A few thoughts on the new iPad

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 23, 2012, 5:22 PM | comments: 0

When they announced the new iPad, I was completely indifferent about it, but a combination of things compelled me to upgrade. One: Amazon was willing to give me hundreds of dollars for my old one. Two: The Verizon 4G version can do hotspots, without contracts, which has enormous appeal to me with the travel in our future. Three: I'm learning very quickly now that I have to test all of my crap on this new high resolution display (annoying). None of those things individually would have made me think about it, especially considering how infrequently we used the old one, but I suppose it wasn't getting more valuable.

With no sense of urgency, I ordered online, with a three week ship date. Then it became obvious that you could get them in stores with their online ordering and in-person pickup. So I cancelled the online order and ordered one from the Apple Store in Akron for pickup.

The marketing push seems to be about the high resolution display, and sure enough I can see a difference. I'm not convinced that most consumers would notice (watching "DVD's in HD on their HDTV's" and what not), but text is so incredibly crisp. The Kindle app shows text as sharp as an e-ink Kindle, though I'm not sure if back-lit LCD reading is tolerable for long periods of time. Any app that renders stuff with vector graphics looks good, and many have already been upgraded to take advantage of the new screen. Anything that was mostly text, like Facebook or Twitter, looks better.

That said, the screen is also a huge liability. For apps that haven't been updated, you can get a weird mix of results. The Weather Channel app shows sharp text with "jaggie" graphics. The maps in particular are hideous. The Wired magazine app borders on unreadable, because whatever they do to render text, it ain't native. Web browsing benefits from the best text you've ever seen on a Web page, but suffers from soft and fuzzy graphics that have been up-sized for the screen. I don't have to tell you that crappy Web video won't magically be better either.

In terms of faster CPU and other improved specs, I don't notice any difference. The in-memory caching on the Web browser does seem bigger though, as I would often have tabs reload after a few were opened, particularly while using Google Reader. That makes sense, if it does in fact have more memory.

The camera might have been upgraded, but it's still terrible. It's super noisy. Ditto for video. Plus, you look stupid holding up an iPad to take a picture, so don't do it.

I haven't fired up the 4G LTE service yet, but I don't even know if it's available where I live. Again, the incentive for that was more for travel.

Overall, if you have an iPad 2, and you don't want to upgrade for more storage or cellular capability, I wouldn't upgrade. The screen resolution alone isn't worth it, and like I said, it seems to hurt as much as it helps. If buy-back programs continue to offer top dollars, it kind of makes sense, if your threshold for depreciation is in the $150-250 range. (I think I "lost" $175 in the upgrade, which isn't that bad for what amounts to one year of depreciation.)

I know I sound like a hater a lot of the time when it comes to iPads, but I'm not. The utility for me is limited because it's largely a consumption device, and I'm more of a creator. It has actually been extremely valuable for testing out mobile UI stuff. I totally get why it's popular.

I also think that iOS just hasn't evolved much. Yes, I was dazzled by the Windows Phone experience, and it changed my expectations. For consumption activities, app-hopping seems inefficient, and that's what iOS is. I mean, I had to put my AppleID in like six different places! I'm really looking forward to Windows 8 tablets later this year, and I hope someone has the industrial design to make a sweet machine.


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