FRAMINGHAM, 14 MARCH 2011 - Eleven months ago, Apple released the first iPad, a touchscreen handheld computer that redefined tablets, disrupting the laptop/desktop market just as the iPod did to music players and the iPhone did to smartphones. On Friday, 15 million iPads later, Apple released its successor, the iPad 2. Many people -- myself included -- predicted long lines and sell-outs, just like last year. So did Apple deliver?
In a word, yes; more accurately: hell yes.
Lines formed across the U.S., even though this year's iPad 2 launch offered many more places to buy the new tablet than last year. In addition to Apple's retail stores, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, AT&T, Verizon, Sam's Club, and select Apple resellers had a limited number of iPad 2s available on Friday.
At a Best Buy in downtown Orlando, where I got mine, well over 100 people were waiting in line a half hour before the iPad 2 went on sale at 5 p.m. Staffers kept us informed of inventory levels: the 16GB models went first, followed by the 32GB versions, until only 64GB 3G models were left. (That's the exact one I wanted, in black, natch.) I got the last one available after the guy in front of me decided he really wanted another model and decided to try another store nearby; he handed me the iPad 2 that became mine. Thank you, sir.
Look and feel
The iPad 2 is 7.3 in. wide x 9.5 in. long x .34 in. thick -- thinner and lighter than the first-generation version. The 9.7-in. 1024 x 768-pixel screen is the same, framed by a black or white border. The aluminum at the edge of the screen flows into the flat back, but it's hard to describe the graceful physical design. There's no side lip like the previous iPad had, and the result is a beautifully sleek unibody design. It's hard to believe devices will become thinner than this. Of course, they will, but for now: wow. The thinner iPad is easier to hold, and the aluminum body -- in concert with the oil-resistant oleophobic coated glass -- gives it a sturdy, luxurious feel.
The iPad 2 is noticeably lighter. While officially it's just a few ounces -- the old one weighed 1.5 pounds, this one, 1.3 pounds -- the difference is enough that the iPad 2 feels at first as if you could use it extensively without propping it in your lap. Don't be fooled; If you don't prop it up, your wrist will still get tired of holding it, albeit it takes longer for fatigue to set in. Still, any weight savings is a step in the right direction, especially since build quality remains high.
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