The iPad: new and improved

“It looks the same.”
“Why do I need it?”
“What makes this one better?”

These are just a few of the complaints and questions I have heard since Apple introduced the new iPad March 7. I hear these statements more and more after each iPad release. Sometimes the questions are caused by a lack of understanding due to Apple’s refusal to provide good descriptions of its products.

However, my goal is to give you information about the new iPad so you can decide if it is the tablet for you.

While the new iPad may look the same as the iPad 2, the devices are far from similar. Apple made the new iPad heavier and thicker than the previous model. Don’t let a fatter iPad ruin the experience for you, though. The new iPad is only 0.03 mm thicker than its predecessor. In addition, the weight is only a slight change of 0.12 pounds.

These changes are hardly noticeable and do not affect the way a user will hold or use the device. I applaud this design decision. Normally, Apple would have chosen to keep the same weight and thickness, but they chose function over form instead. By making these changes, Apple was able to keep the same 10-hour battery life of the previous iPad.

The new iPad has other similarities with the iPad 2. The new model still has the recognizable black (or white) seamless glass bezel, recessed home button and front-facing camera. On the back, you will still find the Apple logo and the camera hole. The sides still have the same solid plastic buttons built in to the curved aluminum. Without turning on the device, a user will have a difficult time seeing any differences.

Once the device is on, however, the first difference users will notice is in the screen.

Apple has been working hard on advancing its screen technology. I only got to spend a limited amount of time with the device, but in that time I quickly fell in love with the screen. Most readers have watched an HD TV, but no one has seen this kind of HD because the iPad has a higher resolution than any consumer HD TV.

The screen is incredibly crisp and bright and provides a level of detail I have never seen before. Pictures from professional-grade cameras are displayed just as they were taken, with remarkable detail and color.

Such clarity allows students to read textbooks with less eyestrain, making the iPad the ideal e-book. Videos appear more vibrant for video editors. Pictures used by art, graphic design and photography majors are easier to see, modify and share, thanks to the new iPhoto for iPad app. iPhoto allows media to be organized and edited with remarkable detail.

The next feature users may notice is the addition of 4G wireless technology. 4G cellular technology allows users to download websites, pictures and videos up to 10 times faster than 3G. There are currently two options for 4G iPads in the United States: Verizon and AT&T. Of course, all 4G iPads still have 3G built in for the many cities in America that do not yet have 4G, which includes those in Kankakee County.

The 4G technology, however, does come at a higher price. My advice for students is to buy a Wi-Fi only iPad to save money. The only reason to get one of the 4G models is if you plan to travel frequently or go long periods without a solid Wi-Fi connection.

By far, the most useless addition to the new iPad is the 5-megapixel iSight camera. This is the same groundbreaking camera technology Apple started including in the iPhone 4 and later models. Yes, it takes fantastic photographs and even shoots HD video, but do you want to be “that person” walking around a party with an iPad, taking pictures and video?

The only use of this camera is occasionally taking pictures or video while sitting at a desk or showing someone on Skype, Facetime or Google Talk what you are looking at. While the camera does its job well, it adds little utility to such a large device. What the iPad really needs is a better front-facing camera for higher resolution video chat, but I’m sure this will be one of the additions to next year’s iPad.

Another new development is the software that third-party developers, along with several contributions from Apple, have made available for the new iPad. Mac users who love to organize, edit and share their photographs can now download the iPhoto for iPad app. The app offers an incredible amount of utility, especially for photographers. Musicians can also use the GarageBand for iPad app to record music.

There are now more than 30,000 other apps created for the iPad by third-party developers, including those used for education, content creation, games and more.
Though the number of applications may be increasing, storage capacities have not changed. Users with lots of books, pictures, videos and music may spend an extra $100 on the 32GB version of the new iPad to ensure space for every piece of valuable media.

I love the new iPad. The screen is incredible, and the app selection is far superior to that of the Kindle Fire or any other Android-powered tablet. But the greatest potential of the iPad lies in what developers and publishers do with it.

My biggest complaint is the lack of necessity for such technology in places such as the classroom or the office.

Students could easily go from carrying 15 pounds in books to simply pulling out their iPad in class, but that is not happening due to the lack of demand for digital tools in the classroom.

If a demand is created for publishers to start publishing books to the iBook store or Amazon’s Kindle store, the iPad will be the only device any student will need. For now, it is simply a toy for content consumption for most students.

Overall, the new iPad is an incredible advancement in tablet-computing technology that will set the standard for both technology and arts for years to come.
If you do not have an iPad but have thought about getting a tablet, take the dive and buy the new device (32 GB Wi-Fi only).

You’ll be glad you did.

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