Apple’s iPad 2 is a solid mid-life kicker, but that’s all

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The iPad 2 is now official. All the bright lights, hysteria and speculation are done. Apple confirmed the specs, look and new additions to its second-gen tablet device live from San Francisco last night between the hours of 6pm and 7pm.

Was it all we expected it to be? Did it live up to industry expectations? And, most importantly, will it be able to fend off its now numerous Android-powered rivals?

We spoke to QuoCirca analyst Rob Bamforth about his first impressions of the iPad 2 to see what he thinks the future holds for Apple’s market share, user adoption and whether the iPad 2 cut the mustard.

Size and Weight
Rob is quick to point out that the iPad 2 is “pretty much what everybody expected – it’s thinner, lighter and faster”. And these are all good things, especially when you factor in that one of the biggest complaints concerning the original iPad was that it is a bit on the heavy side.

So what’s the actual improvement? Well, the original iPad measures in at 243x190x13mm and weighs 680g.

The iPad 2, on the other hand, is significantly slimmer at 241.2×185.7×8.8mm and 79g lighter at just 601g, which is quite a drop – especially when you consider that Apple hasn’t shrunk down the display.

Bamforth says this lightness will be attractive to consumers, as it makes the device ‘more portable and enables even more casual sharing – say between family members’ – a point Apple has marketed the hell out of.

Cameras
The addition of two cameras brings Apple right back in line with the competition. But this isn’t what concerns Bamforth – although the addition of Photo Booth and iMovie HD are certainly extremely wise moves by Apple. It’s the increase in video calling in both consumer and professional environments.

Bamforth tells us that while video calling per se has been around for a long time, it’s not that good on phones – the displays are two small and limit what you can perceive. It’s basically just head and shoulders.

“Having the ability to video call on a tablet-sized device is potentially big for two reasons,” Claims Bamforth.

The first major reason is that Apple has enjoyed currently unrivalled enterprise-level adoption of its iPad devices – something that looks set to continue with the iPad 2. Within this context it could be argued that Apple has one over on the competition – although this is all, of course, dependent on adoption level of Android, webOS and BlackBerry OS-powered tablets.

The second is that video calling on a tablet device affords the user more screen real estate. In short, you see a lot more than just a head and some shoulders, like you do on a phone video call. This is great for presentations and obviously has massive potential within professional circles, says Bamforth.

Hardware
Apple also upped the processing power of the iPad 2 with the inclusion of a dual core A5 processor and 512MB of RAM, which is all well and good. It certainly brings the device in line with the current crop of super-powered Android tablets, like the Motorola Xoom. But is it enough?

Put simply: yes. An Apple A5 dual core processor and 512MB of RAM is more than enough for the iPad 2, especially as users aren’t likely to harness even half of it in their day-to-day activities.

Nonetheless, it’s hardly a big push from Apple on the hardware front. Especially when you consider the seemingly gargantuan specs of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Motorola Xoom.

Final Thoughts
All in all, the iPad 2 is pretty much exactly what everybody was expecting – it’s an improvement, but it’s not a game changer. But this will do for now for Apple. It’s got a massive lead on every other manufacturer, a bigger App Store and some serious penetration in the enterprise sector.

Samsung, Motorola, LG, BlackBerry and Google have got a lot of work to do to close the gap. Sure the tablets are solid, but it takes more than hardware to make a device successful – just look at the Nokia N900 for Christ’s sake.

That said, Apple – once again – declined to include microSD support, USB, Flash, increased storage and NFC on the iPad 2. But that’s just Apple – it doesn’t pander to the whims of the masses.  

So, in conclusion the iPad 2 is really just more of the same from Apple. And while “more of the same” doesn’t sound too good, we don’t mean it to sound negative as you’ve got to remember one thing when you talk about Apple and the iPad:

Apple is onto a winner with the iPad, it knows it is and this device is just a minor update on a road that will no doubt continue well into the future.

That said, we much prefer the way Rob Bamforth puts it: “The iPad 2 is solid mid-life kicker – but that’s all”.

Expect the really big, game changing, technology with the iPad 3.

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