Two Weeks with iPad 2

Early in April, I decided to order an iPad 2 directly from Apple, after giving up hope that I’d be able to just saunter into an Apple Store and pick one up at my leisure, at least anytime soon. Once ordered it took sixteen days to arrive, which isn’t too bad, and I’ve been using it consistently since.

Here are some random thoughts on my first few weeks of usage.

  • Subjectively speaking, this new model feels modestly faster but not significantly faster than its predecessor. I’m not a gamer at all, so I can’t speak to any acceleration in its graphic performance that might positively impact gameplay. But any gains in speed that might positively affect the performance of more routine apps felt slight to me, and I grew accustomed to the new speediness within a day.
  • The camera is awful. It’s grainy and ugly and an embarrassment in 2011.
  • I’m really having a hard time with the Smart Cover. It’s more difficult to fold back than it should be, and it comes unhinged (i.e., the magnets detach) far too easily. And, not that I expected it to provide any protection for the device’s vulnerable and apparently dent-prone metal back, but because it doesn’t it’s not a complete solution, to my mind. If you ever expect to drop your iPad (I do) you’ll need something more than this. When the Smart Cover was announced I thought it was an improvement over the basically inept case that Apple produced for its first iPad; I still agree with that sentiment, but I now think it’s only a very modest improvement.
  • The new model is definitely lighter and easier to hold in a single hand, which I think may be its primary benefit.
  • Video out, via the sold-separately VGA adapter is painless and wonderful. Last Monday I used it to give a crucial demo to a crucial audience for a project I’m currently working on. It was my first time projecting from an iPad and it was their first time watching a demo projected from an iPad, and it went great. However, watching someone use iOS on a projected screen — without being able to see where their finger is at any given time — is slightly disconcerting. Apple should create an option to display some kind of cursor on the external display.
  • Wi-fi performance is improved, at least according to my preferred metric for judging wi-fi performance on iOS, which is: how quickly does Apple’s Remote app re-connect to my Apple TV or any other iTunes library on my network? The iPad 2 pulls this off a few milliseconds more quickly than did the original iPad. It’s still not as quick as it should be — it should be so instantaneous as to seem as if the app never loses the connection — but I’ll take any improvement over none.
  • The home button might be quieter than it was on the older model. The reason I think this is because when I press it at say 3:00 in the morning, suffering from insomnia and trying not to wake up my girlfriend who is sleeping soundly next to me, it doesn’t seem to be quite as disruptively loud. A small but welcome improvement.

Finally, I have yet to come up with a clear plan for what to do with my first-generation iPad. I could sell it, I know, but I feel like there should be some clever use that I can make for it around the house or something. Anyone have any great ideas?



  1. Take velcro and tape your old iPad to your fridge/kitchen! Then you can use that as a HUD for casual internet surfing/viewing. (I hear the Qwiki app is a good way to check up on stuff while doing the dishes.)

  2. Sell it to me, Khoi.
    I’ve got some ideas on the insert that we were talking about over the weekend.
    How do you feel about leather?

  3. I disagree with your evaluation of the Smart Cover. As a previous owner of the original iPad and Apple Cover I think the Smart Cover is a huge improvement. I agree’d with Jobs 100% when he presented it at the keynote. “You have an amazingly beautiful and well designed device, why cover it with a case?”

    Regarding your “folding issues” & “coming unhinged” I have yet to experience any problems with my cover coming off. Could you possibly have a defective unit?

  4. I think Apple does an amazing job, generally speaking, in terms of industrial design and the overall user experience of their products. Clearly. However, I think they consistently fail to do the best they could in considering the implications of their industrial design decisions. Put another way: I think one of things that Apple excels at (ID) is a double-edged sword.

    The iPhone and iPad are perfect examples for me in this regard: they’re beautiful, lusted after and in some ways the paragon of the value of well-executed industrial design. But they fail in the sense that the products don’t always consider how to balance the beauty in materials and workmanship (craft) with what would seem to me to be the realities of usage. I’m not referring to software here, because I think Apple’s software is for the most part extremely well thought and resolved. Your example of the cover is a great example: these are handheld devices that *will* be dropped and take a fair bit of wear and tear through their use– it’s just a given.

    Given that Apple sweats the details in just about everything they do, it’s often disappointing to me that the products feel unresolved in seemingly important areas. What happens when a product is dropped? What happens when the screens are so precious & fragile in material choice that they become more likely to crack? What happens to the beautiful industrial design when we have to resort to crappy third-party add-ons in an attempt to anticipate the damage that might result from the eventuality of dropping the device? And does Apple’s failure to fully address those questions somehow make the products less resolved? I believe it does, but it’s somewhat an academic question. Nonetheless, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement and innovation left for Apple in that regard.

  5. I just listed my iPad 1 on ebay, with the intention of upgrading as soon as it sells. This way, the upgrade will cost $150 at the most.

    Though if I’d read this before listing it I might have kept it — there’s something nice about keeping the first-gen product.

    I second the picture frame suggestion. Recently loaded a bunch of photos to my ipad (basically pointed the sync at my 2011 photos folder), and it’s been wonderful. The lockscreen slideshow is great.

    I always thought the smart cover was Apple’s way of saying, “this update just isn’t that impressive, what else can we throw in to give it a little pizzaz?” Not bad, but I still would prefer something that can prop up the thing in vertical orientation

  6. Tim: I think you’ve made a really good point. As beautiful as Apple hardware is, it’s usually most beautiful the day it’s announced. As time and use are figured in, it becomes less and less attractive, until finally it begs to be replaced. It’s true that this is a major fallacy not just with Apple’s industrial design but all digital hardware; still, Apple prides itself so much on aesthetics that I would expect more of them.

    By the way I wrote about this topic (not necessarily with sole regard to Apple) in a post from 2007 called “Designed Deterioration.”

  7. I’ve not upgraded – yet – but I’m having a great time with my iPad using Elgato to stream digital TV to it from my iMac.

    Simply bought the eyeTV tuner, and the matching iPad app … perfect for time/location shifting of digital TV.


  8. Wow. Some people are hard to please. Not that much of an upgrade? The first iPad is still ahead of it’s time. Stop and look at what you are holding. It’s revolutionary and no other tech company will compare. Tough time using the SmartCover (there’s a joke in there somewhere)? The magnet is unbelievably strong. If you hook it on right (not that tough) you can hold the edge of the cover and the iPad won’t fall off. It’s not meant to protect it from drops; simply keep the screen protected when not in use.

  9. I think Tim’s point applies to a lot of Apple’s products, not just the handheld devices. Though it’s less likely to happen to something like a MacBook Air or Pro, they’re still really prone to dents. I truly believe Apple think about this during the process but say to themselves “It’s not our fault if they drop it, they should take more care of these products”. This begs the question though: if Apple worry so much about aesthetics (one of my many reasons for buying Apple products over alternatives) is there anything that can be done to make them more durable, withouts sacrificing the beautiful design?

    Joseph: I don’t think you can say that without any irony. The latest version of the iPad is selling itself as the “iPad 2”, something you’d expect to be upgraded somewhat — otherwise he’d be holding an iPad 1.5 wouldn’t he?

    Khoi, your article has made me want to stick with my iPad for a while. I’m happy with it watching videos, playing games, making music and word processing with little-to-no lag whatsoever. You’ve just saved me a lot of money, thank you.

    I second the notion that you should give your first iPad to someone else who would benefit from it greatly. Not someone you don’t know but someone like your parents or grandparents, they’ll benefit from it more than you would now you own an iPad 2.

  10. Khoi Vinh wrote: “… As time and use are figured in, it becomes less and less attractive, until finally it begs to be replaced. …”

    Maybe this is a deliberate decision by Apple to keep selling replacements/upgrades?

    As for the iPad 1, I say give it to a 9-12 year old. They will love it and the joy you’ll get watching them use it is worth it.

  11. I agree with you on most points, Khoi. Although in my case the smart cover feels very sturdy though and never detaches itself from the iPad. I can hold the cover and let the iPad tangle down and it won’t separate until I really yank on it (try only above a soft surface…). I have the leather version but I don’t know if that makes a difference.

    With the slimmer profile of the new iPad and the smart cover I actually find myself using the iPad 2 more frequently than the iPad 1. It’s just more often in my bag, easier to hold, etc.

    I especially love how the VGA connection now mirrors everything, not just selected apps as in iPad 1. Apple doesn’t really clarify that properly on their site, it almost looks like full mirroring is achieved only when using the HDMI connector but the VGA works perfectly now. I gave a presentation about mobile development a couple of weeks ago and it was great to be able to show a variety of apps on a project like this.

    And as for the iPad 1, my wife really enjoys it.

  12. Give your iPad 1.0 to someone who can’t afford/justify or won’t buy an iPad, but would benefit from owning one. Pass it down the line. 🙂 Giving is often a greater experience than acquiring.

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