iPad 2 finally launched, but without several expected features

March 3rd, 2011 | by Alfred Siew

They should call it iPad 1.5, said a pal of mine, of Apple’s iPad 2 featuring an “all-new design”. Other detractors called it “underwhelming”, while yet others said it was “evolutionary, not revolutionary”, but that’s putting things nicely.

The truth is, after all the rumours and usual hoopla surrounding Apple launches, what characterised the new tablet computer from the market leader seemed to be what’s not there. So, what was so disappointing about last night’s launch, where Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance?

Let’s start with what’s new. Okay, the iPad 2 is slimmer and lighter – two main things that will win over many new buyers, for sure.

Then it’s got a dual-core processor and dual cameras now, which would have been quite a big deal if these features hadn’t already been unveiled months ago on the Motorola Xoom and soon on just about any Google Android to hit the stores this year.

But what is most disappointing is what’s not there on the iPad 2. First, the much-expected upgrade to the sharp “Retina” screen that is now on the iPhone 4 doesn’t make its way to the new iPad. It’s still the same old screen, at the same 9.7 inches.

What about LTE and 4G, new mobile technologies that would have boosted downloads for videos and other apps, some of which are in several dozen megabytes and currently require a Wi-Fi connection on the iPad? Nope, not there either.

This is the year of the iPad 2, claims Apple, but we’re not so sure. Yes, the iPad 2 stands up well to competition from Android tablets this year, because it’s an enhancement of an already well-made product.

But what Apple hasn’t done is address a lot of grouses. The new iPad is still stuck with iTunes and doesn’t have external memory card slots. It still needs a PC to sync, as one gadget site writer pointed out sharply in a Tweet:

“‘The iPad is a true post-PC device.’ First thing you have to do when you turn on an iPad? Hook it up to a PC.” – Dave Schumaker of gdgt.

Sure, there’s an Apple add-on to get the pictures off your camera to the iPad, but that’s US$29 for the hardware. Want to hook up to your TV to play your movies? Pay US$39 for an AV dongle.

Some folks will still fork out those amounts, simply because they can afford it. Others will say they do it because they love their iPads. But the difference from last year is that there are good alternatives now – you don’t have to do things Apple’s way.

New Android tablets out this year will not just come with memory card slots built in but also HDMI ports to hook up straight to your TV, so Apple looks more like a rip-off to folks who refuse to play by Steve Jobs’ rules.

At the same time, the iPad’s iOS looks increasingly dated when compared to the rich multi-tasking you can get on competing tablet OSes that have been shown so far, say, on Android Honeycomb or RIM’s Playbook.

To be fair, the iPad 2 should sell well and keep Apple in pole position in 2011. It had a headstart of 90 per cent of the market last year, according to research firm Ovum, which also predicts that Google Android won’t lead the market until 2015. That’s when Android’s share would be 36 per cent, compared to Apple’s 35 per cent.

So, is 2011 the year of the iPad 2? I think those who have held back from buying an iPad would go for the iPad 2 now, since it costs the same (from US$499) as the older model and looks like a good deal.

But will the new device be “magical” and “revolutionary” and rock your world? It’s telling when the rumour mill is already going on about an iPad 3.

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