Five reasons to get excited about the iPad (and five reasons not to)

OK, so the owl was a bit off base. Bloody owl.

As predicted, Apple announced the successor to the iPad a few days ago — the not-so-excitingly-named iPad 2. The specifications for the device are, by now, rather widely known, but are there real reasons to get excited about it?

Five reasons to get excited

Faster performance This has to be the key selling point of the iPad 2. The original iPad has its moments of lag, and the promise of the dual-core A5 processor is that it’ll reduce that lag significantly. The extent to which that’s true remains to be seen, but the promise is there.

Inbuilt cameras for FaceTime and video The single most widely-tipped feature did make it into the final unit, and it does add some flexibility to what you can do with the iPad, including large screen video chat via FaceTime. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple approves a Skype update to include video calling.

iMovie The companion to the camera? iMovie for iPad. At least from the videos Apple’s provided this looks slick, but it’ll be interesting to see how well it handles complex video encodes, and whether it’ll allow you to import video from other sources.

Thinner, lighter If you thought the original iPad was too heavy for long term use, it isn’t any more. It’s also somewhat thinner for easier holding.

Smart Covers Apple’s original iPad case was a "love it or loathe it" proposition with a propensity to scuff and a difficult to remove body. The new iPad Smart Covers couldn’t be easier to remove, and the ability to work as a multi-capable stand is a big plus. A slight concern here is that it's not doing that much to protect the back of your iPad 2 from scratches.

Five reasons for apathy

It’s not actually smaller Yes, it’s thinner and lighter, but the same basic dimensions are still in play. There was plenty of criticism of Apple’s decision not to opt for a 7-inch iPad model based around the fact that a 10-inch screen is still a fair chunk of metal and glass to hold in your hands. Or, in other words, if you found it hard to hold for a long period of time, it’s still going to be a tricky-but-not-impossible proposition.

No change in screen resolution Here Apple’s starting to be outclassed by the competition. Undoubtedly, bringing Retina Display-like resolution to the iPad would be an expensive proposition, but this is still last year’s technology. Equally, there’s no stated change in the way that the iPad handles its resolution-doubling for older iPhone/iPod Touch applications.

Apple’s Upgrade Mania writ clear Apple wants you to upgrade each and every year, and in most cases it’s provided good reasons to do so with new features tied into the hardware. The iPad 2 (and more specifically iOS 4.3) indicate that it's willing to do this with software as well. The Hotspot feature that lets you tether an iPad 2 to your iPhone? It’s iPhone 4 only, despite the fact that WiFi Hotspot has been one of the killer applications for jailbroken iPhone 3/3GS owners for years now. The hardware’s clearly capable — but Apple doesn’t want you to have it.

Upgrade path for existing iPad owners not that compelling If you don’t own an iPad currently but you’re interested, you’d be mad to rush out and buy anything but the cheapest (original version) iPad today — even Apple’s discounted it down to $449, although entertainingly a refurbished model from Apple’s online store still costs $539. But if you’re an existing iPad owner, you’ve already got access to the vast majority of what the iPad 2 can offer, cameras notwithstanding. US pricing is in line with the previous models, which strongly suggests we’ll see the sequel for around the same price we saw the original, and your existing iPad is still less than a year old.

A 10-inch camera is a big camera The inclusion of dual cameras is nice, but the practical reality might be a little less compelling. Taking a FaceTime call on the train will involve everyone else on the train being able to see your call in high definition. Shooting a video of your kids in the park will involve holding up a large screen in order to shoot. Compared to even shooting video with an iPhone, this seems like a bulky solution that promises more than a few dropped iPads.

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