When last night’s Apple-imposed embargo on iPad 2 reviews lifted, all the lucky folk to whom the company provided pre-release units posted their reviews. I read Jason Snell’s at Macworld, and John Gruber’s at Daring Fireball to start.
Again and again, I was struck by one interesting observation. Nothing in these reviews will shock or surprise you. You could have written an exceedingly accurate iPad 2 review based solely on the Steve Jobs-led Apple media event where the device was initially unveiled.
Don’t get me wrong: These were excellently-crafted reviews, full of thoughtful analysis and drawing cogent conclusions. But the meat of the reviews-what Jason and John reported, that is—was exactly what you’d expect if you saw (and were wowed by) the iPad 2’s unveiling. In other words, the iPad 2 celebrated by Apple at its press and PR event matches pretty precisely the iPad 2 in the hand of consumers, or at least reviewers. (Too often at PR events, the goods on display pale in comparison when reviewers and customers actually get their hands on them.)
If you trust Snell and Gruber—and if you don’t, shame on you—the iPad 2 is like the original iPad, only better in all the expected ways: the new form factor is better, the performance is better, the Apple-made case is better, and nothing is worse.
This is, of course, a massive achievement for Apple. To create the iPad’s sequel and have it meet (faster, thinner, bicameral) or exceed (Smart Case) expectations is quite impressive.
Both Jason and John made similar points in their conclusions. If you already own an iPad, you don’t need the iPad 2; your original device remains excellent, and the new model is an iterative improvement, not a wholesale revolution. If you held off to let others work out the kinks (there were none), now’s the time to buy, they write.
If you don’t have an iPad, and you want one, now’s the time to get one. If your first goal is to save money, buy one of the original iPads before Apple’s stock runs out. If your first goal is to get the best iPad money can currently buy, then obviously, you should get the new one.
Apple’s done a great job of convincing people that they want or need the iPad—that’s why the company’s sold millions of the original version. But I still encounter many people who say that they don’t see the need for the iPad, or that they simply don’t want one. They have their laptops (often but not always a MacBook Air), and they have iPhones or iPods touch, and they don’t see the place for a third device in their lives.
I understand that position.
I love my iPad, and I’m thrilled that within a few days I’ll have my hands on an iPad 2. But both before my iPad arrived a year ago, and for weeks afterwards, I wondered exactly where it fit in my computing lifestyle.
For work, I need a Mac. No question; I need multiple windows visible at a time, a real keyboard, and keyboard shortcuts. When I’m out, I rely on the iPhone to stay connected; it fits in my pocket and has the apps I need.
The iPad has evolved to become my “play” computer—not specifically for games, but for non-work computing. I prefer to browse the web, RSS, and Twitter from my iPad, vs. from my dekstop. When I’m writing pieces that don’t require much simultaneous web research (like this one), the iPad’s a great writing environment. It’s also a great travel computer; it’s super light, and it offers enough functionality to get everything done, even if some tasks feel far less efficient than they would on a Mac.
Browsing the web on an iPhone often feels a bit frustrating; it’s great for what it is, but what it is is a cramped window on the web. The iPad is an awesome web browser—except for its lack of tabs, and “open this link in a new tab/window behind the current one.” But it’s much more enjoyable to surf the web on the iPad than on my Mac, even though the Mac offers far more powerful tools for doing so.
In my life, then, the iPad is quite clearly a luxury item. It’s a non-necessary but entirely delightful device that I don’t always use all day, but that I always enjoy the act of using.
Apple could get more potential customers to see the usefulness of—and pleasure derived from—the iPad as a third device and sell more. I imagine that as the iPad evolves, it will follow a path much like the iPhone’s. Further iterations on its form won’t be overly significant, but a much better screen is surely in its future. Perhaps one day Apple will integrate elements of its cases into an iPad itself; cameras will surely improve, and the thing will only get faster. But where Apple will best be able to convince folks that the iPad is a worthy third device—or in rarer cases, an acceptable second device that can replace a laptop all together—will be on the OS side.
I’ll always be excited about future iPad releases. But I’ll always be more excited about future iOS releases.
Where Apple still has work to do—if it wants to, it clearly doesn’t need to—is convincing more folks that the iPad’s a useful third device.