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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.