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I might have talked myself out of an iPad 2.

In the weeks leading up to the iPad 2 announcement, I clung to a rather steadfast belief that I wasn't going to be interested in iPad 2. "My iPad is perfectly fine," I thought, "besides, probably no retina display, slightly faster processor, and maybe a FaceTime camera -- big deal!"

I thought about how I would justify this in my head and how it would sound to my friends, all of whom expect me to have whatever the latest and greatest Apple device is. I even thought of the perfect analogy.

This upgrade was going to be akin to the iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS upgrade (interestingly, that's the argument I'm currently telling myself for the potential iPhone 4 to "iPhone 5" upgrade). More evolutionary than revolutionary, no must have features, pretty much the same design. Did I *really* need to upgrade back then? Probably not.

Anyway, here's why I thought that was an apropos analogy:

At the time (a month or so ago), based on what all the conventional rumors were saying, the iPad update wasn't going to be that impressive. Same screen, mostly same form factor, potentially two cameras (FaceTime - yay?), new CPU and increased RAM. The two cameras rumor, I didn't really care about. Besides, how many times have I used FaceTime? Probably once, and that was to test it out. What I wanted was more RAM and maybe a better display.

So, March 2nd, 2011 arrives and Steve Jobs strolls out of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and surprises everyone. He launches into the standard Apple press event and highlights numbers of apps they've sold, misquotes various competitors, and uses almost every synonym related to the word "magical."

Finally, he announces the iPad 2 and its feature set.
- Same enchanted display
- Magical A5 dual core processor
- 9x otherworldly graphics performance
- Conjuringly thin design
- Spectral battery life
- Wizardly cameras*!

* Notice, like the iPod touch 4th-gen keynote (a device which was renowned for just how crappy its cameras were), Steve made zero mention of the number of megapixels iPad cameras were capable of. Contrast that with iPhone 4, which literally had an order of magnitude more megapixels, Steve couldn't say "5 megapixels" enough times and tout the phone's ability to take pictures. And believe me, I love the photos that phone takes.

Anyway, I quickly fell under the influence of the infamous RDF. I wanted one. Needed it even. My current generation iPad instantly looked obsolete. It smelled obsolete. Just using it seemed to hurt my technology street cred.

Here at gdgt HQ, we discussed who would be waiting in line at the Apple Store next Friday and when we should go. Interestingly enough, one person who had an iPad wasn't excited about it at all. Two others who didn't have iPads were eventually persuaded / convinced that they needed them. I was all about it. Another remained irrationally committed to his singular cause of being the only person in San Francisco that would eventually own an Android tablet (subject to price and availability, of course).

So, for the last week, I've been all about iPad 2. I couldn't wait for it to arrive. I stressed about how early I should wait in line. I thought about how awesome it will be to use while I'm in Austin for SXSW and our gdgt live event.

And tonight, it all just suddenly changed. The iPad 2 embargo is up, so all the major news organizations and tech publications have posted their detailed reviews of the device. They love it. It's even faster. Feels good to hold. It still sets the bar for any tablet coming out.

One thing everyone seems to agree on though, is that it's a brilliant device for people new to tablets or otherwise buying their first iPad. For people who already own an iPad, it's a tossup. There's definite speed improvements, and more RAM is great in apps like Safari, but it doesn't offer much otherwise.

And that's the feeling I can't shake. This iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS analogy. Using my iPad tonight (with iOS 4.3), Safari is still fast and mostly responsive. Yeah, the meager amount of RAM in the device means I still lose webpages when I switch tabs, but do I really want to drop another $600 for the device for that reason alone? Probably not.

So, I might sit this round out. I'm not urging or suggesting anyone else do the same, I'm just reflecting on my own thought process over the past few months. For someone with a massive case of gadget envy and weak defenses to the RDF, it's been a wild roller coaster ride.

So, what will you do? Are you still excited about getting one? Has your enthusiasm been tempered for one reason or another? In the market for something else?


Some caveats:
1. I'm completely aware of the possibility that once we get a review unit in the office, all bets are out the window. I might want one all over again, and just as bad, if not more so.
2. I realize the possibility that some new app or game will come out to take advantage of the features. For example, if they somehow come out with a better version of Civilization that runs better on the new iPad, it's over. Goodbye. See you later.
3. There are social pressures as well. If my friends, my significant other, or even my parents get one, well we can't have that now, can we. (Honestly, we probably can. It's a ridiculous justification.)

Anyway, stay tuned for my post tomorrow, where I write a thousand word essay on why I'll probably be camping out overnight to get an iPad 2.

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7 replies

I'll throw this into your internal smeagol/gollum debate: What are the odds that an updated iPad comes out this year? I'm guessing slim, betting on a refreshed iPad 3 sometime next year. That means that you have about a year until the next iPad comes out. Up until then your family, friends and even people you don't know that are around you in cafes and hipster coffee shops will eventually purchase iPad 2's. And there you'll be. The cool technology guy, without the latest and greatest technology. That would annoy me.

It's solid logic if you don't think about it.

All kidding aside, the reason that I'm purchasing the iPad 2 now is that I'm tired of not having a tablet at all. It's an experience that I've denied myself for long enough. Original iPad owners, like yourself, face a different dilemma. You already have a device that essentially provides the same experience as this new device. This definitely would give you less of an incentive to upgrade. However, when you start seeing the iPad 2s in the wild, you'll notice that it *is* undeniably better than the first version. I'm sure that when you really start thinking about the experience that you're missing as a gadget guy, you'll want the upgrade. The more time you spend waffling on the issue is less time you'd have to spend with your iPad 2 when you buy it in, say, September, before the next one comes out. I say, maximize your time with the cool gadget.

Also, finding a way to print money helps. :P
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For me right now iPads are like iPhones, I have a two year upgrade cycle for them and I should be able to sell the old one for about 50-60% the cost of a new one when I upgrade.
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I don't yet own an iPad. My big decision is iPad 2 or cheaper iPad 1. What say ye, internets?
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For first-time buyers, given the choice between an iPad 2 or an iPad 1, I think the iPad 2 is the better option. It's the price you would have paid, but with a few tweaks to make the experience better.

As Dave said, the bump in RAM hopefully means that Safari will be able to cache your open webpages properly, which is one of my main gripes with the first iPad (switch to a new tab, switch back and the original page has to reload). The slimmer, lighter profile is also a nice plus that's worth paying for, in my opinion. The first iPad can become slightly uncomfortable to hold after a while, depending on how you're using it — i.e. if you're reading an e-book or magazine, the lighter the device feels, the better. (The Kindle is awesome in this regard.)

Choosing the iPad 2 may also give you greater peace-of-mind for future apps, games, and iOS updates, knowing that more performance-intensive features can take advantage of the faster processor.

All of this being said, I own the original iPad, and none of the new additions are compelling enough for me to shell out another $500. It's easy to fall victim to the reality distortion field or succumb to your recurring desires for a shiny new gadget, but I'm convinced that the first-gen iPad gets the job done for now. Though for prospective iPad buyers, it makes more sense to buy the iPad 2 and get the best experience possible.
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If you buy an already out-of-date model, you risk being cut off from OS updates a year sooner. That alone would sway me to get the newer model.
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Joshua Topolsky said in the Engadget review of the iPad2 that the cameras are piss-poor.

Does anyone know if the iPad/iPad2 3G+WiFi gets hotspot feature with iOS 4.3, just like the iPhone 4? That would make it a MiFi-like device with a most awesome battery life. I might even pick up a refurbished iPad (1) 3G+WiFi if it is true!
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Before the iPad 2 was announced I had basically decided I wasn't going to upgrade unless it had a retina display, or possibly just an improved (but not retina) display. When it was announced and the display turned out exactly the same, that was it. Not upgrading.

But then I started thinking about how much I use my iPad, which is quite a bit. I read eBooks on it, read blogs, check twitter, watch netflix, etc. On average, I probably use it a couple hours a day. For a gadget that I spend so much time with, maybe an iterative improvement is worth it? Especially since most of my use is reading/watching, and it's supposedly much more comfortable to hold.
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