By MAHESH RATNAM
The original iPad set off a revolution similar to that of the iPhone. It ate into the netbook market like a chow hound and effectively killed it. Then every manufacturer started making one and CES 2011 was filled with tablets from every known technology company. “Year of the copy cats” was how Steve Jobs described it and he wasn’t wrong either. Just when others thought they’d caught up with the iPad, Applesaid it was coming out with iPad 2.
The good and the bad
Even with all this,the original iPad never really inspired me and many others to get one having an iPhone 4 and a MacBook Pro. The iPad never really fit in to my usage. This one though, may just change my mind.Let’s get on with what is new in this version. The first thing you notice is how incredibly thin it is; 33 per cent thinner than the original iPad. The specs are monstrous. iPad 2 now runs on an Apple A5 Dual Core chip at 1 GHZ; Apple says it is twice as fast with up to 9x better graphics. This is not only a boon for gamers, but also developers who build 3D based apps for the medical, engineering and design fields. With this the iPad now outputs video via HDMI at 1080p. It is a mirrored output so you get exactly what you see on the iPad on the screen.
It has two cameras, one each on the front and the back. The rear is capable of handling 720p HD video at 30fps, comes equipped with an accelerometer, a gyroscope and a proximity sensor also be found in the iPhone 4.Battery life was incredible in the previous iPad. Apple claimed 10hours, but testing by major tech blogs and my playing around with my colleague’s iPad showed well over 11 hours.Now for the bad news. They stuck to the same screen. Not that it’s bad at 1024×768 resolution and IPS LCD screen technology but most of us were hoping for a Retina Display. There is no SD card slot, but I don’t see this as a major shortcoming. The other tablets in the market that offer a SD card slot come with either 16 GB or 32GB memory built in.
Now to the big question: Will I be getting one? Definitely. Why? I realised how useful this can be. I started travelling quite a bit on work lately and lugging a laptop (even a 13 incher) is a headache. Add a charger that weighs almost as much as the laptop itself and getting that tangled cable out of your bag and plugging it in…
For anyone who travels a lot this machine is a blessing. It wasn’t the hardware alone that swayed me but the apps. With almost 65,000 apps dedicated for the iPad, no other market even comes close. With apps like iWork (Apple’s office productivity suite), iMovie and Garageband making their way to the App Store, it is almost a no-brainer for me to drop my laptop and carry this around. Those worried about running out of space, HyperMac sells hard drives compatible with the iPad called HyperDrive that starts at 320GB and goes up to 1TB. There is no word when it will be come to India; release date for the U.S. is March 11.The author is a working professional.
Android 2.3 a.k.a Gingerbread, the latest version of Android, is still trickling into all the major handsets that support it. Google’s mobile OS is on a power hungry growth and has already over taken the iOS market share (not including iPod touch).The first thing you notice is that it is Open Source, meaning anyone can make a custom version of the OS and slap it on to their hardware. Most variants don’t change much of the working but apply a skin to make it look different at the most. Since every mobile phone maker has access to modifying the OS, there is a lot of fragmentation. For example, if four different companies use Android, this leads to four slightly varied concoctions. This can be a developer’s nightmare; in some cases, a reviewer’s too. So this write up is based solely on the Original Gingerbread as Google intended it to be; the ones that can be found on Nexus one and Nexus S.
Gingerbread is not an overhaul of 2.2 (Froyo) but it brings the whole system closer. The OS now feels more refined more responsive (based on usage on a Nexus S). There are a lot of improvements that may not be noticeable to the causal user, but it’s definitely there.I had two major gripes about the OS. One was the keyboard. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single android user who uses the default keyboard that came with the OS. This update saw to that. The default keyboard has more features and functions that enable a better typing experience.
One nice enhancement is that you can simultaneously press Shift and a letter to get a symbol or number; this is no need to switch between modes. Another feature is the ability to use your voice to correct words as you type. All you have to do is simply press and hold the incorrect word, and then select the dedicated voice control key (the microphone icon) on your keyboard. Then you say the correct word praying Google gets it right. Copy/Paste is a HUGE improvement. It looks like it took a leaf out of iOS, but it works fine and that’s all we need. The camera app deserves a mention since there is a significant improvement. In case your phone has more than one camera, this lets you switch between them. It is simple but it wasn’t there before. There are other subtle improvements; an increase in speed and responsiveness. The whole OS is coming together as a solid performer.
The feature I love about Android in general, irrespective of the version, is that I get to customise the home screen my way. While the iOS is getting more generic with each passing year, Android can still excite you the same way you enjoyed putting a desktop theme on your windows machine.
The second gripe that I had, or rather have, is the touch response. It has improved from fray, but still is nowhere near as good as the iPhone’s iOS or Palm’s (now HP) webOS. Sometimes it is frustrating. As far as multitasking goes, webOS is the only one who has gotten it right. Not Apple not Google.The Android app store is another big worry. This is not the carefully curated store like Apple’s . There is a lot of junk that you have to weave through to get to the good ones. The quality also can be improved upon. A lot.
The Android developer community can’t be blamed completely either, because what works well in,’ lets say, a Samsung android device may not work well on the HTC android device. Fragmentation has become a major issue. On a personal note, my main worry is: since you don’t get the Nexus version in India, it is a huge pain to select the handset.Updates to the OS aren’t easy either. You can’t have it as soon as it comes out. You get it on your handset only when your manufacturer decides to give it to you after adding all the unnecessary bloat ware.While Android is shaping up to be an amazing OS, it still has much to improve. The best way to deal with this would be to give the OS as it is to manufacturers but then it would no longer be an Open Source software, which made it famous in the first place.(Do you see the irony?). Till Google can figure out a way to please everyone, Android will always be my second choice.
Mahesh is a working professional.
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