The iPad 2 is loaded with new features and enhancements, some of which are game breakers and some of which aren’t all that noticeable. Even the box is creative. As seen in Figure 1 below, it is simply a picture of the iPad 2 from a side view without a name or fancy graphics.

iPad 2Figure 1: The iPad 2 box

In Figure 2, once you open the box, you’ll find the iPad 2, the adapter and the cord.

iPad 2 TabletFigure 2: What’s in the box

iPad 2 (left) iPad (right) Figure 3: Side view comparison of iPad 2 on the left and iPad on the right

First, the appearance of the device is quite different. Similar to the iPhone 3’s rounded look, the new iPad 2 is 33% thinner and up to 15% lighter. Figure 3 (above) shows a side view comparison of the iPad 2 on the left, and the original iPad on the right. What that means to consumers is that it’s a lot easier to hold for extended periods of time. FaceTime chats and reading your favorite book or playing your favorite game get a lot easier with the svelte appearance and lighter weight. Figure 4 (below) shows the difference in thickness between the iPad 2, and the original iPad.

Comparing the thickness between iPad 2 and iPadFigure 4: Thickness comparison iPad 2 on left iPad on right

Under the hood, the new dual core A5 processor offers double the processing speed of the first iPad, and the new graphics chipset offers a stunning nine-fold increase in graphics acceleration. This makes the iPad 2 a topnotch gaming platform. Best of all, because the A5 Chip and a new efficient iOS operating system are so energy-efficient, the onboard battery offers the same 10-hour life as the previous version of the iPad.

iPad 2Figure 5: Back of iPad 2 – camera is at upper left

Two onboard cameras, one facing frontward and the other facing backward, bring the iPad 2 into the same world as the iPhone in terms of video capabilities. Although the backward facing camera (Figure 5, above) only shoots still photos at less than one megapixel, they both will shoot 720p video. That’s what really counts, because Apple has incorporated FaceTime into this new iPad. Users can now video chat via FaceTime with any other iOS device in the Apple line-up or with any Mac computer. All users need is a wireless network and a Mobile ME account. What’s really interesting about FaceTime isn’t so much that users are able to video chat with other Mac or iOS users, but that it has forced the opposition to develop some sort of video chat offering of their own. Apple is leading the way in changing an industry.

Apple added a three-axis gyroscope to the new iPad 2, which, combined with the accelerometer and compass allows the iPad to sense which direction it’s heading and how it’s moving. This is huge for games, maps and apps that need to know your every move. It takes gaming to a whole new level.

And, of course, the iPad 2 comes in two versions. Consumers have the option to purchase the Wi-Fi only version or the combined Wi-Fi 3G version which is available through both AT&T and Verizon. New to this version of the iPad is the opportunity to purchase it in black or white – something consumers have been clamoring for with the iPhone and will get right away with the iPad 2.

The newest operating system for the iPad 2 is currently iOS 4.3, which offers many significant upgrades from the previous version. With hundreds of thousands of Apps available through the iTunes App Store, the iPad 2 is leading the way in, as Steve Jobs said, “the post-PC era.” There is nothing like the user experience of picking up an iPad and using it for the first time. It’s very simple to use, but the iOS offers very serious capabilities – a combination that’s pretty hard to beat. The iPad and iPad 2, seen side by side in Figure 6, below, are truly transformative products that have changed how users think of tablet computers.

iPad 2 and iPad side-by-sideFigure 6: iPad 2 on left, iPad on right

The iPad is popular – far more popular than all the other tablets ever created. In 2010, according to Gartner, “the world spent USD 9.6 billion in tablets. According to Apple’s official numbers, the iPad got USD 9.566 billion.” Those figures are for 2010, but, Gartner says that “will grow to $29.4 billion in 2011, cannibalizing PCs and getting into the enterprise in full force.” He further states, “Apple will grab 70% of that market in 2011.”

There was concern that this new iPad 2 would be just an interim step between the iPad and the iPad 3, which some pundits claim will be announced in the fall. There are many improvements and changes to this iPad and in order to offer a newer iPad in the fall, Apple will put themselves in a "spot" with their faithful. What would the reaction of Apple users be to a new iPad 2 in the spring only to be offered an iPad 3 in the fall? Probably not the best marketing plan because it would definitely alienate customers, so probably an iPad 3in the fall is unlikely. If you’re on the fence about buying an iPad 2 because you want to wait for the iPad 3 with it’s possible retina display and whatever other improvements it might have, don’t wait. The retina display on the iPhone made a huge difference. The iPad 2 already has a beautiful screen, the addition of a retinal display, although a good improvement, shouldn’t dissuade someone from buying now.

Murray Hill worked in the newspaper business for over 37 years. He began writing about technology over 20 years ago, and now that he's retired, he retains his love of technology and firmly believes that there's a gadget or gizmo for every situation and application. His fascination with technology and gadgets has prompted his wife to call him "Gadget Man" (not necessarily an endearing epithet) and has led to many discussions about the need for the various gadgets he has around the house. His love of tech is nearly equaled by his love of Manchester United Soccer team and a nice day at the lake.