Apple's iPad 2 had a hard act to follow. How do you improve on a product that sold 15 million units worldwide in less than a year?
In its usual hyperbolic marketing style, Apple tried to make the case that this was a revolutionary upgrade. It isn't.
The Big iPad Improvements
Yes, the cameras -- a 720p HD-capable rear-facing cam and a disappointingly low-resolution (VGA) front-facing camera to enable video conferencing - were welcome additions for iPad 2. Ditto for the upgraded 1 GHz Apple A5 dual-core processor, which replaces the iPad 1's 1GHz single-core A4 chip. But what else could Apple do? These were defensive moves made to catch the iPad up with its Android (and other) competition.
And in the case of the front-facing camera, it didn't really even do that, since the best of the competition - the Motorola Xoom and BlackBerry PlayBook, for example - have higher-resolution, more capable cameras for conferencing.
iPad 2 Cosmetics
Shaving a few millimeters off the thickness and a few ounces off the weight, making slight changes to the shape of the thing, offering a white accented model were the cosmetic changes. Don't get us wrong, though. It's not as if Apple is in danger of losing market share because it blew it with the iPad 2.
This is still a hugely attractive product. Given that it's priced pretty much the same as the iPad 1 when it first appeared, it's good value, too. And the new hardware features do make it more capable as a business tool.
Even the cosmetic changes are welcome in a device that some business people will carry with them everywhere. The iPad 2 is a mere 0.34 in. thick (8.8 mm), making it slightly easier to hold in one hand than the iPad 1, and the Wi-Fi model weighs 1.33 lbs (601 g), down from 1.6 lbs.
More Hardware Changes
There are a couple of less-heralded internal changes, too. The presence of a gyroscope, absent from the iPad 1, but a feature of the iPhone 4, probably means less to business users than consumers. In conjunction with the 3-axis accelerometer, the gyroscope improves accuracy of motion sensing. It will mainly enable the iPad 2 to run games that rely on motion sensing, but could also be used to enhance accuracy of mapping apps.
The iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G models also have better cellular functionality. Where the iPad 1 offered an EDGE (GSM) plus triband HSPA radio, the iPad 2 features EDGE plus quadband HSPA, or CDMA / EV-DO Rev. A. The CDMA / EV-DO radio simply allows the iPad 2 to work on older segments of Verizon's network, but the quadband HSPA capability means iPad 2s will work on broadband wireless networks in more places, including overseas.
But the really big and important hardware changes are the addition of the cameras and the faster -- Apple says nine times faster -- processor.