Here’s the simple truth about the iPad 2: there is nothing else like it. Maybe it won’t make you feel the way it makes me feel. Maybe it won’t replace your laptop. Maybe it could be even thinner and lighter and faster. But there is nothing else like it.
Frankly, the iPad is still the only tablet that really matters. It’s the only tablet designed by and for human beings. It’s strange to call it a tablet, almost, because that makes it sound weirdly cold, distant and impersonal (or medicinal, even), when it is the opposite of those things: It is perhaps the most deeply personal computer that exists, after smartphones. This is the tablet every other tablet is trying so hard to be, or at least be like. Maybe each one has its own thing – the Xoom is very good at Gmail! – but they all exist, right now, because this does.
It only took 30 seconds. I had this jolt. Then I was profoundly sad.
The iPad 2 is not quite impossibly thin, but it is improbably so. And while the first iPad was fast enough, I guess, it was not quick. This is. Everything is faster, every response, every action – every app explodes to life with newfound zippiness. Switching back and forth between them is nimbler and more seamless, more like it should be – thanks to the extra memory, apps aren’t mercilessly killed in the background, needing to be constantly re-vivified.
The sadness comes from realising that no, there’s not even anything close to it. Shaving 77g off the first iPad’s weight doesn’t sound like much on paper, but the difference is striking. The 0.7kg Xoom feels leaden by comparison – the interplay between dimensions, proportions and weight works as much against the Xoom as it does for the iPad. But I still want the iPad to be lighter. (It’s already crystalline how bloated and clumsy today’s tablets are going to feel in a couple years.)
There’s this weird contingent of neck-bearded people who think that software that is easy to use is necessarily bad and for retards. They are ridiculous. Even while iOS has its limits – multitasking isn’t quite as brisk as Android 3.0, or as neatly devised as the upcoming Palm TouchPad’s looks – it remains the only software for existing tablets that’s genuinely intuitive and pleasant to use, through and through. (At least until you smack into something it can’t do.) Point being, when I’m done doing things at the end of the day on a laptop, I’d much rather use an iPad 2 than a Xoom, whose software feels disjointed, incomplete and, for lack of a better word, heavy. Which is meaningful, I think.
And while the iPad is not very good yet at things like programming or creating office documents, it does have the marvellous ability to more or less melt away and become whatever developers make out of it, which is exactly why Apple made GarageBand and iMovie. That’s the real difference between it and every other tablet thing out there: The iPad has the software to allow it to do and become these things, whether it’s a guitar or a cookbook or a marvellous-looking magazine, and these other tablet things do not. Not yet.
As predicted, I don’t think I’ll ever use FaceTime on the iPad again after this week. It’s never not awkward, one way or another.
Basically everything that was good about the iPad is better. Except for the screen (which is better than before, but not higher res). At the risk of overstating it, the extra speed is non-trivial-it isn’t simply a matter of apps loading faster or performing better in the abstract, but the basically instant response and speed of action lends an air of verisimilitude to everything you do.
That’s really the story here: It’s the iPad, but faster, lighter, thinner. Which isn’t very much of a story, in some ways. But when you use it, it’s pretty huge.
Basically everything that was bad about the iPad – still is. It seems terribly silly and antediluvian that the iPad, this beacon of the post-PC world, is still so tightly tethered to the PC. Syncing it to your computer is still the very first thing you must do after ripping an iPad out of the box. Not very magical! For all of its other un-humanlike qualities, Android at least has this right where the iPad does not. This is kind of the core problem with iOS in general – as much as AirPlay alleviates the feeling that the iPad is a silo of computing tranquility, it still doesn’t feel holistically connected, which has the pernicious effect occasionally of bursting the pleasant computing bubble you’re in, landing you back on the earth with a resounding thud. I’ve got no problem with only having 16GB of space – but I want to really live in the cloud then, damn it.
And while switching between apps feels faster than ever, notifications are still user-hostile. They literally accost you, pulling you out of whatever you’re doing. They’re not just bad, they’re basically a dick move, every single time. The cameras are really terrible. Almost unbelievably so. And I really wish this screen – which is better than the first iPad’s in terms of viewing angle – didn’t look so last-gen next to the iPhone 4. Which you could argue is fine, except that whenever the limits of technology rear their head in a device that is otherwise nearly otherworldly in its ability to be special, they really hurt, like if you found a screw in your favourite cookie or something.
Of course you should buy this. Unless you want a machine mostly to do things that require a lot of typing or creating things like Excel charts or Photoshopping. (Then you don’t want a tablet at all.) Or unless you hate Apple. But everybody else who thinks they want a very personal computer? Yes. Go for black. Original iPad owners, too.