11 days after the US, it had arrived. The iPad 2, the long awaited successor to the iPad that promised to be thinner, lighter and faster. Sounds like the lyrics to an old Daft Punk track, but I have to admit I was intrigued.
I never got round to buying an iPad the first time round, mainly due to the fact I had a million other things to spend £500 on before buying something that didn’t really have a place in my life; but of course I didn’t know that it was a revolutionary device and there WASN’T anything like it available to compare it to.
Being that we are in the business of product reviews, we here at Review Centre love new gadgets, so when one of the team was heading over to the States, we purchased a company iPad. We used it as a monthly prize, the winner getting to keep it for a month. When this was announced, I got my competitive streak on and went for the win. I won. So, I took it home and started to browse around. It WAS like a big iPod touch, but that is not a bad thing, it had the same superb intuitive interface that anyone owning a device in this family will know. The more I used it for web browsing, recipe apps to help me cook something other than a jacket potato with cheese and beans, web site development (I design in Photoshop and build html, and testing on the iPad is a joy) the more I realised that it does have a place in my life, the spot between “this iPhone is too small for that task” and “I can’t be bothered to load the laptop up just for that”. It is for the smaller tasks, the quick access and immediate entertainment, the commuting space saver.
So, having experienced this device and started to ever so slightly lust after it, I made a decision not to buy it. It was several months in to its life, and I know that Apple are fairly consistent with their release schedule, so I decided to wait, wait for the fabled iPad 2; the device everybody seemed to know all the details, whether or not it would be a success and whether or not it would be any good.
March 2nd it was announced. iPad 2 was on its way. If there was ever going to be a new religion announced, Apple would certainly be up there as a serious contender. Never has I seen so much pure emotion attached to a company, or the products it produces, and that’s all they are, products. People love Apple, the brand, the logo, the quality design, the company seems to have an aura. But, the strange thing is, the people that don’t like apple, HATE apple; it would appear they hate Apple as much as the people who love it. How can a company generate that much emotion in people not to buy its products as people that would do anything to own them.
I’m not sure where I am, I’m still in the middle. I work on a pc, own a windows based laptop, but use an iPhone and iPod I would like a Macbook Pro, but I am unwilling to pay the price. However, my mind may be changed as my second dell is starting to test my patience.
So, the 25th of March arrived and it was announced the iPad would go on sale at 5pm. There were strict instructions not to sell it before, or even to disclose the price, as I was told in the Orange shop. I had done my research, and I knew the various stores near the office I could go to to attempt to get one on launch day. I hadn’t intended on going to the main event in the centre of London, but after hearing that the shop I had thought about going to had closed down, I checked online to see what Regent Street was looking like… 300 people in the line at 2pm. I had a quick word with my manager, and we quickly agreed it would be beneficial for me to go to Regent Street and get in the queue to attempt to pick up my new toy… for work you understand, so I could write a review on it, we are a review site after all.
I arrived about 3.30pm, and as I walked past the store, there were not many people there, I was confused. Then I was told to go round the corner. Another line of people… then another corner, and another and another. I finally made it to the back, in to position 390! “not bad” I thought to myself. So, the store was to open in an hour and a half. I got chatting to a nice chap called David, we both agree that flash is over rated and unnecessary, therefore iPad was a perfect device, as that is a key point people raise regarding iPad. Now, my first job was a flash designer, I created games, interactive kiosks, web site inserts, and I don’t miss it. It was buggy, looked untidy and was a fairly heavy CPU drain. The days of flash intros on websites has long gone, and when you can almost do most flash tasks with scripts such as Jquery it is more and more obsolete.
The line was well organised, really nice staff wandering up and down explaining what was happening, how many people were there, handing out bottled water, it was like being at a festival, with less space. Actually, thinking about it, probably about the same space when you get to the front. The staff explained that we should think about the version we wanted, wifi/3g etc., and they would come down the line handing out a ticket with that model on, and this would allow you entrance to the store. If you didn’t have a ticket, you wouldn’t get in to the store, this foiled one queue pushers plan to get to the front nicely, we all cheered. Once we made it to the front, a group of 14 of us were herded together (had to use a sheep joke there, for the anti-apple people reading) and as a group we entered the store, up the stairs (following a very strict path), round the balcony, round to the rear of the top floor of the store where we were individually assigned and Apple expert. They are, in my opinion, far too cheery. I was promptly taken to a terminal and asked if I wanted the cover or any accessories, I didn’t as I thought £40 was to much for a cover that doesn’t protect the back. I wanted a case, but wanted to shop around, so for now just the iPad please.
I paid £479 for a black wifi 32gb iPad, it was mine. The excitement set in, grinning as I looked down the stairs to where staff would cheer as an iPad customer left the store. I panicked, I am the sort of person who has bad luck and would get mugged as soon as i step out the store. So I put my iPad in my laptop bag and left quietly, safe in the knowledge that no potential thieves knew I had one.
When I finally got home (after a trip to china town for food) I unpackaged the device, and enjoyed every second of it. The thing you don’t get with other products is the experience, it gives you a sense of what it might be like to be very rich and afford expensive items. I have owned other brands of phone, and they felt like opening … a phone. My iPhone felt like opening something special, and this felt like I had elevated myself to a new level. All complete nonsense really, but I enjoy getting new stuff as much as the next person, so I wanted to savour every pound put in.
The iPad Is placed right on the top, edge to edge of the box so you are face to face immediately. I chose the black over whit for one main reason. While talking to David in the queue, he asked what colour I wanted, and I said I was unsure. He said black, obviously, as you want to watch films and TV on it, you don’t want a white border. And he was right, the black edging looks awesome, like the screen of a MacBook pro.
I lifted it out, and it felt like pure quality. It was weighted perfectly, just right, and the curved edge made it sit comfortably in your hand. A quick press of the on button gave the familiar “plug me in to iTunes” graphic, so I did as I was commanded. It fired up and I went through the iTunes set up, making sure to check for updates, then adding a selection of my TV series, a few movies, some apps, and some books. I had already downloaded iMovie and Garage Band in anticipation, so they were loaded up and I was good to go.
You still hear people say from time to time, that “…it is just a big iPod…” and to a certain extent they are right. The same can be said for the iPhone, “…it’s just an iPod with a phone…”, but, does that make it any less valid? No. It’s a good thing. It has been well adapted for the extra screen real estate, as it had a plethora of extra visuals. When browsing the iTunes library, the introduction of a left navigation to change between media types allows faster browsing. The presentation of various films on the device is beautiful, laying them out, then once clicked, giving you the film information, run time, cover etc., very stylish.
Setting up email is as simple as ever, and the mail browser is very effective, with an email list and email preview pane.
The addition of 2 cameras is very welcome, although I am not a Facetime user. I am and have been for a long time in the Skype camp, as you can call any device with Skype over any connection, including 3g, as opposed to Facetime allowing iPhone/iPad/mac/iPod over wifi. But it works very well, I called my friend in Nebraska and had a chat with his massive face on the iPad clear as day. It was certainly a new experience, as I felt the iPhone was too small to really enjoy video calls, and then using a pc/laptop you are pretty much rooted to where you are sitting. With the iPad I wandered outside to show him the new car I had on the drive, the to the kitchen to make a coffee, all while chatting. Bang, communication just got better. Much better.
Garage Band. Thanks Apple, its awesome. I love the Mac version,so easy for a new musician to start making music. I started playing guitar in 2008 and am getting to be pretty good, so being able to record my guitar, use the drums to make loops, add some keyboard all on a small device with a big screen is great. All for £3. I spent more on a pint!
Due to me being a previous purchaser of Apples iMovie on my iPhone, I was entitled to download the iPad version for FREE! Like. It doesn’t seem like a huge saving, £3, but they didn’t have to do that, as others such as Amplitube, Angry Birds and others all charge again for iPad versions. Angry Birds is annoying, as the game is identical, as iPhone and iPad have similar resolutions due to iPhones retina display.
I don’t want to go through all the apps I use on it, but I want to name a few, such as Flipboard, an app that amalgamates all your social media feeds and displays them as a magazine… it is superb, like reading a magazine focusing about things in your life. Superb.
I also like the Guardian Eye Witness app, a selection of photographs from the news and current events that highlight the technique the photographer used to take the snap.
So, as you probably see, I am very happy with my new toy; it is a smooth, polished and well presented product, and although not a million miles from the first one (upgrading would be a personal choice) it is certainly enough to make a first time buyer get involved. And maybe, just maybe Apple will be able to convert one more user to its Macbook Pro camp, but for now, I need to start saving again…