by Anton Shilov
03/03/2011 | 07:08 PM
The Apple iPad 2 does impress with its much better performance, thinner form-factor and similar price compared to the first-gen tablet from Apple. But the second-generation slate from the company lacks radical improvements. It does not offer a package of features that will inevitably be available on competing devices and eventually on the iPad 3.
The second-generation Apple iPad is definitely a device that is full of compromises. This is hardly something surprising. Firstly, Apple iPad is a product that Apple has been selling at below the company's usual profit margins in order to gain ground on the market it believes in. Secondly, Apple iPad is the first media tablet that became astonishingly successful and its maker needs to maintain the lead to make the successor not only bigger, but overwhelmingly bigger; thus, Apple needs to maintain the price-points, improve user experience, boost performance, enable new applications, but avoid costly innovative features. This is what was exactly done with the iPad 2. Unfortunately, not only the innovations disappeared from the final device, but Apple decided to cut even low-cost features that would have made the life of a typical user more comfortable.
Just like the predecessor, Apple iPad 2 lacks high-definition video screen, a must have feature nowadays. Not only a high-resolution display allows to watch high-def videos and show more information on the screen, but it also enables applications that are visually better and more appealing, something that apple needs to combat Google Android platform. Those people, who use iPad for professional purposes would naturally appreciate higher resolution screen as it would easily transform into better productivity. Still, since Apple considers iPad mostly an entertainment device and does not sell 720p videos, it may not be interested in an HD screen for its tablet just now. The iPad 3 may fix this.
Although after years of hesitation Apple finally integrated Secure Digital card readers into its laptops, for some reason it decided to leave the iPad 2 without an SD card slot, just like it did with the predecessor. The motives of Apple are not exactly clear: at present it is impossible to quickly and easily transfer photos, documents and media files to the slate due to the lack of any removable storage. Following its competitors, Apple may build an SD reader into the third-generation iPad.
Another thing that the iPad 2 did not get is support for USB. At present installation of USB 3.0 requires an additional chip, which is, given the form-factor, an issue; but the USB 2.0 could have been integrated into any controller within the new iPad without any problems. Still, Apple decided against supporting the industrial standard with the iPad 2. Perhaps, the iPad 3 can fix the issue with USB 3.0 support?
While the iPad 2 addressed a major issue of the first-generation model - the lack of cameras - it does not seem that the current cam configuration is truly up-to-date. The front-facing camera has VGA (640x480) resolution, which is not enough for normal video conferencing via Skype or other applications. Nothing is known about the rear camera except the fact that it can capture 720p video, not an earth-shaking feature. So, while the second generation iPad got cameras, they could have been better.
Despite of the fact that Apple installed a dual-core ARM-based A5 system-on-chip (SoC) into the iPad 2, it does not look like the iOS 4.3 supports proper multitasking. At present it is impossible to upload/convert a video, listen to an Internet radio, monitor a news-feed or Twitter and browse the Internet on the iPad. It does not seem that at least initially the iPad 2 will allow the "true" multitasking", but will simply allow to run more tasks in the background (as many as memory allows). Perhaps, Apple just need to position its iPad as a commercial or business device (if is not developing an iPad Pro) in order to add certain features, or just implement them into the next-gen product.
Just like the original iPad, its successor does not support Adobe Flash, which means that the device will not be able to display certain Internet pages and therefore provide "full" Web experience. Many live feeds today are still based on Flash and will be unavailable even on the iPad 2. Support for flash is not something that requires creation of iPod 3, but is something that could be enabled on this one without many problems.
According to some analysts, who dissected Motorola Xoom tablet, it will easy for the company to add support for 4G/LTE [long term evolution] networks into the slate going forward. Given the fact that Apple was the first company to introduce a successful media tablet and basically set the fashion for design and functionality of appropriate devices, the firm was the first candidate to integrate the next-gen connectivity. Unfortunately, Apple decided not to implement the 4G/LTE support into the iPad 2, although the technology is definitely gaining ground. The move is generally understandable, though, as the firm wanted to continue selling the iPad 2 at the price-points of the original iPad and make the device a tad smaller and lighter. As a result, integration of an expensive baseband solution could ruin the plan.
Tactical decisions of Apple when it comes to the design of the iPad 2 are completely clear and so are the preconditions. Functionality and usability of many devices is no longer determined by the built-in hardware features, but the innovation of the software. Apple has invested into new programs for the new device and also increased processing capability by the factor of two and graphics processing capability by the factor of nine. Indisputably, this is going to enable new programs for the platform (the question is whether it will be backwards compatible) that promise to offer all-embracing functionality.
In spite of the pretty obvious drawbacks, the success of the iPad 2 will not only repeat that of the original device, but will likely exceed that substantially. The owners of the first-generation iPad and other media tablets should not speed up with the transition to the iPad 2. Even though it is much more powerful and will definitely enable astonishing software, it is certainly not a new revolution. The Apple iPad 3 will be. Maybe.