They have created products that people actually spend hours (and days!) queuing up for when a new one is released. I can think of no other product that people will happily queue for days in all weathers just to be one of the first to lay their hands on it. A new games console perhaps will draw the crowds, but that is an event that comes round once every few years, whereas the iPhone and iPad even with their annual updates still draw in the masses.
Apple has only really exploded in the last few years after the release of the original iPhone in 2007 which has now sold over 200 Million units. A few short years ago, a tablet used to be something that you swallowed but now that word is synonymous with a handheld touch screen device that opens up a whole world of possibilities, the major seller of these new fangled devices being Apple’s iPad. The release of the original iPad in April 2010 was also another major leap forward for Apple. It has now sold well over 100 million units and taken the world by storm and it accounted for approximately 75% of all tablet computing sales in 2011.
In its third incarnation, this new iPad promises a much higher resolution screen, similar to that of the iPhone 4 and 4S along with a beefier processor, the latest iOS 5.1 and several other improvements. I’ll be checking these out in this review along with a comparison to the two previous iPad releases.
A thing of beauty?
A minority of users have reported a yellowish tint to their new iPad screens which has been reported as the due to the glue used in the manufacturing process and will dissipate over time. If you are unfortunate enough to get one that doesn't improve, Apple will replace it for you without any issue. The photo below shows a comparison of a webpage on AVForums on both the New iPad and the iPad1 and iPad2. See if you can work out which is the new one?
Did you get it? It should be immediately obvious that the top photo is the new iPad as the text appears clearer and much easier to read. For an easy comparison pick out the smaller text such as the page numbers or the text on the top bar, on the bottom two photos it is hard to make out the words but on the new iPad screen it is very clear. All three iPads were set to maximum brightness, laid side by side and photographed in one shot, so you can easily see the different colour of the new display which in my opinion is a lot more natural than the iPad1 and 2.
The user interface follows the same lines as the previous iPads. You have a row of quick access (up to 6 of your choosing) apps along the bottom, then all the other apps laid out in a 4 x 4 system across as many pages as you have apps for. Swiping left to right will bring up the search screen allowing you to search for that elusive app if you have many pages of them, or even to search an email, contact or note. Swiping down from the top of the screen will bring up a list of notifications from apps such as another players move on Words with Friends and unread emails. Touching one of these will take you directly to the app or email.
Double tapping the home button (or swiping up with four fingers) will bring up a list of all the running apps (holding one for a few seconds will allow you to close it, should it be causing trouble) and swiping to the right will show more of the ones that are currently open or recently opened. Touching one will take you directly to it, regardless of what you are currently doing. Swiping to the left will bring a quick access menu to change the brightness, volume, play the last song, lock the orientation of the screen and go to your music collection. Compared to other tablets running Android and Windows the OS of the iPad is basic with very little options for customisation. This to some is a major reason why they don’t have one, but perhaps to a whole load of other people it is the very reason why they are drawn to it.
I’d take issue with the battery life quoted on all the iPads but particularly the iPad3. Presumably to get 10 hours out of it, everything has to be disabled, screen set to low brightness and you are just supposed to do a bit of web browsing on a basic website. In reality I got nothing like 10 hours. For example, with the battery at 17% I got only 45 minutes before it went flat just by doing a bit of web browsing, playing Angry Birds and watching a few minutes of SkyGo. In general use I would say 5-7 hours is probably what you may be looking at. Be prepared to charge it nightly if you are a regular user.
One issue that arose on the AVForums stand at the 2012 Gadget Show Live was that the new iPad doesn’t like being left on constant charge. If you have it setup somewhere with it always plugged into the charger, on a few of the new iPads it will just stop charging completely and then go flat on you, forcing you to do a shutdown and restart to get it to charge again. But this probably isn’t a major issue for the majority of users as they don’t leave it on charge all the time.
The latest iOS 5.1 release also seen on the iPhone, fixes many bugs found in 5.0 and previous, including the annoying Safari browser crash when a webpage would try to load a lot of information. It also brings in the improved camera app seen on the iPhone in iOS 5 allowing you to edit to a basic level such as cropping and red eye removal. Compared to the versatile and highly customisable popular operating system Android, as used on most of the iPads competition, iOS can be accused of being very rigid and restrictive, with very little options to change the layout or configure it to your exact liking. Although it is most likely the standard layout and overall ease of use that attracts so many people to the iPad and iPhone over the competition, but if you are wanting an operating system that you can customise to your heart's content, then unfortunately you will be disappointed here.
5 Megapixel Rear Camera
But it is useful, for example, for browsing AVForums on the iPad and you want to reply to a post. I’ve tested a few now and using the dictation it is considerably quicker, even factoring in a few minor corrections. It works in any app where you enter text. Once the keyboard comes up, just press the little microphone icon next to the space bar and start talking, press it once you have finished and hold your breath to see if it has got it correct! As long as you speak clearly it should be pretty much spot on. If you are looking for heavy use and more reliably accurate dictation, I would suggest a specific app such as the Dragon apps that will do a far better job. Neither of the previous iPads have this feature.
One of the best features of iCloud is the syncing of photos between devices. This is a very easy way of showing off your iPhone photos on the iPad without having to sync to iTunes. If you have been out for the day or on holiday, it’s an excellent quick way to show off the days photos on a bigger screen. For example on a recent holiday to Florida, I took photos with my iPhone all day, then when I returned home in the evening they were ready to have a look through on my new iPad, without me having to do anything. This feature is not device specific and is available across all versions of iPad.
A few comparisons to the iPad1 and iPad2 below:
Angry Birds HD – Time to load New iPad - 9.8 seconds iPad 1 - 11.5 seconds
Hector Episode 1 – Time to load New iPad – 16 secondsiPad 1 -21.1 seconds
Fully loading the AVForums homepage New iPad – 6.2 secondsiPad 2 – 6.2 secondsiPad 1 – 10.8 seconds
Zeebox – Time to load New iPad – 5.5 seconds iPad 2 – 4.4 secondsiPad 1 – 8.0 seconds
Google Earth – Time to load including data New iPad – 20.8 seconds iPad 2 – 20.1 secondsiPad 1 – 25.1 seconds
Along with these basic tests everything feels that bit smoother and faster than the iPad 1. Deleting a batch of emails is much faster without the annoying pause whilst it opens each email that was very noticeable on the iPad1. Opening YouTube and starting a video is much quicker too. Although less can be said about the differences between the iPad 2 and the New iPad. Compared to each other there is no noticeable difference on operation. Opening apps at the same time such as YouTube were similar, if not a fraction quicker on the iPad 2 along with the similar results seen in the app tests above.
I was really surprised by this and ran the tests several times to average out the results and make sure what I was seeing was correct. I wasn’t expecting the new iPad to be miles ahead, but I was looking for some improvements, when during the testing I carried out, none were found. Obviously a lot of things are dependent on your internet speed and Wi-Fi quality but in identical conditions the New iPad really shows that it has been impressively beefed up in the processor department from the iPad1 but appears to be no different compared to the iPad2.
But a plus point is that the Wi-Fi is 802.11 a/b/g/n. With the 802.11a operation on the 5GHz, 802.11n on 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz and 802.11b and g on the 2.4Ghz band. What this means is that should you find your Wi-Fi signal suffering due to a large number of other Wi-Fi signals, for example if you live in a block of flats, then you can buy a dual band router and switch to the 5Ghz band which should reduce the interference quite significantly. This was extremely useful to have at the 2012 Gadget Show Live on the AVForums stand. Due to the huge amount of people using the same 2.4Ghz wireless it was almost impossible to get our iPads to lock onto our wireless signal until one of the resident experts had a brainwave and we quickly sourced a dual band router and switched our wireless to the 5Ghz band, hey presto, instant locking on and no issues for the rest of the show.
My personal current top 10 apps are:
- AVForums (of course)
- Words with Friends HD
- Draw Something
- Angry Birds HD
- Sky News
- Sky Sports Football Score Centre
- BBC iPlayer
- Sky Go
Integrating with something like the Apple TV really makes the iPad shine. For example you can stream BBC iPlayer from your iPad and onto your TV, mirror your iPad screen onto your TV and effortlessly stream music, movies and photos. Again, I could go on forever as there are so many available. Basically your iPad can become the control centre for your Home Cinema. You can even get apps such as the free ‘Remote Desktop – Universal App’ which allows you to connect via your iPad or iPhone to your PC. A particularly useful addition if you want to get that humongous patch downloaded and installed for Battlefield 3 before you get home.
Apps and Storage
These things could have been excused when the iPad1 was released, but given that there are now micro versions of the SD cards, HDMI and USB, Apple really should think about putting these on the iPad. When you try and put forward an iPad to fans of other tablets, if these missing features were present, it would remove a few negative aspects that they will rightly bring up. But I have a feeling they have only left them off to make you spend a load more cash to buy an adaptor.
Thanks to the iOS5 update bringing in a PC-free initial setup, you can now comfortably get away with not using iTunes. It’s still handy to backup your device to your PC or Mac but is no longer essential. I use it, but I’m not a major fan. It is good for organising music and apps, but I find the photo organisation much more complicated than it needs be. Everytime I connect to download photos I have the fear that it will delete them all and replace them with photos from a folder it decides to sync with from my computer. Happily these things are not common occurrences, but my personal thoughts have always been that someone other than Apple initially designed iTunes because given how fluid and easy to use their other devices are, iTunes is occasionally the opposite.
4G or not 4G
Tips and Tricks
- Holding your finger over any app for a few seconds will cause all of them to shake slightly, you can then move them to a different page or delete an app you no longer want. You can also use this to move the apps on the quick access bar at the bottom.
- Following the above, you can move an app on top of another and it will create a folder with those apps in it which you can rename to whatever you want.
- Holding the home screen and pressing the power button will take a photo of whatever is on the screen at the time.
- When typing, if you hold a particular letter such as the s for example it will offer alternatives such as ś. (I only discovered this today)
- Swiping left to right with four fingers will immediately switch to the other apps that you have recently used.
- When in an app, pinching the screen with four fingers will switch you to the home screen.
- Touching the top of the screen when in a webpage or other app where you have scrolled down will cause it to go straight back to the top of that page.
- In the settings > general, you can change the side switch to either mute or rotation lock.
- Select, cut, copy and paste are also available. Just hold your finger over some text and the menu will appear.
- Install iBooks and download the free ‘iPad User Guide for iOS 5'
- High Resolution 2048 x 1536 ‘Retina’ Display
- Much improved 5 megapixel rear camera
- Almost unlimited number and type of apps
- Free and easy updating of apps
- Faster and more powerful
- Easy to use interface
- Battery Life
- No Flash support
- No HDMI or USB connection
- No memory card slots
- Poor 0.3 megapixel front camera
- No Siri
Apple New iPad review
The high resolution 2048 x 1536 ‘Retina’ display with 264 pixels per inch is stunning. Double the resolution of the previous iPad, everything is now bright, clear and crisp. Reading web pages is now a lot easier on the eyes than previous versions and you will find yourself zooming into the page a lot less as the text is now a lot clearer and the colours are vibrant and strong. With the increased pixels per inch from 132 of the previous iPad to 264 on this new one, you can’t see the individual pixels that make up the screen and this makes for one of the best tablet displays I have seen to date.
The 5 megapixel rear camera is much improved with 1080p video recording, although that seems rather poor in comparison to the Galaxy Note's 8 megapixels but it's still a vast improvement on the, frankly insulting, 0.7 megapixel camera that the iPad2 was released with. The iPad’s front camera is purely for Face Time use as it is only 0.3 megapixels.
Compared to a laptop (which if you have one, you probably won’t ever use again after getting an iPad) the instant start up, no fuss operation, fast web browsing and access to detailed looking games, not to mention the latest music and amazing apps for just about anything, will make you wonder why you waited so long to get one.
Yes, the cost is an issue. At £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version it’s by no means the cheapest of the tablets such as the sub £200, due for release soon, Kindle Fire from Amazon and the Blackberry Playbook. Plus there's the comparable in price Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, which offers a better camera and the customisation that Android users love. When you get to the 64GB 4G version at £659 it becomes a very meaningful outlay. But what the iPad offers is a very easy to use operating system and access to over 550,000 apps to cater for anything you could think to do with it and many things you probably haven’t. Unfortunately many of these apps have been rather slow to update and haven’t yet been optimised for the new high resolution display, but hopefully this will be coming in the near future. There is a phrase that is coming into general use which is ‘there’s an app for that’, meaning that within reason, whatever you want to do, there is most likely an app that does it for you!
For the original iPad1 owners, upgrading to the New iPad would seem like a no brainer (if you have the spare cash that is). You get a slimmer, lighter, faster and more powerful iPad and the gorgeous high resolution screen. However, for iPad2 owners, the reasons are perhaps less compelling. Yes, you get the high resolution screen (which for some is reason enough for an upgrade) but it is also a tiny bit thicker and a good amount heavier (50g) along with a lower battery life, despite the increased capacity. Having spent £400 just a year ago on the iPad2, do you want to spend another £400 this year on the new version? Unless you have the cash laying around, you may say no to that one.
A few key features are still missing unfortunately. Out of the box HDMI connectivity is again absent along with Siri which debuted on the iPhone 4S. Siri is a built-in voice activated assistant that lets you use your voice to make calls, send texts, schedule meetings and even tell you what the weather is going to be tomorrow. Whilst this feature is probably more useful to iPhone users, it would still have been a welcome addition to the new iPad. What it does have instead is voice dictation (also available for French, German, and Japanese if you are so inclined). There's a particularly useful feature that, whenever you need to type any text in any app, you just press the little microphone icon on the keyboard and speak away. Don’t speak too quickly or with a strong accent though as it will give you rather laughable results.
With over 70 million tablet computers sold in 2011, they are here to stay and will quite possibly overtake and replace Laptops in the next few years. The iPad is a superb example of what you can achieve with one of these, but it has competition. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is hoping to be hot on the iPad’s heels (at least in the US) with its low entry price point and 2012 is bringing a whole range of tablets such as Asus’s amusingly named Transformer Prime with a Quad Core processor and the Toshiba Excite series of tablets. Along with the release of Windows 8 bringing tablets from the likes of Samsung, Nokia and Dell. A lot of choices will be available in 2012 and the iPad will probably face the widest range of competition to date. However, for the time being, the New iPad would definitely be one to consider, unless you own an iPad2 and then the decision is a little more difficult.
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