byJoanna Stern||March 10th 2011 at 6:50pmMarch 10th 2011 6:50 pm
You know what tomorrow is right? Yep, Friday, but it's also iPad 2 launch day! After months of rumors and a pretty impressive launch event, Apple's releasing the second iteration of its popular tablet. Yes, it's true, in a lot of ways the iPad 2 is a lot like the first iPad, so many of you should be old pros at this, but if you happen to be a first timer or you simply just need a refresher, we've broken down everything you need to know about getting your own "magical" tablet. We've also put together a short list of things to do with it as soon as you've gotten it out of the box. Hit the break for a full breakdown of everything you need to know and don't forget to read our full review.
Versions / 3G Plans
We've always been big proponents of determining what you want before you get to the store, so before we get into how you actually get an iPad 2, let's go over the options.
In the past Apple's kept its options fairly streamlined, but with the iPad 2 there are more options than ever. Actually, we figured out that there are a total of 18 SKUs, when you factor in the black and white colors, three storage options, and AT&T / Verizon 3G versions. Here are your choices!
iPad 3G (AT&T / Verizon)
Naturally, those 3G models don't include the price of monthly data. Verizon and AT&T don't require contracts, but the pricing between the two carriers does differ. The handy chart below breaks it down.
So, should you go with Verizon or AT&T? We can't really answer that for you since it comes down to where you live and your budget, but we we definitely suggest looking into which carrier provides better coverage in your area.
Apple's made things a bit simpler this year with the order process since both pre-orders and in-store buying starts on the same day -- yes, March 11th. Sales start in stores at 5PM local time. So, if you want to get your hands on the 9.7-inch tablet right away, you'll want to head down to an Apple Store, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, AT&T or Verizon store after 5PM to do so. There's no telling what the lines will be like so make sure to bring some reading material or charge up your phone.
For those that don't need to get that 0.34-inch thin tablet in hand immediately, you can order on Apple.com starting at 1AM PT. It will also be up for order on some of those other retailer's websites, including Walmart, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Best Buy. Walmart will offer free site-to-store shipping, so you can pick up the tablet at a local store without paying for shipping. It's not the fastest way to get one -- we're guessing it will take a few days to arrive at your local store -- but we bet it's the most peaceful!
Oh, you thought you were done spending money? Well, hopefully you have a bit stashed up for some of the new accessories. Apple's got two new notable add-ons for the iPad 2...
Smart Cover (Starts at $39.00)
Indeed, Apple has cooked up one smart cover. It attaches to the iPad with a self-aligning magnetic hinge, and not only can it be folded into a triangle to become a stand, but it will automatically wake or put your iPad to sleep whenever you open or close it. On top of that, it has a microfiber lining that cleans your screen each tip you flip it open. Yep, these are available in multiple colors -- the polyurethane versions will set you back $39 and the leather variants $69. Oh, and please don't call it a case!
Digital AV Adapter ($39.00)
Yep, Apple's finally bringing HDMI-out capabilities with its new AV Adapter. The 30-pin connector lets you connect the tablet to your HDTV, and unlike the past VGA version, you can actually mirror the entire display. Oh, and did we mention you can also charge it at the same time?
Obviously, there are some other third-party cases and accessories to consider. There are new ones from all the usual suspects, including Belkin and iSkin. We're actually big fans of that crazy looking DODOCase pictured above. Why wouldn't you want to conceal your new tablet in a case that looks like a bound book that's made of Moroccan cloth? Speaking of crazy cases, Grove has also made a new bamboo case with a leather cover, which actually claims to have the same sort of "smartness" as Apple's smart cover -- yep, it should wake and put it to sleep.
We're still digging around for some new keyboard cases, like the ClamCase, that accommodates the new slimmer iPad, but until then, Apple's still got its Bluetooth keyboard for $69.
Now what? Apps to try
So, you've gotten your iPad 2 and some accessories, now what? It's time to play. Or work. Or read. Yes, there are lots of things you can do with your new tablet, and there are now over than 65,000 apps for the iPad specifically. Of course, there are a few new apps from Apple and others out there than take advantage of the cameras. Here are some we'd strongly consider trying out once you've got that iPad 2 out of the box.
GarageBand ($4.99) - We took a closer look at GarageBand in our full review and found it to be extremely intuitive and fun to use. There are eight tracks of recorded audio or software instruments, along with the ability to mix your levels, add effects, and even apply amps and stompboxes to your tracks.
iMovie ($4.99) - So, we may not have felt like the cameras on the iPad 2 were the best they could have been, but they absolutely suffice for shooting some video when out and about. And when it comes to cutting and editing that footage, iMovie is one of the best ways to go at this point. The app is full of movie templates and effects which you can apply to your clips.
Other photo apps - Apple bundles the iPad 2 with Photo Booth and FaceTime, but there are plenty of other fun photo apps for iOS that are must haves for your new camera-equipped tablet. We tried out Instagram on the iPad 2, and while the company hasn't released an iPad version yet, it's still just as fun to apply filters on the bigger screen. We'll be keeping an eye out for more camera apps in the next few days.
We're planning on taking a deeper look at new apps soon -- so stay tuned. On that note, we'll leave you to your iPad 2 buying adventures. Let us know how it goes in the comments!