So the new iPad (just called iPad, as opposed to iPad 3) is here. For first time prospective buyers, the decision is probably a very easy one. The iPad is a mature, polished product with a fantastic amount of free and (usually cheap) paid for apps to make it do most things you could reasonably expect a tablet to do. Okay, it won't make the tea (it could be a tea tray, but I don't recommend it), but the cliche "There's an app for that" is truer more often than not these days and I believe it still blows the competition away.
But what about those of us who already own an iPad? Is it worth the outlay to trade up to the latest and greatest?
Let's have a quick glance at the new features first and see exactly what has changed.
First off, the unboxing of the iPad is a nice, but now familiar experience. The initial moment of awe was already had when you took your existing one out of the box for the first time. This time round it's a little more humdrum. It looks more or less the same as the iPad 2. A modest improvement for iPad 1 owners no doubt, but no surprises here for anyone.
Switch it on and there's the first hint that there are differences. That screen. Double the resolution of the original two and much more vibrant to boot. Even just looking at the menu, the improvement is apparent, more so if you compare your old one side by side. Once you've downloaded your apps, those that have been updated to support this new 'Retina' display look glorious. Text is smooth edged, like print, photos are rich and vibrant. Some of the games, particularly 3D ones look so good you feel like you could reach into the very world you're playing in! The old screen was excellent. The new one is amazing.
To drive the 3 million plus pixels that make up the display, Apple have bumped up what's under the hood. All the talk of whether or not the iPad has quad-core this or processor that ultimately can be left to those of a technical persuasion. What you need to know is that the new iPad is as fast and responsive as you could hope for it to be. Original iPad owners will be extra happy here. Anyone who has kept their iPad up to date with the updates Apple have released since launch will have noticed things getting progressively more 'clunky'. Not slow necessarily, but the initial responsiveness isn't what it was. Well, with the new iPad you get it back and it's fantastic. iPad 2 owners have less to gain here. The upgrade isnt so significant and using the menu, web and non-gaming apps, you'll probably notice little, if any difference. When it comes to games, there is a difference and one that will become more apparent over the next year, as developers take advantage of the increased performance. But buy one today, as a gamer, you're investing in the future and patience will likely reap rewards if early demos are anything to go by.
The original iPad had no cameras. The iPad 2 had not one but two. And they were both disappointing. The new iPad has an upgraded camera on the back of the case (the one for photographs as opposed to video chat) and improved the lense assembly to be more like the (excellent) one in the iPhone 4S, albeit at a 5 megapixel limit versus the iPhone's 8. Whether or not this matters to you is entirely subjective. The camera takes a reasonable shot. It doesn't have a flash, so light levels are important and of course it's nice to have - but a tablet is not an ideal form to hold and use as a camera nor video recorder. Should you be interested, the new iPhoto app, only available to the new iPad and the iPad 2 is a very nice way to play about with your photos, without having to wait until you're near a desktop computer and iMovie is a well regarded video editor which can help enhance your clips. The front camera for video chat is unchanged from the iPad 2, but represents an upgrade for original iPad owners who would like to Skype with video or use FaceTime.
The final standout feature, that seems to be causing confusion amongst the press and public alike is the big announcement that the new iPad works with 4G. 4G represents the next generation of mobile data services. The 3G network is capable, but overwhelmed and 4G has the potential to open up truly broadband or faster speeds to people when they're on the move, so the fact that iPad supports this seems pretty exciting. Except it isn't. Firstly, we don't have 4G in the UK yet. It's being tested here and there are rumors that the first rollouts will be towards the end of 2012, but it could be as far as two years away for many of us. The second issue is that the UK services will be on a radio frequency at the new iPad doesn't support. So whilst this is great news if you're an American with access to 4G coverage (or resident in a country that intends to use the same frequencies), those in the UK should contain their disappointment and move on. That said as far as 3G goes, it's more capable than either the ipad 1 or ipad 2 and networks like Vodafone and Three do offer support for some pretty speedy connections. If you're only after a WIFI version of the ipad, then it's all exactly as it was before.
So there we have it. A lot remains the same. It looks the same apart from being a little fatter and a little wider than the ipad 2. It's more or less the same in terms of functionality as you're used to and the battery life is changed. So should you get one? In my opinion, if you're an occasional ipad user who surfs a bit here and there, sends an occasional email and downloads the odd app, it may be a waste of money unless you're in the mood for a treat. iPad 2 owners, whether heavy or light users should think twice before making the outlay. Go and try one out. Gamers, who are more likely to be used to regular upgrades will probably have to at some point to get the best games (or at least the best graphical enhancements of the best games), but for everyone else, the ipad 2 remains a quick and capable beast and the cost of upgrading it high against the potential gain. ipad 1 owners, particularly daily users have much to gain. Yes, it's familiar so the inital WOW moment doesn't come when you open the box, but with use that screen and the sheer responsiveness and speed of the device bring back the joy of ownership to the point where you'll come to know you made the right decision.
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New iPad unboxing - http://flic.kr/p/7WwDPC
iPad tea party - http://flic.kr/p/9q9Ts7
iPad screen close-up - http://flic.kr/p/bDoxx6
Real Racing 2 game screen - http://flic.kr/p/bDmszx
Cell Tower - http://flic.kr/p/GSvLe