iPad 2 - this time it's WAR!

Nearly 12 months ago, I looked at the original iPad and came to the conclusion that it really wasn't the computer for me.

Since then - in November just before we went to NZ - I bought one with the intent on using it in NZ for tech books and reading, but I just couldn't bring myself to like it enough, so back it went to the apple store, where a very confused Apple Genius said

hang on, I need to check with my manager, we don't get any of these returned.

Lesson learned. Kindle bought - and used extensively on our 3 month trip around NZ.

Back in the UK, the iPad 2 is out, and I now have one (no, I didn't queue up, I got one over teh internetz). I was totally prepared to send this one back, but circumstances change, and it's not going back. Heres why:

First up is iOS 4.3 (well, 4.2, but I'm running 4.3 on this). It's a totally different beast: Multitasking, AirPlay and the other iPad-focused refinements make this a highly capable, portable computer. It's no longer the first-gen proof of concept that iOS 3.2 was.

My usage has changed too. I'm not working from home anymore (sadly in some respects, gladly in others.) and I have almost no commute (15 mins on a bike, door to door, part of the "glad" side of the equation), so the laptop is staying locked to the desk more, and the iPhone is not the centre of attention as much as it was before.

iPad apps have come of age since last year - I now read most things on screen, be it books in the Kindle app, magazines in their own apps, or long form and social-media-derived stuff via Instapaper. I have very little use for paper copies anymore, and I much prefer reading Wired on the iPad than I did on paper. As soon as the iOS version has a subscription option for Wired UK I'll switch over. US Wired will only ever be on the iPad for me now - it's cheaper, easier and better in all respects. For me, magazines are disposable items, so having them in digital form makes perfect sense. I even tolerate (and sometimes read) the ads!

Our home situation has changed too. The mac mini is no longer a VM server, it's now our media server, connected to a 24" monitor, acting as the TV. With the release of the iOS remote app, we use any one of the 4 iOS devices here (iPhones, an old iPod touch and the iPad) to control the multi-room audio which comes from the Mini's 90GB or so of music. While it's pretty quiet in the corner of the lounge, it has a big footprint over the house, and the iPad is usually the go-to device for controlling it.

The new version is light "enough" to be useful. I'm not sure it's actually the weight, more the lack of the curved back, but I'm happy holding it in bed, reading. It could still be lighter, and a grippy back like the Kindle has would be wonderful, but it's hit the spot for "good enough to not be pissed off with it", unlike the previous one. I really don't want to put a case on it and make it any bigger tho.

One thing this has reminded me is that this isn't a "gadget" anymore than my MacBook Pro is a gadget - it's a fully formed computer with a bit of a tether back to the "parent" machine. I'm sure that'll go over time, but I find I plug it in to sync rarely - most things on it are self contained or cloud-based. The iPad is much more it's own machine than the iPhone is.

There are few downsides tho. The screen is awful in direct sunlight when I'm sitting on the deck, especially compared to the Kindle, and strangely enough landscape view works with my (polarised) sunglasses, but portrait is a total blank. Go figure. I use it mostly in landscape anyway so it not a big deal. It could still be a lot lighter and have a grippy back. But I'm sure Apple is working on the weight, and the likes of gelaskin may have something grippy for the back.

All up, I'm liking it after 3 weeks of use. It's polished and generally impressive, and the "other devices" I've played with (galaxy tab, xoom) don't even come close to the polish. I doubt I'll ever take my laptop away with me again, unless I think I'll do some coding. The iPad can do pretty much everything else, only better.

Apps I'm using (a lot): Wired (us and uk). Instapaper. Byline. Twitter. Remember the Milk (stunning iPad app). Mail. Remote. BBC iPlayer and 4OD player. Kindle. Flipboard (not as much as i thought I would).