On April 27th 2012, the day the new iPad was released in India, I went to the nearest Reliance Digital store and got one for my mother. Yep, that’s right – not for me but my mother. Now this is a woman who’s been fearful of using a computer all her life, never having gotten a grip on operating the mouse. But even she is at ease with the iPad, finding it relatable to her mobile phone which she is proficient with.
I tell you this because it is perhaps the biggest compliment to the iPad (and to Steve Jobs, a man who pioneered the market). Thanks to the iPad, my mother will finally be able to join the “connected” world, and email, share photos, browse the web, watch TV on the move and video-chat with her relatives and family.
With that, let’s move on to the actual review of the new iPad.
The new iPad comes with a host of improvements, such as:
- Improved Retina Display that offers a resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels, even more than a Full HD TV!
- Improved 5 MP iSight camera (compared to a 0.7 MP VGA camera on the iPad 2)
- Faster Safari web browser
- iOS 5.1 with iCloud (5 GB storage free)
- New apps such as Newsstand and iBooks in addition to useful apps such as FaceTime and iMessage
- More internet connectivity options (Wi-Fi + 3G + 4G LTE)
- Improved hardware
- A5X dual-core CPU with a quad-core graphics processor (compared to A5 CPU on the iPad 2) for improved graphics performance
- 1 GB RAM (compared to 512 MB on the iPad 2) for faster performance and better multitasking
- Longer lasting 11,560 mAh battery (compared to 6930 mAh on the iPad 2)
Despite the above improvements, the iPad still excludes some features available in most Android tablets, such as:
- FaceTime and iMessage are restricted to only Apple devices (iPad, iPhone and iMac)
- No camera flash, resulting in poor pictures in low light conditions
- No support for external memory cards, something that’s available on most Android tablets
- No support for Adobe Flash in the browser, which means sites that use Flash (such as video streaming sites) will not render properly
- Limited choice of Indian apps in iTunes compared to Android Market/Google Play which has a better variety
- Limited choice of books in iBooks compared to Amazon Kindle library
- No free magazines of consequence in Newsstand
New iPad vs. iPad 2
The only real improvements in the new iPad over the iPad 2 are the retina display, the iSight camera and the 4G LTE connectivity (if you opt for it). The software improvements such as new iOS version, iCloud, Newsstand, iBooks, etc. are all available even on the iPad 2. The hardware improvements such as the more powerful CPU and higher RAM don’t seem to have that much impact on the usability. The more powerful quad-core GPU is only necessary in view of the higher pixel density of the retina display, and even with the more powerful battery, the new iPad gives the same usage time as the iPad 2 did on its battery.
Coming to the retina display, the difference in resolution is not really noticeable from the iPad 2 for daily usage. You can see the difference only if you look real closely or blow up text a 1000 percent. Even most iPad apps have not yet come out with HD versions.
As for the 4G LTE connectivity, do keep in mind that the iPad only supports certain 4G frequencies used by US and Canadian mobile networks. It does not yet support other 4G frequencies used across the world. So the new iPad’s 4G is really only guaranteed to work in the US and Canada as of now. The good news is, it is backward compatible and therefore supports 3G networks too.
But all in all, given the marginal difference in cost between the new iPad and the iPad 2 for a given storage capacity (16 GB/32 GB), I’d say that the better camera, display and hardware in the new iPad makes it worth spending those few extra thousand rupees and getting yourself the latest offering rather than a year-old model.
But between the basic and 4G model, I would suggest you to go in for the Wi-Fi only model, as it doesn’t make sense to pay a significant premium for 4G connectivity unless you plan to use the iPad extensively on the move (and also considering that 3G tariffs are quite high in India presently).
iPad vs. Android – Why you should buy an iPad?
So why should you buy an iPad instead of an Android tablet that will be cheaper and also offer better specs and more features? Two words – iOS and the iTunes App Store!
The iOS operating system is remarkably optimized for mobile touch-based platforms. It looks and feels like an OS designed and built specifically for tablets and touchscreen phones. The larger menus, multi-touch support, using natural movements to perform operations, all serve to make the iPad so easy to use that even my mom feels at home with it! To add to it, iCloud has been integrated very well into the OS so that synchronization happens silently and efficiently in the background. Even Twitter is integrated into the core OS and one can tweet directly from within most text-based apps.
The iTunes app store really brings the iPad to life. Thanks to apps, the iPad actually becomes a money-saving gadget as it allows us to make international calls and video chat for free, both of which can help cut down significantly on phone bills while delivering an enhanced communication experience. Then there are informational apps such as a world atlas, panchang (Indian religious calendar), dictionary/thesaurus, apps to watch live TV, news apps, etc.
By contrast, Android, though undoubtedly a very good alternative, still has to go some way before it can match iOS in this regard, although it has a wonderful app store of its own that perhaps has a richer bank of apps than iTunes.
Apps I use
I have installed the following apps so far:
- Skype (for free video chatting)
- Talkatone (for free phone calls to any number in US/Canada)
- Wikipanion (makes it easier to browse Wikipedia than Safari)
- National Geographic World Atlas HD
- WebMD and Medscape (my mother is a doctor)
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- News apps (Times of India for iPad, Indian Express for iPad, Loksatta, NDTV HD and IBN Live)
- Hindu Calendar
- Games (Sudoku and Tic Tac Free)
- Live TV apps (India TV Pro, Online TV HD, YuppTV and dittoTV)
If you can afford the slightly higher cost, an iPad is definitely worth the price for the better user experience and premium feel compared to high-end Android tablets such as those from Samsung, Lenovo and Sony. And given the small price difference between the old and new iPads of same storage capacity, the new iPad is definitely worth the few extra bucks!