Is Steve Jobs watching this rollout? I would imagine that he kept hoping Tim would say "And one more thing..." because in my opinion, this announcement was just not very compelling, and certainly not "revolutionary". As I watched the announcement unfold, the phrase "And?" (from the recent commercial for Coke Zero) kept coming to mind. I just wasn't feeling any excitement.
So what was Tim Cook trying to get us all excited about? Well, the "new" iPad, of course. Yeah, no more model numbers. So we go from the iPad, to the iPad 2, to the "new" iPad. What will next year's model be called? Perhaps the "newer" iPad? Or the "even better" iPad? Lame. (And as an Apple mobile device lover, I just hate having to type that word here)
The key improvements
The Retina Display: This seemed the be the lynch pin of the presentation. They certainly spent a lot of time talking about it. Which I find a little wasteful considering the Retina Display has been around for two years with its introduction with the iPhone 4. The 2048x1536 resolution at 264 pixels/inch is fantastic to be sure. Greater color saturation will make photos and video look better as well. I imagine iPad 1 users will jump to the new iPad but would people upgrade from the iPad 2 just for that? Perhaps Apple is targeting those iPad 1 users and those who are still trying to decide on their first tablet purchase.
The new A5X Graphics Processor: To make the new Retina Display "pop", they had to improve the processor to a Quad Core Graphics chip that can drive all those pixels without seriously draining battery life. The A5X (not the expected A6 chip) is designed to do just that. I get the feeling that this chip won't do much for general application performance but is really just a powerhouse to support faster graphics processing. Nothing wrong with that!
4G/LTE and Tethering Support: As I said in a previous post, this is the one thing I was hoping for! And it is finally here! Of course, it should have been in both the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, but whose complaining (okay, I am). The LTE speed (for those who live in an area that has it) will be a big benefit for power users of the device. And the ability to use the iPad as a Personal Hotspot to support five other wireless devices will be much accepted (the costs of which will be up to your carrier, of course). I think this was inevitable. I wonder how the Personal Hotspot feature will impact battery life though.
LTE does suck up battery life (as most Android users with 4G/LTE will attest to). So Apple has tweaked the battery in the new iPad so that even with LTE, you will still have 9 hours of battery life (10+ hours if running 3G). This will be a welcome benefit to those LTE users who currently have to buy extended batteries for their Android phones.
Improved Camera with 1080p: The new 5 megapixel camera is nice but more of a 'duh' in my book. It should have come with the iPad 2. But Apple likes to improve its cameras with every new device release, so this comes as no great surprise. Basically, this is the same camera that ships in the iPhone 4S so people will enjoy using the iPad as an overly large camera for both stills and HD Video at 1080p. The new auto face-detection and auto image stabilization will also be appreciated.
Updates for iWork and iLife: These improvements are pretty much par for the course. GarageBand got Smart Strings, a Note Editor, and a cool new feature where multiple iPad users can collaborate in a "jam session" that can be recorded on a single iPad as separate tracks. I can see a lot of musicians trying to see how this can enhance their creativity. iMovie can now generate 'movie trailers' which should be fun. And the new iPhoto app will offer 'photo journals' that can be stored in iCloud and shared with non-Apple users via a web browser. All very nice (but not limited to just the new iPad device).
Siri with Japanese support: Okay, so if you speak Japanese, you are going to love this new feature. But otherwise, it is just another language Siri supports. It has yet to be really tested in the real world to see how well it works. Just ask Siir users in Scotland about their experiences with language recognition. I wonder how Siri will handle the various dialects in Japan.
iCloud streams movies now: iCloud is just going to expand its reach as more and more developers begin to figure out how to utilize the Cloud in their applications. The fact that Apple will now stream movies from the Cloud is just a natural extension of what it does now with media. It's a good thing, especially if it has adaptive streaming to handle varying bandwidth availability at the device level for those of us who won't be using LTE.
Apple TV supports 1080p too: Oh yeah, the new Apple TV device, which supports NetFlix and other streaming sources, will now hook up to your HDTV device in full 1080p! While this is not historic or revolutionary, it is what I would expect from a streaming media device in today's world. If you are one of the many who are 'unplugging' from the likes of Comcast, AT&T UVerse, and DISH Network in favor of getting all your entertainment over the Internet, then this is something to pay attention to. For $99, it is well worth the investment because it also allows you to stream all the media on your PC/Mac to your HDTV (photos, music, and video).
To wrap things up
I don't mean to say these improvements aren't very nice. They are all nice enhancements. And that if I had the device, I would certainly be taking advantage of them. But they just seem like a small step up -- like where the iPad 2 should have been from the start. The top four items on the above list were all things that users like me were clamoring for about this same time in 2011 when we were all waiting for the iPad 2 announcement.
The app improvements and the updated iOS 5.1 I will get on my iPad 2, so I do not really consider them germane to discussing the value of the "new" iPad. I will get to enjoy the new features of GarageBand, iMovie, and iPhoto without the new device. And sure, the camera icon visible on the lock screen is great (but of course you still need tech gloves if you live in colder climates to swipe the thing).
For those of us who shelled out the cash for a 3G 64gb iPad 2, I cannot justify the cost of upgrading to this new device. The only compelling enhancement is 4G/LTE. The Retina Display is all nice and fine, but unless you are an iPad Gamer I don't think the display alone is worth the cash. I think I'd rather wait for the iPhone 5 with LTE support and just tether my iPad 2 to that when I need the speed boost.
I can't help but wonder if Apple has 'jumped the shark'. It has been a full two days since the announcement, and I am still thinking to myself "And....?"