remember my first video game.

My first video game

It was a small Nintendo hand held with Mickey Mouse trying to put out the fire. It had a small keypad to control the game. And the video game parlors I went to (Wonderland in Patna) had big games with similar controllers. Next came the generation of ATari games with the same type of controller, and for next 20-25 years, the controllers with direction pad and action keys stuck on all leading game consoles including the PS2s, DS, PSPs XBoxs and PS3.

But then came the iphone and the Wii, the game changers – literally. iPhone allowed you to control the game by tilting your phone and Wii had wireless controllers that let you more realistically interact with the game. I was planning to buy the Wii and I kept putting it off. Now, after a year, when I finally made the decision to buy a gaming console, voila – I have 3 choices – Wii, PS3 Move and XBox Kinect !!!!! Are you kidding me ? With no changes for almost 30 years, we go from a keypad to motion based to wireless controllers to NO controllers in 3-4 years????? Wow !!!!!!

Modern Day Game
Controllers – Wireless and controller less !!!

Next, the cellphones/smartphones. If you have read my blog, you know I was an early adapter and I got an HP ipaq, the smart without the phone, 6 years back. I was probably the only one in the office with that class of device. I then got the HTC 8525 phone and again I was one of the few with a smartphone in my circle. Then,came iPhone and rest as they say is History. 4 years after it’s launch, iPhone is one of the many many smart phones that’s available in the market and almost everyone I know has a smartphone. That was fast !!!!!

1st Cell Phone

iPhone4

Lastly, the Tablets. For almost 35 years, a few tablet PCs were released in the commercial market without much fanfare and all of them died a slow death. And then came the phenomenon called the iPad. A year after it’s launch, there will probably be 50 models of tablet computers that will available in the market with the cheapest one costing you $100 !!!!! 50 models ???? In 1 year??? You have to have to be kidding me.

Capt. Picard using the PADD in Star Trek: TNG , predicted
to happen in the 24th century
My son
with the iPad, the day it was launched in April, 2010.

And I am pretty sure, similar stories can be told about various techs (e.g CPUs & memory – remember 15 MHz and 500 MB hard disks? Cameras etc). So what happened ? We happened. In the 1960s and therein, most of the innovations that happened in the tech industry had to be funded by the government, mostly in the defense lab. There was never a consumer base big enough which would adapt to a new technology and thus it never made fiscal sense to innovate in the consumer space. Defense was where the money was and most of the tech developed there became the Country’s strategic asset and took a long time to reach the consumers.

Contrast this to today where the consumer base has evolved to such an extent that a relatively new technology like an iPad sold more than 10 million units in less than 1 year !!! 10 Million early adopters??? We have come a long way and in all the examples above, it was the success of the products (LCDs or Wii or iphone or iPad) among consumers that drove the innovation and is going to be the driver for future. Of course, the advancement in hardware technologies plays a big part, but at the end of the day, its the consumers who are driving that too.

So expect great things to emerge in near future and be thankful for this Wonderful World for the gadget lovers …..