iPad experience: One week with the iPad 2 removes all my doubts

Summary:I have now spent a week with my 64GB AT&T 3G iPad and am convinced this was the right purchase for me and I cannot put it down.

It has now been one week with my iPad 2, it took some effort to acquire, and even though the model I bought is much more than I planned to buy I have no intention of returning it while I still have one week left in the return period. The Apple iPad 2 is a fantastic tablet due to its hardware, user experience, ecosystem, available applications (check out my favorite iPad apps screenshot gallery) and price.


Image Gallery: Check out screenshots from some of my favorite iPad 2 applications.
Image Gallery: MLS 2011 MatchDay
Image Gallery: PhotoBooth

Hardware

I pre-ordered the original iPad last year and enjoyed using it for several months. Even though I ended up selling it to my brother a couple of months ago (yes, he knew that a new one was coming) I always thought the hardware was simply fantastic. The metal and glass combination felt amazing in your hand and was one of the best constructed devices I have ever owned. It felt expensive and we see now as others try to enter the tablet space that Apple is actually very price competitive with their tablets.

The Apple iPad 2 is an even better piece of hardware with a redesigned back and sides that give it the feeling it is thinner and much more ergonomic. The original iPad was a bit sharp around the edges and the iPad 2 feels so much more comfortable to hold. I also actually like the white model I purchased and it does a great job of hiding any fingerprints that might be present around the bezel. I also don't find it detracting much from the viewability of the display and have no regrets about purchasing the white model.

After seeing the Apple iPad 2 announcement I thought the Smart Cover was simply a gimmick to sell more accessories. I was wrong, the Smart Cover is one of the coolest things about the new iPad 2. Like many things from Apple, it "just works" and having it act like a BlackBerry holster with automatic screen on and off is slick. I bought a green one at Best Buy because I wanted one to use while my orange one was enroute from Apple and will have to decide this weekend which one I am sticking with. Like the original Apple iPad case, the Smart Cover is both functional and yet simple. I look forward to seeing other manufacturers offer magnetic case options too.

I sold my original iPad because I found my seven inch display Samsung Galaxy Tab to be a more portable and thus more useful device. However, after using the iPad 2 3G for a week I am likely going to sell my SGT soon because I am finding that the iPad 2 with AT&T 3G is now going everywhere with me and the larger display is much better for me with the apps I have now loaded up. While the display is big, after using the SGT I find the fonts on the iPad 2 to be a bit too pixelated while photos and video still do look fantastic. My hope for the next iPad is definitely an improvement in display resolution.

The inclusion of a camera now has me and my family using Facetime while I travel and it is a fun experience. As I will mention later, Photo Booth is also now a family favorite for a good hearty laugh. I haven't used my iPad 2 to record video on the go and am not convinced that a 9.7 inch viewfinder is needed on any camera.

I also wasn't convinced I really needed a 64GB model, but after just a week I see that my iPad 2 59.15 GB capacity currently shows 39.2 GB free. iTunes shows I have 7.2 GB in apps, 1 GB in photos, 10.5 GB in video, 1.01 GB in audio, 0.05 GB in books, and 0.51 GB in other. I haven't loaded up the iPad 2 with lots of music and have a reasonable number of apps with plans to try out more. I think 32GB would have been adequate for me, but like most mobile devices I am likely to fill up the memory over time.

User experience

While it still seems unnecessary that you have to first connect to iTunes to start using an iPad, after that initial connection I only connect to transfer over screenshots I capture. I get and update applications, use email, Twitter, and Facebook, download podcasts, and much more all without connecting to a computer.

The iPad is easy to understand and use, while also offering some customization. I have custom wallpaper and lock screens, a main display full of folders, and a bottom launch bar filled with my own favorite application shortcuts. Multi-tasking works well on the iPad 2 and with the double RAM I have yet to experience any sort of freeze or lockup of the device.

The battery life is still absolutely fantastic and the device just goes and goes. I wasn't sure 3G was necessary, but I find I am in 3G areas more than WiFi areas and went through 300 MB of data in a week using my 3G connection. I am surprisingly seeing just over 1 Mbps up and down over the AT&T connection here in Ketchikan, Alaska where I have been roaming on EDGE with my T-Mobile SIM over the last year while traveling.

I have not experienced any random resets, application crashes, device freeze ups, or anything else in the week I have had the iPad 2 and it all has just been working smoothly so far. Apple does a fantastic job with user experiences and IMHO the iPad 2 is their best demonstration of that with an amazing piece of hardware and a touch-focused user interface that offers an engaging personal experience.

Ecosystem, applications, and price »

Ecosystem

I do not personally buy music from iTunes and prefer using either my Zune Pass on WP7 or the Amazon MP3 service. However, I do use iTunes for podcasts, video content (movies and TV shows), and applications. The iTunes ecosystem and ease of use with the iPad is a huge seller, IMHO. While I have multiple ways to get movies, I find the ease of discovery and download of movies to rent and the reasonable price (usually $3.99 for the iPad) to win out every time. Movies also look great on a 9.7 inch display while on the plane or even in a hotel room. I am not even plugged into the whole Apple home integration with AirPlay and the Apple TV that I understand shows even better how a complete ecosystem is worth considering an Apple iPad.

Applications

According to Apple, there are now over 65,000 iPad apps in the App Store. The applications, and associated services for some of these apps, has me convinced the iPad 2 is made much more useful for me than my Samsung Galaxy Tab. As you can see in my application screenshot gallery I love having applications that let me follow March Madness and the full Major League Soccer season, including live video coverage of complete games. You don't see applications this full featured and complete on ANY other mobile platform and this is one area where even Android has some major work ahead of them.

I know you can watch some television content on Android devices through some apps and the browser thanks to Flash support, I still find the ease of watching Modern Family in the ABC Player on the iPad to be a superior experience. I also have Netflix, my Slingbox and SlingPlayer application, and Hulu+ to watch other video content on the go so there is no shortage of video content on the iPad 2.

My other favorite applications on my iPad 2 include Quickoffice (my favorite Office app just added the ability to print to PDF from an iPad!), USAA (I can easily manage my finances and pay bills right from the iPad 2), OliveTree BibleReader (a tablet even Moses would be proud of), Evernote, Twitterific, Words With Friends (I am palmsolo if you wish to play), Infinity Blade, Plants vs Zombies, and the slick Apple applications.

I have a folder on my iPad 2 labeled Apple Fun that includes Photo Booth, iMovie, and GarageBand. My family discovered Photo Booth on my iPad one evening and I haven't heard gut-busting laughter like that for years. They thought it was the most fun you could have with a device and couldn't stop making faces and taking shots. This exposure on the iPad 2 then had them popping over to my 5-year old MacBook Pro to try it out on that device too. Even though it has been on the MacBook Pro all this time, it wasn't until they used the iPad 2 that they discovered the application and how much fun it could be.

GarageBand was never an application that I found necessary on my Macs, but I am enjoying it on the iPad and there is a lot of potential there to spend hours making some original creations. I plan to use it more and try to make some background music to use with some of my review videos and slideshows I make for my family and friends. iMovie is another Apple application that is quite functional and I plan to use it for creating content on the go. The iPad 2 is really turning into both a content consumption and creation device and with apps like these the iPad 2 really can be the only computer in a house for many, many people.

Price

The lowest cost of a new iPad 2 is $499 and it is likely that this WiFi only model will continue to be the best selling Apple tablet model. Did you know there are a whopping 18 different models of the iPad 2? There are black and white colors, WiFi and 3G models in three memory configurations (16GB, 32GB, 64GB) and two different carrier flavors so make sure you know which one you are buying while at the store. I have a white 64GB AT&T 3G model that runs $829 and even though I intended to buy a 16GB WiFi white one I have no regrets about paying so much for this device and am convinced Apple has the right mixture of price and specifications to own the tablet space for quite some time.

I see that the Apple iPad currently has a 4-5 week shipping estimate for online orders so finding one is going to be quite the challenge. I probably should have kept my 16GB WiFi order and resold it for a profit, but it just didn't feel right so I canceled it after picking up my own 64GB 3G model.

The Motorola Xoom comes in at $799 for an unsubsidized Verizon model and $599 for one with a 2-year contact and for the new 32GB WiFi only model. This $599 price is the same as the 32GB WiFi iPad 2, but I still think people will look at the $499 price point first. Maybe Motorola should launch a 16GB model for $479 and finally show people they can be cheaper than the iPad. Even then, the Apple iPad user experience is much more refined and stable than what we see at this time with Android 3.0. It will likely improve on Android and I do look forward to seeing that happen, but it will take some time.

Closing thoughts on my first week with the iPad 2

Last year when the Apple iPad was announced many of us questioned the need for such a device and wondered how it could fit in between the smartphone and the computer. over 15 million iPads sold so far and I think it is pretty clear that the iPad is more than a luxury device for those with too much money on their hands. Thanks in large part to the application selection, the iPad is a very useful tool and also an amazingly fun and friendly device for people to use. My brother said that his family has not put down the iPad since they bought it from me a couple months ago and I imagine there are thousands more stories like this around the world.

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Topics: iPad, Apple, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Networking, Tablets, Wi-Fi

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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