Hands on with the new iPad
The new iPad model features a sharper screen and a faster processor. Photo: AP
When Australians become the first on the planet to get their hands on the new iPad on March 16, they will find a tablet with a dramatically-improved screen display, camera and iLife suite of software.
I had the chance to briefly play with the new device at the launch in San Francisco today, and would never know that the device is thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. The footprint is exactly the same, but the alloy case and Gorilla glass screen make it about 0.6 millimetres deeper and about 50 grams heavier.
The most obvious improvement is in the screen – called a Retina Display, meaning the 3.1 million pixels encompassed by the 9.7-inch (diagonal) screen are too fine for the human eye to determine at normal reading distance. That's four times more pixels than on the iPad 2.
The new iPad on display during the Apple event in San Francisco. Photo: AP
Playing with the “clean-slate-new” version of iPhoto available for download from the App Store today, I was impressed by the needle-sharpness of images and, especially, text. Zooming in on text made no difference to the sharpness and blackness of the resolution.
Colour images seemed brighter as well as sharper. Apple's Phil Schiller, demonstrating the new iPad on stage, said colour saturation had been improved more than 40 per cent but could not show it because the iPad's screen resolution was better than the high-end digital projector could manage for the big auditorium screen. But with the iPad in my hand, I couldn't argue.
As much as I like my iPad 2, its rearward-facing camera for taking pictures is not very impressive. The new iPad has been given the same 5 megapixel camera as the iPhone 4S with consequent improvements in sharpness, resolution and colour rendition. The couple of pictures I took at the launch put the iPad 2 to shame.
Garry with the new iPad.
I still doubt I would use even this upgraded setup to take many pictures, but it's a distinct improvement. On the other, screen-side of the iPad the camera is the “FaceTime” unit used in the iPad 2.
Camera positions, buttons, speakers, antenna and other hardware bits are in the same place on the new iPad as on iPad 2, a boon for accessory makers who can avoid retooling the dies for cases and covers.
So far as iPad's hardware goes, that's about it. But Apple is really about its ecosystem – hardware, software, apps and communications, meaning iCloud; the environment in which integration is seamless.
So, while we wait until March 16 for the new iPad, users of iPad 2s are able from today to download the new iLife suite of iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto. iMovie and GarageBand have had notable upgrades. iPhoto is new from the ground up and impressive.
The big improvement in GarageBand is the orchestration of multiple instruments and devices. You can now bow a violin by sliding your finger over the screen; slide it back and forth quickly and you get louder sound.
A new feature, called Jam Session, allows up to four iPads to wirelessly record simultaneously – one on drums, others on guitar, bass and keyboard – the result, and share it via iCloud and social networks. Or use multiple instruments as in an orchestra.
In iMovie the iOS devices get the create-a-movie-trailer feature that was previously restricted to the app on Mac. Music provided has been recorded by, among others, the London Symphony Orchestra and is DRM-free.
I tried the new iPhoto very briefly. Among the features was use of multi-touch to retouch pictures, say lightening shadows, darkening a burned out sky and raising skin tones – just by selecting a colour and literally rubbing over the screen with a finger.
Image resolution was amazing. Using the camera connection kit you can upload from a DSLR camera images up to 19 megapixels, straighten them with a finger or a new dial control and, on the fly, just by tapping the screen, produce a journal, even including videos, that also can be enhanced by a map, the date and, would you believe, even the weather on the day the picture was taken.
Australia's position as a major market for Apple products – anecdotally the largest per capita in the world – has earned us an Australian-accented English language version of the new dictation software included in the new iPad.
I got a few words dictated. It was uncannily accurate. It is available for any app that invokes a keyboard and is activated by tapping a little microphone icon to the left of the spacebar. It rings, just like Siri - the voice assistant on iPhone4S - and obviously uses an extension of the same software; Dragon Dictate-ish, even down to “comma”, “fullstop” and other punctuation commands.
The other important attribute is the inclusion of 4G (LTE – for Long-Term Evolution) in the brace of mobile technologies the new iPad now boasts. But unfortunately Australians won't be able to take advantage of the faster 4G speeds as Australia's only 4G network, offered by Telstra, uses a different frequency (1800MHz) to 4G networks in the US. But the new iPad will have access to a theoretical maximum of 42 megabits per second on Telstra's DC-HSDPA network and up to 21.1 Mbps on HSDPA+.
Garry Barker travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Apple.