No more speculation on iPad 2 -- and for a day, Steve Jobs

March 2, 2011: 2:32 PM ET

Details about the real iPad 2 and all the rumors, mockups, and premature criticism that got us here, along with the reappearance of the visionary force behind Apple Inc.

Try racking your brain for a device more crowed about, lusted over, or prematurely criticized than Apple's (AAPL) iPad 2. (We know. Pretty hard.) That's probably because, over the last six months, media outlets everywhere gave voice to even the most outré rumors, design mockups, and wish lists.

Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance to unveil the iPad 2. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

And why not? The first-generation of Apple's tablet moved 15 million units in 2010, the most of any tablet device ever, and both versions are expected to sell as many as 25 million this year. Though detractors continue to throw haterade its way, many more simply swear by it, and roughly two-thirds of Fortune 100 companies currently use it in day-to-day dealings or soon plan to. Like it or not, the iPad, with its 1.5 pound lightweight status, svelte aluminum chassis, easy multi-touch user interface, and booming app ecosystem, singlehandedly reinvigorated an area of computing that until recently, even Apple had failed to successfully penetrate with its Newton tablet platform back in 1993.

We have Jobs to thank for the iPad's 9.7-inch form factor -- as he once pointed out, anything smaller wouldn't do iOS justice. "7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad," Jobs said. As usual, the Apple CEO's sense of what users really wanted from tablets outweighed the conventional wisdom that anything that wouldn't fit in a coat pocket could never be a smash hit. The only question users and fans have for Apple today is, "What's next?"

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The iPad 2 rumors started shortly after the iPad 1's April launch. Despite glowing reviews from The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg and an oddly hedged, but no less positive, piece from David Pogue of The New York Times, that human condition which states that we always want more, more, more meant that in this case, users craved even better, improved features from their tablets, some of which were justifiable: a video camera with FaceTime, an integrated SD card reader, a USB port, a sharper iPhone 4-like Retina-quality display, faster processor, more RAM.

On and on the wishlists went, so understandably, even the tiniest morsels of supposed, leaked information raised an eyebrow on when the next-gen tablet would hit, how much, and what new features it would have. Tech blogs focused mostly on the features: a dual-core processor with faster speeds, a Retina display that might offer double the resolution of the iPad's 1,024 by 768 screen, and front and back-facing cameras! Most recently, an alleged Apple source told Engadget that "engineering issues" plagued the iPad 2, resulting in the loss of planned components like a sharper display and SD card reader.

The real iPad 2

Jobs talking iPad 2. Photo: Getty Images

Now of course, we know better.

After questions over whether he'd make an appearance, a thin, slightly frail but altogether fine-looking Jobs took the stage, walked the audience through the iPad 2's new features and apps, and deemed this year the iPad 2's "moment."

"It's in Apple's DNA, that technology alone is not enough," he said, emphasizing that a sound relationship of hardware, software, the liberal arts and humanities is required to make "hearts sing." Given Apple's latest creative efforts, "we stand a pretty good job of being competitive in that market."

When it launches March 11 domestically and March 25 in 26 countries including Australia, Canada, France and Japan, the 1.3 pound iPad 2, which is 33% thinner than the iPad 1 and a hair thinner than even the iPhone 4, will rock a dual-core ARM A5 processor that offers up to twice the speed and graphics 9 times faster than the current iPad, the same 10-hour battery life, 720p 30 frames-per-second (fps)-capable front and rear-facing video cameras for FaceTime video chat, HDMI out for a 1080p signal, and be available in both standard aluminum and white from day one. 3G versions will also run on both AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), and pricing across the board stays the same: $499 for the 16 GB version, $599 for 32 GB, 64 GB for $699, $629 for the 16 GB 3G edition, $729 for 32 GB 3G, and $829 for the $64 GB 3G. A new version of the mobile operating system, iOS 4.3, will up Safari performance with Nitro JavaScript performance and allow iTunes home sharing.

The two onboard cameras should come in handy. The iPad 2 is powerful enough to support 9 simultaneous live video streams. Tweaked Photo Booth software features with super-responsive touch-based filters and manipulation tools like "Light Tunnel" and "Stretch."

The iPad 2 smart case from various angles. Photo: Apple

The "smart cases," available in 5 colors of polyurethane ($39 each) and 5 flavors of leather ($69 each) include magnets that grasp and auto-align the tablet. A microfiber lining keeps the screen (mostly) fingerprint-free. Also neat: automatic wake on opening and sleep when closed.

The updated iMovie, which has a quaint homescreen that resembles a mid-twentieth century movie theater, offers a precision editor, audio recording for up to 8 tracks, new themes like "Neon," AirPlay to Apple TV, and HD video sharing via YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. A new Garage Band includes touch-based instruments, the ability to plug in a guitar, guitar amps effects, 8-track recording and mixing, 250-plus loops, the option to email an AAC version (ie. high quality compression Apple-style) of the songs you create, and toggles for the sustain peddle and octaves. One neat trick: if you're playing around the with drum set for instance, hit the rim of the snare and you get rim sounds. Strike more towards the center of the snare, and you get that fuller tone.

The iPad 3, already?

It speaks volumes about the product when iPad 3 rumors surface before the iPad 2 is even announced. According to an unnamed Apple staffer who spoke with Cult of Mac, today's iPad 2 doesn't hold a candle to the iPad 3, which this person says is on track for a release later this year.

"For the iPad 2 don't get your hopes up too high," said the source. "They've had a number of problems along the way, and the third-generation iPad is the one to make a song and a dance about."

Well, too late for all of that.

Depending on your expectations, you might find the iPad 2 disappointing. Where's the sharper display, SD card reader or USB port? What are the specs on the cameras and RAM?

For answers to those questions, iPad aficionados, you may have to wait even longer.

----

What about you, dear Fortune readers? What do you think of the iPad 2? Will you wait for the iPad 3? Sound off!

Join the Conversation
About This Author
JP Mangalindan
JP Mangalindan
Writer, Fortune

JP Mangalindan is a San Francisco-based writer at Fortune, covering Silicon Valley. Since joining in 2010, he has written on a wide array of topics, from the turnaround of eBay to the evolution of net neutrality. A graduate of Fordham University, Mangalindan has also written for GQ, Popular Science, and Entertainment Weekly.

Email JP
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.