One of the questions I've been peppered with since the iPad 2 announcement was whether I was going to replace my first-generation iPad for the new one.
By JAMES W. WADE III
One of the questions I've been peppered with since the iPad 2 announcement was whether I was going to replace my first-generation iPad for the new one. The answer for me is yes, since it's part of my job to live with these gadgets so I can understand their strengths, weaknesses, and appeal. But for most original iPad owners, I'm guessing they'll be holding out for version 3.
Why's that? The real big change is less about the external redesign as much as what's inside. New are things like a snappier processor and built-in graphics that Apple promises to be up to nine times faster than in the first-generation iPad. There are also the two cameras, which will open the device up to a greater number of applications.
Even so, Apple could have gone further, which is why I'm betting many with first-generation devices will be happy to hold out. As Steve Jobs alluded to during yesterday's event, the company didn't really have to add much. Competitors like Research In Motion and Hewlett-Packard are still scrambling to get their tablets out on the market, while Google Android tablets like the Xoom are coming in at a higher price than Apple's entry level iPads with a smaller library of tablet-specific software.
That said, there are five specific things Apple could have added but didn't. We're going to break down what they are and what impact they'd have on the product:
Apple's "Retina Display" technology first appeared on the iPhone 4 and later made it into the latest version of the iPod Touch. Marketing speak aside, it's a high-density pixel display that packs in about four times the number of pixels as standard displays. How this trickles down to apps is text with smoother edges and the capability for developers to add more detail.
This omission would have been big win for eyeballs, but alas the screen that ships in the iPad 2 is the same resolution as the first. As the Retina Display-ready games and apps on the iPhone 4 have proven, the effect of having a resolution that high in such a small area can have a dramatic effect on detail for things like text, and detailed imagery.
Prior to the iPad 2's announcement, rumors had circulated that Apple was planning to add a Retina Display to the tablet. Those reports were later updated to suggest that Apple was saving it for the third generation of the device.
An SD card slot/USB port:
The iPad has largely been positioned by Apple as a companion device to traditional computers. But that doesn't mean people aren't using it for things they'd normally do on a computer, such as plugging in their camera to store, edit, and share photos they've taken on their digital camera. Apple's solution up until this point has been to sell a camera adapter accessory that uses the iPad's 30-pin plug to interface with either an SD memory card, or any USB camera.
USB ports ship on all of Apple's computers, and recent generations of the MacBook Pro and Air have tacked on SD card slots, which pull double duty as a media reader and a way to actually boot the machine with a recovery image.
Rumors began circulating as early as September of last year that Apple was working to bring a mini-USB port to the next iPad. Extra fuel was added to that fire with a number of third-party case manufacturers making early iPad 2 case designs with an extra hole near the top. This later turned out to be the revised placement of Apple's microphone, which had previously been located next to the headphone jack.
So could Apple add either one of these to the next model? Perhaps. Though that would give people less of a reason to shell out $29 for the connector kit.
Thunderbolt is Intel's super fast port that debuted just last week (read our FAQ on it here). So far, it's only available on Apple's MacBook Pro line, which got a refresh the same day Thunderbolt was formally announced.
Thunderbolt promises to bring speeds in excess of USB 3.0, which for something like the iPad could mean dramatically faster sync times when plugging in the device to a computer. That could become a very important feature to have as the storage in the iPad increases, which in the new iPad, it did not.