One of the fringe benefits of my day gig is I can generally stay on top of new technologies, including the iPad and the shiny new iPad 2. I received a new iPad 2 and Smart Cover about ten days ago and have been using it quite a bit ever since. New features include upgraded guts, a slimmer chassis, and a pair of cameras.
Transferring my files was a snap: I just backed up the original iPad and did a restore to the new one. I did have to re-enter passwords in some apps, but all of my core settings and my videos, files, and photos all transferred. (I did lose book covers to any e-books I loaded via iTunes to the Kindle app, but that’s not the end of the world.) Beyond that, everything I discussed about the iPad as a mobile writing platform still applies.
You can see the Smart Cover in the picture above. It’s essentially a magnetic flap that covers the screen, and a second magnet wakes/sleeps the screen. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m less than impressed with it. It provides the same ability to prop up the iPad as the original Apple iPad case, but it doesn’t have the same textured feel, nor does it do anything to protect the back of the unit. The magnet along the left side holds just fine for me, and I understand this allows the iPad to be docked without removing it from a sleeve like the original Apple case, but I don’t dock it to anything and now I have to sweat banging up and scratching the back of the unit. This means I have to spend another $30 on a Gelaskin or a purchase a different case altogether.
My other Smart Cover gripe is the color selection is largely pastels, and the gray is about as neutral as it gets for $40. I wanted a black one, but it only comes in the leather style, so it costs another $30. So for $70,I still don’t get protection in the back? Weak. I guess it’ll be a Gelaskin. Maybe I can get some custom art from an Evileye project (hint hint, Mr Publisher, Sir). Otherwise the Frank Miller ones are cool, like Sin City‘s Marv and Dwight or the 300-themed Spartan in Moon. I dig on Nancy, actually, but I don’t think my bosses would appreciate that one.
Last beef on the Smart Cover: the underside of the cover is a microfiber layer that’s supposed to clean the screen. That’s all well and good, but you see those grooves in the Smart Cover? Where the flaps fold? That part of the microfiber doesn’t make contact with the screen. So, you get four mostly-clean streaks down the screen and four lines of fingerprint oil and dust.
Sorry, Apple, but I have to call the Smart Cover a fail. Again, great idea, but it doesn’t quite pull it off. Having it wake the screen is great, but I keep hearing the iPad make clicks as it wakes and sleeps while I’m just carrying it around, and I really didn’t mind the swipe. I also imagine if I set a lock code, the wake feature will be useless anyway?
On to the cameras.
That picture was taken with the back camera. The long and short of the cameras is they are about what you’d expect from any given cell phone. The front-facing camera is a VGA camera (weak!), and the rear camera takes 720p HD video. Both are somewhat grainy in lower light indoors, but outside they work just fine. I haven’t chatted with anyone via Facetime, but you get a decent picture for a simple video chat.
Speed-wise, I haven’t noticed a difference. Apps load fast and smooth, and navigating is still a snap. I haven’t noticed a big improvement, though, so I imagine most of the increases are to support the cameras and the video apps.
All in all, call it an iPad with a camera and that’s about it. I do like the flexibility of having the cameras on the iPad, and the iMovie app is only $5 if I want to do some quick video shooting in karate class. I also see it being handy for video bloggers. I think it’s a worthy upgrade from its predecessor, especially given they haven’t jacked up the price. I still dig my iPad and will continue to use it all the time, I just hope they rethink their new cover design path.