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iPad 2? Let's be kind and call it iPad 1.5

Mr Jobs, your 'all-new design' isn't

Analysis When introducing the iPad 2 on Wednesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs referred to it as an "all-new design." That assertion could kindly be called debatable.

More accurately, the iPad 2 is a refinement and speed bump to the original iPad. Its new higher-performance processor and improved graphics are, to be sure, welcome upgrades. Its added front and rear cameras will be of use in video calls – if anyone actually prefers to communicate that way. And its slimmer form factor is, well, sexier.

But at 1.3 pounds (601 grams), it remains a handful. Its display hasn't been upgraded, nor has its 30-pin proprietary port, nor has its maximum flash-storage allotment.

But it does come in white – "from day one," said Jobs, a clear reference to the phantom white iPhone 4, which apparently suffers from some form of digital agoraphobia, fearing to venture out into the world.

Before today's announcement, as we noted on Tuesday, the hills were alive with the sound of speculation. Now that fantasies have solidified into aluminum-and-glass facts, it's time to check to see which came true, and which didn't. Here's our list of rumors from Tuesday, along with our notes as to their accuracy. Or inaccuracy:

  • The iPad 2 will have a thinner, lighter case, possibly made of carbon fiber
  • Thinner and lighter: hit. The original iPad measured 9.56 x 7.47 x 0.5 inches (243 x 190 x 13 mm), and the Wi-Fi version weighed 1.5 pounds (680 grams). The iPad 2 measures 9.50 x 7.31 x 0.34 inches (241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm) and weighs in at 1.33 pounds (601 grams). Noticeably slimmer. Not noticeably lighter.
    Carbon fiber: miss. The iPad 2's case remains Apple's good ol' traditional brushed aluminum.
  • A display the same size and resolution as the one in the current iPad, but with improved performance in bright sunlight
  • Same size and reolution: hit. Both iPad versions have a 9.7-inch LED-backlit, glossy, oleophobic, IPS display with 1024 x 768 resolution at 132 ppi.
    Improved readability in sunlight: miss. No mention of such improvements were made during the announcment event, nor is such an improvement mentioned on Apple's website.
  • Better overall performance due to a better-performing processor – possibly a dual-core CPU based on the ARM Cortex-A9
  • Better-performing processor: hit. Apple's new A5 processor has dual cores, assuring better performance on apps that can take advantage of that extra core. But don't bet on Apple's simplistic claim of an overall doubling the performance – life's not that simple. Whether the A5 is built using ARM's Cortex-A9 IP is not yet known, but that's a reasonable assumption.
  • Better graphic performance thanks to an Imagination Technologies' PowerVR SGX543 graphics processor
  • Better graphics performance: hit. Apple claims that the iPad 2 has "up to nine times the graphics performance" of its predecessor – although it gave no indication of what usage model that figure is based upon. Whether the boost comes from Imagination's PowerVR SGX543 IP, they didn't say – but that information is sure to come out eventually.
  • Twice the current iPad's 256MB of RAM (matching that of the 512MB iPhone 4) to better support more-complex apps and multiprocessing
  • More RAM: unknown. Apple didn't say at the event and doesn't list on its website the amount of RAM in the iPad 2. Although one Gizmodean attending an iPad 2 demo in the UK was told by a "demo dude" that the Jobsian foldleslab packs only 256MB, we find that a questionable assertion, seeing as how the iPhone 4 has 512MB. The jury is still out on this one.
  • Flash storage maxing out at 128GB, also twice that of the current top-end iPad
  • Top storage of 128GB: miss. The iPad 2 will ship with the same levels of storage – 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB – as did its predecessor. It'll also ship at the same price points. Perhaps Cupertinian marketing minds feared having any of its precious 'Pads coming in at over $1K.
  • A Qualcomm MDM6600 multimode radio chip as is used in the Verizon iPhone 4, to allow support for both GSM and CDMA
  • Multimode wireless: hit. The iPad 2 will come in two flavors at launch: a GSM version for AT&T in the US, and a CDMA version for Verizon. Note, however, that you won't be able to switch between the two. You pays your money and you makes your choice, most likely for reasons of differing antenna designs. And whether the radio chip is the Qualcomm MDM6600 is as yet unknown, although will most certainly find out as soon as they rip an iPad 2 apart. Our bet is that they'll discover the same Qualcomm MDM6600 that they found inside the Verizon iPhone 4.
  • Two cameras: a low-res one on the front for FaceTime video calling, and a highish-res one on the back for turning the iPad into a bulky point-and-shoot
  • Dual cameras: hit. Apple doesn't provide megapixelage data for the backside camera, but it does note that it'll capture 720p video at 30 fps, and still photos with a 5X (thoroughly pointless) digital zoom. These are the same specs for the iPhone 4's rear-facing camera, so we're guessing the iPad 2's is a five-megapixel job, as well. The iPad 2's front-facing video/still camera is listed as having VGA resolution: typically 640 x 480. Curiously, the iPad 2's rear-facing camera doesn't have an LED flash, as does the camera in the iPhone 4.
  • Better audio through a beefed-up speaker
  • Better audio: probable hit. Again, we'll have to wait for a teardown to take a peek at the iPad 2's speaker, but its lower-back speaker grille is certainly larger than the three tiny lozenge-shaped holes in the bottom of the original iPad's case.
  • An optional white case, to wow the fashionista crowd
  • White-case option: hit. Whether the iPad Tidy-Whitey will wow fashonistas, however, remains to be seen.
  • The replacement of the well-aged 30-pin USB connector with a Thunderbolt port à la the new MacBook Pro line
  • Thunderbolt port: miss. There's a whole 30-pin ecosystem that would – will? – be thrown into turmoil if – when? – Apple switches from its current proprietary port to Thunderbolt on the iPad. Not that Apple has ever worried too much about pulling the rug out from under it's third-party partners, of course. But with the iPad 2 being essentially self-contained, there's really no reason for it to incorporate a high-speed Thunderbolt port. Yet.

It appears that the anonymous Apple staffer quoted on Tuesday by Cult of Mac was giving good advice when he cautioned: "For the iPad 2 don’t get your hopes up too high."

Incidentally, that same source also told Cult of Mac that MobileMe was about to be launched as a cloud-based, keep-all-your-media-in-the-sky service. That service wasn't roll-out on Wednesday either – just as we predicted it wouldn't be.

All-in-all, the iPad 2 isn't exactly what you'd call a disappointment – well, unless you were expecting something truly "magical and revolutionary". The iPad 2 adds little magic to the original iPad, and it is most certainly not revolutionary.

Which is fine. For now. But with the tablet market heating up, at the iPad 3's rollout Surprising Savant Steve™ had better have something more impressive up his sleeve when he utters his famous "One more thing..." – a phrase that wasn't mentioned in Jobs' Wednesday presentation.

He didn't say those three words because there really wasn't one more thing. Just the same thing. An improved, updated version of the same thing, to be sure, but nothing magical or revolutionary. ®

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