Some Thoughts on the New 2012 iPad

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New iPad Home Screen

I’ve spent a little over a week with the new 2012 iPad now. I’m calling it that at the outset (and will shorten it to just new iPad from here on) just so years from now when there are newer new iPads, we’ll be (somewhat) clear on which one is being talked about here. 

I bought the 64GB WiFi + 4G (AT&T) model in black – lined up for it at my local Apple Store in the wee hours of the morning on launch day and was back at my house by 9 in the morning. Needless to say, I’ve been giving it a heck of a lot of use and by now I have a few thoughts to share on this latest generation of the iPad.

iPad Setup

It was cool to see the largely PC-free nature of setup on the new iPad, the first one to come out since iOS 5 was launched with its support for OTA (over the air) software updates, iCloud, and wireless iTunes sync. I would love to say that once I opened up the new iPad I just used iCloud to restore my apps and settings (from the iPad 2) wirelessly – but with over 31GB of apps on the iPad 2 that just didn’t seem viable over WiFi.

So I didn’t do any of the personal setup at the Apple store – I took the iPad home and chose to set it up as a new iPad rather than from a backup of the iPad 2. Though the iPad 2 had no issues I still prefer to have a fresh, clean start with the new iPad. I did a connected sync with my MacBook Pro to install many of the apps I had installed on the iPad 2. I always find these occasions a perfect opportunity for some review and trimming of installed apps and sure enough I came away with around 80 apps less (out of 250).

The most time-consuming part of setup, as always, was arranging apps and home screens on the new iPad. I did most of it within iTunes on the MacBook Pro and final tweaking and getting it just as I like it on the iPad itself.

It took a couple days to have all my settings, including logins for numerous apps and services, back – as I chose to input most of them as and when I next used them.

The Daily Sports

The New iPad Retina Display

I’m not sure there’s much of anything left to say about the retina display. It’s as good as advertised, and then some. I think Ryan Block nailed it in his piece on why the new retina display matters. For all those who say it’s the only really big feature upgrade for this iPad, that may well be right but it’s one feature that feels like ten, because you feel its effect in every single thing you do on the iPad.

Images pop, text is incredibly crisp and sharp, it just improves the experience immensely the entire time you’re using the iPad. Flipboard and The Daily look superb. I find myself stopping to admire the gorgeous text when I’m writing in the iA Writer app. I’m not even a big gamer and I feel this way about it, though I have tried out a few games, including Real Racing 2 HD, and of course they look pretty spectacular.

It’s great to see the app updates for the retina display rolling now. I hope we’ll see the pace of these continue to increase, especially among iPad newspaper, magazine and eBook titles.

Nine Tabs in iPad Safari

Performance

Performance feels a little snappier to me on the new iPad. Page refreshes and common actions in most apps seem just a bit quicker than on the iPad 2. Photo editing and effects apps seem noticeably faster at applying changes. Again, I’m not a big enough gamer to offer any opinions on how much of a performance gain they’re seeing due to the new quad-core graphics processor.

The bump-up to 1GB of RAM is evident too. I’m finding far fewer occasions where I have any need to look at the recently used apps in the multitasking bar and manually close any of them. Everything also seems much faster and steadier when running with 5-9 tabs open in the Safari app now.

4G LTE

LTE / 4G

I’ve been with AT&T for a number of years now and have had very few complaints. Here in Austin I’ve rarely seen issues with voice or data on my iPhones or iPads. Their LTE coverage map for Austin looked good when I was weighing up which model to get before iPad launch day, and so far that has panned out. I haven’t been to a whole lot of different areas in the city, but everywhere I’ve been so far LTE has been available. I get a good LTE connection all the time at home and nearly all the time at a couple of local coffee shops.

On the iPad 2 I only used the small 250MB per month data plan. On Friday I canceled the small plan and setup a new 3GB plan on the new iPad so that I could test it out a fair bit without hitting the limit too soon. Over the last few days I’ve been doing a good bit of testing, using the excellent DataMan Pro for iPad app and the AT&T account view page in Settings to track data usage. As has been heavily reported on the web, LTE is a whole lot faster than 3G – so it pulls down big amounts of data if you do things like watch streaming movies.

Here are just a couple examples of the data usage I saw with WiFi off, cellular data on, and an LTE connection:

— Watching two half hour sitcom episodes in Hulu Plus chewed up nearly 1GB of data. It made the 30-60 second ads stand out a but more to me. That was after just 45-60 minutes of streaming the shows.

— Of course I saw far lower data usage amounts when I tried out 30-60 minute sessions of email checking, using social networks, and browsing the web (without viewing any videos). In one session I used around 67MB of data in 30 minutes of this type of usage – and the bulk of that was just a new content download in The Daily newspaper app.

Speaking of which, iPad newspaper and magazine issues are still at sizes that mean you are very unlikely to want to be downloading them over LTE. The Daily’s content updates (even when it’s not a full new issue) weight in at minimum 55-60MB. Recent issue sizes for The New Yorker range from 105-160MB. The latest issue of the Smithsonian magazine was nearly 500MB.

Happily if you have both WiFi and cellular data on (which is not recommended as it will drain the battery much faster) the iPad will default to the WiFi connection.

The common sense takeaway here is that streaming movies and TV shows or downloading iPad newspaper and magazine issues over LTE is not recommended unless you have a big data plan, and even if you do it won’t take that long to get into expensive overages territory.

Handsom-Deputy-Editor-Dawg

Improved Rear Camera

I haven’t used the new camera that much as yet, as I ‘m not in the habit of using the iPad as a camera. The pictures I have taken look far, far nicer than those I would get on the iPad 2. The camera upgrade is very obvious even with limited use.

Voice Dictation

This is a great new feature. It has hardly got any notice but this is a super useful feature in my book. I’m really not fussed about not having Siri on the new iPad – being able to use voice dictation in notes and writing apps and iMessage is far more worthwhile I think.

And it works very well. It’s very accurate for me; I just need to get a bit more familiar with the way to get punctuation and special characters and such.

Battery Life

Battery life on the new iPad seems just as outstanding as ever. After heavy use on Friday when I got it and more heavy use on Saturday, at 3:30PM on Saturday it had 47% charge left. On Sunday late morning it still had 21% – after two days of pretty damn good use.

It is generally running two to two and a half days for me between charges, though noticeably less on days when I’ve used LTE a fair amount.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, as one commenter has raised the issue, I am not saying the new iPad can be used continuously for one or two days on one charge. I am saying that I am only finding the need to recharge it every 2 – 2.5 days with fairly heavy use each day.

I am certainly seeing the much slower recharging rate that has been widely reported. It’s really an overnight type affair, or a matter of keeping it plugged into a charger throughout the better part of a work day. I hope we’ll soon see new charging accessories that are able to charge it faster. I’d be more than willing to pay for a good solution of that type.

Overall

No shocking twist of an ending here. I’m well happy with the new iPad. I think the retina display is worth the upgrade on its own. The slight performance bump, addition of LTE, and other new niceties have me feeling more than content with the 2012 iPad.

For me, the iPad was already an amazing, powerful, versatile device – as shown by its massive success among consumers, enterprise, businesses of all types and in the education arena. This upgrade didn’t need to be revolutionary and it’s not – but the new display and the overall package just push it farther ahead of its rather lackluster crop of early rivals.


Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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12 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the New 2012 iPad”

  1. Coudnt agree more with your review, and I too love the voice dictation. I’d be glad to read a roundup of verbal commands when you get there ’cause I’m still figuring them out too :)

  2. I used iCloud to restore to the new iPad and it was great. I have(and had) the 32gb version.

    I really like the voice dictation.

    I see reviewers (not on this site) complain all the time about even having a rear facing camera and saying it is useless. Honestly, I use mine multiple times a day. I do inspections that require proof of status (quality of picture is irrelevant, just need to see the result), and the camera saves me more time than one could imagine. The quality of the new camera is fantastic for this. I also take quick pictures of portions of manuals at the office and email them to techs and it is a massive time saver for this also.

    1. Good stuff. that’s cool to hear how you put it to use. I can definitely see the rear camera being useful now and again for me – though generally the iPhone 4S is my first choice.

  3. I am actually using both iPads (iPad2 and then new iPad) at the same time. While I need to do one task, I use the other on another task. Best example is when I will be on Skype while I am working on my book. Yes, sure you can switch from an app to the other, at times I need both running. Or another way ia when I am on a chat session and my partner sends me a link. Normally with one iPad, the link will take me to the site and I am not able to chat during that time. So I must return to the chat app to resume my conversation. With the second pad option, I have both iPads running the same chat app and when a link is on the chat screen, I click on the link on one of the two iPads and go to the web page or YouTube and I am still able to continue chatting on the other iPad.

    Now that is what I call true multi tasking!

    Will I sell my iPad 2? No. They are useful in tandem.

    I agree with Patrick Jordan that a “faster” charger would be good to have. As it stands now, I will use my iPad 2 on out trips where I may not have enough time to do a full overnight charge. I can chage my iPad 2 in about 2 hours.

    1. Wow – that really is some fine multitasking. May need to attempt to steal the iPad 2 back from my spouse. :)

  4. You sound biased a bit just when you talk abut the iPad battery life. How could you be using it “heavily” for two days and it be at 21%. This is misleading, heavy iPad usage will yield 10 hours of battery life Apple doesn’t claim two days battery life, neither should you.

    1. Sorry. My wording was never meant to imply that I was using the new iPad continuously for two days on a single charge – but that I did not need to charge for two to two and a half days with some heavy usage on each day. I have changed the wording a little to make it a little clearer hopefully.

  5. What I want to know is why an iPad site’s photos in flipboard and in safari are not retina resolution?

    1. Because as of now I am now aware of effective methods to include retina quality images on the site without making file sizes enormous and page loads far slower. I’m trying to follow this subject closely and I’m on the lookout for methods that will make this do-able.

  6. My wife and I have an iPhone 4 each.  We’ve both had an iPad 1 and skipped the iPad 2.  We each have a win 7 pc.  My feeling is that we probably didn’t need to get the iPad 3, but we did – 1 each.  It’s great.  The display is fantastic.  But not probably worth the upgrade.  Dictation is good but not that accurate and not worth the upgrade.  I can’t see us upgrading again unless there’s a game changing feature added.  Siri won’t do it.  Personally think it may be the beginning of a slow downhill slide for apple with their phone and tablet business.  

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