The new Apple iPad: Should I upgrade?

Mar 20, 2012

Is there a big difference between the new Apple iPad and the iPad 2? Are there any bugs, like overheating, you should know about? Is it worth upgrading?

Blogger Darrell Etherington with answer your questions about whether or not you should upgrade to the new Apple iPad right now, or wait until the next version.

Submit questions and opinions for Darrell to respond to now.

Follow @PostLive on Twitter

Hi, welcome to today's chat. We'll be talking about the changes Apple made with its latest iPad upgrade, and whether or not those changes amount to a significant upgrade from previous versions.

I'll also address recent bug reports, and hopefully help you decide whether or not this is the iPad for you.

What are the biggest bugs with the new iPad?  How serious are they?

Probably the most highly-publicized bug for the new iPad is around heat issues – users are reporting that the iPad can get very hot during use.

While its true that the new iPad runs warmer than the iPad 2, a lot of the press around this issue actually centers around a report from 2010 at TheNextWeb. That link was mistakenly picked up and cited as current information at a variety of other sources, including Gizmodo, PC Advisor and CNBC.

From personal experience, the iPad runs hotter, but that's to be expected; it takes a lot more processing power to run that new Retina Display. The issue doesn't seem to be bad enough to be a danger to users, however.

Is there a size difference (length, width, height) between the two units?

If you mean between the 4G and Wi-Fi only versions of the new iPad, there's just a very slight difference – the one that has both cellular radio and Wi-Fi weighs 0.02 grams more than the Wi-Fi-only version.

If you mean between the iPad 2 and the new iPad, then there's a bigger difference. The iPad 2 weighs 0.11 grams less than the new iPad models, and is also 0.03 inches thinner.

It isn't a huge difference, but speaking from my experience with the device so far, it can feel a lot different when using the device for extended periods of time.

I am thinking of upgrading from the original iPad (wifi) to a 3rd generation iPad with 4G. I practice law and frequently go to court (but am afraid to rely on the iPad for documents in court). I am particularly intrigued with the voice-recognition and was wondering how good it is. I would love to be able to dictate into documents that could be converted to MS Word documents, for briefs, etc. Can you opine on whether the voice recognition works well and if there are apps I could use to take in the dictation and convert it to MS Word documents?

The voice recognition is taken from Apple's Siri tech, and actually works remarkably well, even for someone like me, who definitely isn't the best at articulating their words :)

It's not as effective as working on a Mac with Dragon Dictate and a high-quality USB microphone in a completely silent environment, but it should work for your needs. If you need more than what iOS dictation on the new iPad offers, there's Dragon Dictation for iPad, which offers Nuance's industry-leading tech on Apple's tablet.

Why do I need an iPad, instead of a $200 Lenovo?

The short answer is, you might not. Assuming you're talking about the IdeaPad A1, which carries a price tag of $199, there are things the new iPad has that the Lenovo machine doesn't, including a better processor, more recent software, a much higher res display and optional cellular connectivity.

But if you're looking for something that can get you on the web, let you watch movies and check email, cheaper options like the Lenovo might be a fine choice. What you "need," and what's the best possible option available often aren't even close to the same thing :)

What is the advertised and actual battery life for the new iPad?

Apple claims the new iPad gets the same battery life as its predecessor – up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi, or 9 hours on cellular data. That's impressive, considering that LTE connectivity is know for eating battery life, which is also why the new iPad is slightly biggers – to accomodate a bigger battery.

In practice and in my own testing, Apple's claims match up pretty nearly to reality. I usually get between 8.5 and 9.5 hours per charge, and that's switching between connectivity options, on near-continuous use (screen always active and on) all day. 

Just as with its predecessor, the new iPad will also last for quite a long time if you're not using it occasionally. On standby, it should last weeks at a time.

Should I upgrade to The New iPad or wait until a newer, more substantial version is released?

It might depend on what you're upgrading from. If you already have an iPad 2, the extras the new iPad brings to the table might be of limited use to you – and the additional weight and heft might actually take away from your experience.

On the other hand, if you're a photographer or work with graphics at all, the new iPad's Retina Display provides an amazing experience.

If you're upgrading from an original iPad, this will definitely feel like a worthwhile purchase, since you'll get all the speed/performance benefits that came with the iPad 2 (plus a bit more) and it'll be smaller and lighter.

Apple's next iPad will likely strive to become sleaker and lighter while retaining the 4G/Retina features of this version. For iPad 2 users, and for people who have no reason to buy now, waiting will definitely pay off.

How much faster is the 4g lte than the 3g?

The 4G speeds are fast, reviewers agree, so long as you're in an area with adequate coverage. CNET has a good overview of some real-world test speeds.

In practice, using LTE on the new iPad feels like having a fast home broadband connetion. In fact, it's actually faster than my own high-speed DSL connection at home. With limits that cap out at $10 GB a month on Verizon, however, you won't be able to take advantage of those speeds for downloading massive files.

In the end, the experience of using LTE on the iPad is a bit like jumping from dial-up to DSL, though less prounounced: You won't know what you're missing until you try the faster, newer tech, and then you'll never want to go back.

I know that Apple has tried to sell me on the notion that I can manipulate my photos, edit my movies,and record my symphony on an iPad. I can't. At least not yet. Has Apple truly abandoned the Semi-Pro and Pro users? I know that the iMac is fast, but it's a hermetically sealed box with one or two unchangeable hard drives. Apple -- I still have my 128k machine. I've been there since the beginning. Why are you abandoning me!!??!? Thanks for letting me vent, Darrell

I know exactly how you feel. Apple has put a lot of effort into touting the creative capabilities of the new iPad, and virtually every pre-release review has a section dedicated to the new iPhoto app, indicating Apple flagged that for special attention.

Though iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto definitely offer an amazing boost to creativity compared to what was possible with the first iPad, it's still no replacement for pro software and hardware. And that can be frustrating for demanding users.

For now, I'd say the best you can do is embrace what the iPad is – an amazing consumption device going the growing pains stage of becoming a truly impressive creative tool

I just bought the iPad 2...a week before the new one went on sale. THE HUMANITY!  But really, should I trade mine in and bite the cost bullet, or is it even worth it?

Terrible! That's the harsh reality of Apple's upgrade cycle, though; nothing's ever a sure thing until it ships, and that often leaves users in a position like yours.

I'd say you might as well hang on to the iPad 2 for now. If it's your first iPad, you'll still have plenty of fun discovering the experience, and you won't really know what you're missing.

Also, resale value on the iPad 2 won't dip dramatically from where it's at now. In fact, you might be able to get a bit more later on, when Craigslist, eBay etc. aren't flooded with people in similar situations.

I have no intention of getting an iPad, but was wondering if you thought there would be a reason for someone with a laptop and netbook to get an iPad - particularly because I rarely bring the laptop or netbook out of the house

Good question. For me, the iPad is another tool with a very different purpose than laptops or netbooks. It's far more portable, and the difference even between having to open the lid or just tap a button to get the machine up and running actually has a tremendous impact on how easy it is to acces a device, especially on the go.

If I'm using a laptop, it means I'm invested; I'm settling in to accomplish a certain task, because I need to, or because it will take longer than 20 minutes. With the iPad, I can quickly respond to and address things like emails, checking Twitter, sharing photos that I otherwise wouldn't bother with until I had a chance to sit down for a dedicated computing session.

Admittedly, the iPhone does a lot of these things, but if there's one gadget I've never regretted buying, and that I use every day, it's the iPad. I honestly wouldn't have predicted I'd be able to say that when I first got one.

With the hype that iPad's usually get, I still don't understand why. I have a Kindle Fire, and most things I do on a tablet (read, web, movie, games, etc.) I can do fine. Granted, the iPad is better at every one of those tasks than the Fire, but what else? You can't write anything long on the interface, can't perform most content creation tasks, or productivity stuff. To me, what I've seen iPads (and most tablets) do is for entertainment purposes, so its basically a toy, abeit a toy that sells a lot of copies. To me, it's a long way off from replacing a laptop or standard PC. What else am I missing?

Whether or not the iPad can replace a laptop depends largely on what you use it for, but it definitely has a place when it comes to productivity. Paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, or even without, it's a much better solution for dealing with a flooded inbox than a smartphone.

As I said in an earlier response, the iPad still isn't exactly a dreamy content creation device, but it's made great strides since its introduction, and it will likely continue to do so as the hardware and software ecosystem evolves.

For more detailed info on how to use the iPad to get work done, ZDnet's James Kendrick is a great resource. He's a devoted iPad user who focuses on productivity use cases for the tablet, including how to use it as a writing machine and as a dedicated research tool.

Is there anything about the new iPad that makes it a better business tablet than the iPad 2?

It likely depends on what business you're in, but in general, there's little about the new iPad that necessarily makes it better suited for business tasks.

The screen could arguably help with legibility of text if you're doing a lot of reading, and 4G connectivity (along with 3G network compatibility) mean that you'll have the same reach in terms of cellular coverage, but with additional speeds that might be better for using VOIP apps like Skype or transferring files. 

One significant advantage might be the inclusion of system-wide dication features, which as I mentioned in an earlier response could be great for lawyers and others who frequently have to dictate notes, correspondence etc.

I know tough to answer but speculate-- how long before the NEXT new iPad, and how much better is THAT one going to be? What will Apple need to accomplish before it launches a NEW new iPad?

Apple will likely stick to the yearly update schedule – it really only deviated from that with its mobile devices with the iPhone 4S last year.

As for how much better that will be, it'll depend a lot on how far the tech involved in the iPad progresses between now and then.

Apple will likely keep the screen tech the same from this generation to the next, and try to slim down the iPad's frame to at least get it back to where it was with iPad 2. We could even see battery life improvements if wireless chipmakers make progress in LTE's power consumption demands.

Expect a true quad-core processor (this one has four graphics cores, as Apple has publicized, but is still a dual-core like its predecessor), which should make for a much more powerful device. As a result, Apple will also likely try to push performance of certain aspects like the front-facing camera that didn't get huge bumps this time around.

Is ipad2 going to be on clearance sale anywhere? It's fairly unbelievable how expensive these things are! $800 for the new ipad? + monthly data fees

The iPad 2 will probably be reduced where it remains in stock, and Apple is now selling it new in 16GB capacities for $399 and $529 respectively for Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi + 3G models.

Apple also sells refurbished versions of both the iPad and the iPad 2 at additional discounts. The 16GB original iPad with Wi-Fi is now $299 refurbished, for example. It's a good deal on a product that comes with a full warranty if you're looking to save some cash.

Do you know if Apple will be able to retain copies of user data that it translates from dictation via Siri on its servers? I heard that they will; if so, the attorney will want to be very careful from an attorney-client privilege standpoint.

Good question. According to its terms of use, dictation on the new iPad does indeed transmit voice input information to Apple's servers for processing. That's because Apple needs to process the information remotely in order to provide you with your dictation results; the function is too processor-heavy to be handled locally on-device.

ZDNet's Stephen Chapman has a good overview of how this works and what it means for your privacy. He notes specifically that Apple says while it deletes recent dication information, it may retain "older voice input data" to "generally improve Dictation and other Apple products and services."

If you work in a sensitive industry where this is a concern, you might want to opt out of using Dictation. It can be disabled in the iPad's Settings app.

ipad gets all the press. But what about alternatives for those who like to avoid the Apple cult? Does the Samsung Galaxy Tab measure up comparably?

Other tablets are definitely capable devices; even RIM's much-maligned BlackBerry Playbook is a very easy-to-use and useful gadget, speaking from personal experience.

Android tablets can also provide a lot of what tablet shoppers are looking for, as I said above in my reply discussing a recent Lenovo tablet based on the platform. But many find that Android hardly provides the best tablet experience, even with recent versions like Android 4.0. Google's platform also suffers from having far fewer tablet-specific applications to choose from.

Projects like Teknision's Chameleon, which build on Android but add additional functionality, definitely seem to bring something new to the table in terms of helping Android compete with Apple's tablet experience, but until those start making it to market, Apple probably has the best available tablet software/hardware combo out there.

I've heard talk about the new iPad overheating.  How serious is that?

I addressed this a bit earlier, but it's worth revisiting. Apple officially spoke out about this today, saying that it "operates well within [their] thermal specifications." And as I mentioned earlier, the iPad definitely does operate hotter than its predecessor due to increased processor demands.

Overall, though, the actual reports of overheating seem to stem mostly from a 2010 story about the first iPad, which means it likely isn't a serious problem with this new version of the hardware.

I would have thought you were crazy to say that opening the lid of a laptop makes using it more difficult than an iPad - it takes literally 1 second to open a laptop lid. But I heard someone at the store make the same comment (though at the time I thought he was supremely lazy). So it must be psychological. Because you were to time how long it takes to something on a laptop vs a iPad they'd be practically identical.

Hey, I can be both crazy and also right about this :) Seriously, though, there's more to it than just turning on an iPad vs. opening a laptop lid. There are boot up times, which even from a sleep state on a current-generation MacBook Air isn't nearly as fast as unlocking an iPad.

There's also taking the thing out of a bag, setting up somewhere where you have enough room to work, connecting to Wi-Fi or a hotspot vs. just having a data connection already active, etc. Using an iPad feels like a casual action; despite many advances, using a laptop still doesn't, in my opinion.

What would you say are the biggest changes from the iPad 2? From the consumer standpoint, it doesn't seem like much...

The biggest changes are the Retina Display, which operates at four times the resolution of the iPad 2's screen (two times vertical and two times horizontal), the LTE connectivity, and for most users, that's about it.

The rear-facing camera is nice, but as many have pointed out before me, it's rare that you'll want to take photos with a tablet. Dictation is also a nice feature, but again, for most users, it'll probably come in handy only once in a short while.

The impact of those features will vary user-to-user, but if you do a lot of reading on your iPad, or work with/view photos regularly, they'll feel like much bigger upgrades than if you don't use your tablet for those things.

Why no iPad 3 moniker?

Just to make writing about it a frustrating experience :) Really though, naming conventions for Apple products that involve numbers or letters (like the iphone "4S" or "3GS") are relatively recent additions.

Apple's notebooks and desktops usually keep the same name across multiple generations, and when people need to reference them, they'll simply say "latest" or list the month and year of release after the name to specify which they're talking about.

Apple seems to be moving to that kind of naming scheme for its tablet, too, and that could signal a similar change for the iPhone. Whether that's a smart move from a branding/consumer awareness perspective remains to be seen.

Thanks for being with us for this chat! As always, it's been a pleasure, and I hope I was able to help you all with your questions about Apple's latest iPad.

In This Chat
Darrell Etherington
Darrell is a professional blogger, writer and editor. He currently covers emerging technologies, including software and hardware in the Apple ecosystem, at BetaKit. Previously, he covered Apple, startups and remote work technologies for GigaOM. He is currently based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Recent Chats
  • Next: