iPad 2

Before getting into my impressions after watching the Apple event, I just want to mention that it was great to see Steve back already for this event. I was sure we would be seeing Phil Schiller take over for the next couple of announcements. It’s not that he does a bad job, but no one can touch Steve in keynote delivery. I hope this means that he is well on his way to full recovery from whatever it was that caused him to take this leave of absence.

The iPad 2 event was never going to be full of surprises. We all knew what it would be: a slimmer, faster, lighter version of the product we’ve already seen. We knew it would have two cameras even.

So, considering this, how did they manage to wow us with iPad 2 regardless? Well, the obvious features and upgrades are definitely welcome, but it goes beyond that. In terms of hardware improvements not relating to the speed and graphics of the device, the cameras seemed a bit of a strange idea when we first heard about it. I still don’t see how you could realistically make use of the HD camera when holding the device yourself when up and moving. When sitting down or more importantly, with the iPad sitting on a stand, it makes much more sense.

FaceTime on an iPad being propped up is probably the best of both worlds. It’s more flexible than using the camera on a Macbook or iMac, yet it’s larger and more personal than an iPod or iphone, while still being portable. The back camera is less useful as even if you have the iPad standing up, you won’t be able to see yourself on the screen if you’re making a video. I suppose the only real use for it is to switch cameras during facetime calls. The only other reasons you might want to make a movie with it would be if you have no other camera, and I suspect most people with an iPad will do, or if you want absolute simplicity in editing and sharing. This brings me on to the software apple announced yesterday for the iPad.

Following on from last year’s release of the iWork suite of apps for iPad, Apple have given select iLife apps the same treatment. The two most prominent and useful ones, iMovie and Garageband have been re imagined for the large tablet screen. iMovie is more of a progression from the iOS version with some unique elements to take advantage of iPad.

Garageband on the other hand is far different than any version of the software we’ve yet seen. There is much more a focus on pure fun and playing music on so called smart and other touch instruments. These harken back to the launch of the iPhone when piano apps were all the rage. Don’t be fooled however, underneath the fun and simplistic exterior is a serious music tool, with which musicians can create full songs, even using real instruments which are connected to the iPad. Guitar’s can use modified amp sounds within the app. It’s like Hipstamatic but for guitar playing, and with a real guitar.

The real surprise is that both of these apps are only $4.99 on the app store which is a bargain in anyone’s book. Even if you just want to play a bit of piano or touch guitar for fun every now and again, it’s worth the price. If you’re seriously into music, it’s a no-brainer.

Probably the biggest surprise of the annoucement was actually an accessory to the iPad 2, the smart cover. It’s actually quite funny when you think about it. It’s almost like no other company even acknowledges that magnets exist and can be helpful in technology. Apple started the magnet fascination with the MacBook. It used pioneered the magsafe power adapter which protects your laptop from being pulled off a table in the cable is pulled. It also featured a magnetic closing mechanism with which you didn’t need a catch. Personally, I dislike the magsafe now that my second macbook battery is no longer working, but still, it was a good idea generally and I don’t know if anyone has copied it even after 4 years.

Going back to the case, it’s typical Apple innovation. My only concern is that it might not be strongly attached enough to withstand movement in a bag that would detach it from the screen. I’m sue Apple would have thought this through extensively so I wouldn’t expect any problems like that. The fact that it doubles as a both a keyboard and facetime stand is hardly a surprise, as the traditional style case for the first iPad also did that, but it’s definitely a nice touch.

The iPad 2 is a nice upgrade to a great product, but it really is astounding to comprehend iPad’s success, even before the second one launches. Apple have an uncanny knack of selling unprecedented quantities of products which aren’t really that necessary at all. No one really needs an iPad. There’s nothing it can do that you can’t do with a MacBook and iPhone or iPod Touch combined, but that’s beside the point.

It’s not what it does that makes it an incredible product, and the first true success in tablet computing. It’s how it does them. It takes everyday things and makes them more engaging and most importantly, more fun.

It’s the perfect product to embody what Apple is all about. It represents them to a tee.