iPad 2: it’s about sex appeal, not specs appeal

I’ve decided to compete with Rihanna in the international pop market, so for the last few weeks I’ve been building a rival in my shed. It’s not going too well, to be honest.

I don’t know what the problem is. I mean, I’ve got the specs exactly right: there are bones, and guts, and teeth, and hair, and ears. In fact, my specs are better, because my Rihanna has two heads and four lungs. And yet I can’t persuade anybody in the record business to give me any money. And now it’s starting to whiff a bit.

I think tablet manufacturers know how I feel.

Steve Jobs nailed it yesterday when he said “technology is not enough.”What makes the iPad and the iPad 2 special isn’t an A4 processor or an A5; it’s iOS and the apps it runs. My Rihanna rival is useless, because it doesn’t sing. The iPad… the iPad sings.

I have no idea how much RAM is in the iPad 2. I can’t remember the A5’s clock speed. The two bits of the Apple event that made me go wow didn’t involve benchmarks, or spec sheets: they were the bits where we saw the magnetic covers, which made me laugh out loud, and when we got to see GarageBand, which made me wish I were 16 again while also making me glad I’m old enough that I won’t hear the awful crap it’s going to help people create.

In fact, rather than make me crazy about the iPad 2, yesterday’s event made me even happier about my first generation iPad. There are two things in iOS 4.3 that will make a big difference to my everyday life: the personal hotspot feature coming to the iPhone 4, and home sharing coming to the iPad. Taken together, that means my 16GB Wi-Fi iPad has just become an UnlimitedGB 3G iPad. For free.

Any thoughts I might have had about jumping to a non-iOS device have just gone out of the window.

Apple’s event wasn’t really about technology. Instead of banging on about the A5 processor, Apple showed us how to play the drums and strum guitars, muck about with home movies and morph nine different faces simultaneously. Instead of talking about RAM, Apple showed off Smart Covers – a mere accessory that delivers more joy than most firms’ entire product portfolios, and something I think is going to be responsible for loads of iPad 2 sales.

What Apple gets – and what I think a lot of firms don’t – is that most people, the kind of people who are currently buying iOS devices and apps in extraordinary quantities, don’t care about specifications any more than they want to think about how their lunchtime sausages are made.

They know what iPads are, and they like what they see, and when they see a rival tablet they’ll ask, “hey, why would I buy this instead of an iPad?” And the answer they get is gigahertz, and true multitasking, and other stuff they don’t care about.

I can show you the problem in two videos. First, the iPad. We see books and games, and education, and fun. Not only do I want to buy that, but I want to have the kind of cool, intelligent and exciting lifestyle the ad implies.

Now, the Verizon ad for the Motorola Xoom. It couldn’t be more teenage-boy if it took place in a black-painted room full of suspiciously crispy socks.

Buy it? That ad makes me scared to even touch it.

20 thoughts on “iPad 2: it’s about sex appeal, not specs appeal

  1. mupwangle says:

    >>Taken together, that means my 16GB Wi-Fi iPad has just become an UnlimitedGB 3G iPad. For free.

    You really think that o2 et al are going to allow free wi-fi tethering when they charge for wired tethering? Really?!?

  2. Squander Two says:

    They only charge for tethering if they spot it. It’s not like the data has special “tethering” zeroes and ones in it. With the old division of phones for calls and laptops checking for Windows updates, it was obvious if you tethered. But, seriously, can they tell you’re downloading apps for an Ipad and not an Iphone?

  3. g24 says:

    I think iPad2 is a more significant update than it looks on paper; better than expected despite the mostly accurate rumours and the absence of any showstopping new advances. The specs are pretty decent but it really isn’t about specs, never has been and probably never will be. It’s the whole package, the feel, the attention to detail, the apps – it’s slick and it’s got real momentum.

    What summed it up for me was an item on the BBC News web site about iPad2: not wanting to sound too pro-Apple – there are of course people who foam at the mouth with rage when good things are said about Apple products – so they attempt to balance up the report by quoting someone who points out iPad has ‘interface issues’ due to it’s slightly crude notification alerts. True, notifications should (and will) be better, but if that’s biggest criticism they could come up with it just serves to highlight how good iPad2 really is. After iPad1 it’s not a spectacular advance, but it’s still highly desirable and they’re getting it right.

  4. Gary says:

    Yeah, I’d agree with that. I don’t think this is a bad update, but it’s a minor refresh to keep the iPad current rather than a whole new thing. I think version 3 could be very interesting.

    From where I’m sitting it does look as if the 2 is bad news for the competition: they’ve had iPad 1 in their sights for ages, and their offering is essentially “like the original iPad, but a bit more powerful”. iPad 2’s bollocksed that up for them.

  5. mupwangle says:

    Not letting me reply to Jo for some reason.

    Anyway, it’s not that they turn off data, they remove the ability to turn on tethering or wifi hotspots in software. The only way round it is to jailbreak it usually. You never know – they might do it for free.

  6. Gary says:

    There’s a limit to how many levels of replies the site can handle. Once it reaches it you can’t reply directly, I’m afraid.

    > You never know – they might do it for free.

    They won’t, or at least most don’t. Apple’s website says: “Personal Hotspot requires a supporting hotspot tethering plan from your carrier and works with up to three devices over Wi-Fi, three devices over Bluetooth, and one device over USB.”

    I know Rodgers in Canada intends to offer it for free, and possibly Three will do the same over here, but the main providers will charge.

  7. Squander Two says:

    Will the Ipad only tether to Iphones, then, not to other phones? Tsk.

    See, whenever I’m beginning to think I might like an Iphone, I read something like this that puts me right off. Instead of just having built-in tethering so all you need is to connect to your phone via Bluetooth, the Iphone has a tethering app that the network decide whether to let you use? Fuckers.

  8. Gary says:

    > Will the Ipad only tether to Iphones, then, not to other phones? Tsk.

    As far as I can tell (pls correct me if I’m wrong, folks) it doesn’t tether to anything unless you jailbreak it. It connects via Wi-Fi, and if your phone supports portable hotspots then that’s how you get the tethering. But yeah, operators can disable tethering at the phone settings level, which sucks giant monkey balls.

    I suspect that’s an operator request, not Apple’s bright idea, but it still sucks.

  9. mupwangle says:

    I think you’re right. THere’s a cable tethering option too. I can’t imagine that it is much more than the rom that ships for each provider having a switch that allows cable tethering/wifi access point on or off depending on whether you’ve paid for it.

    It’s a iphone limitation rather than an ipod one. The iphone wifi will work the same as android and others – it will change the wifi mode from normal operation to that of a wireless access point meaning that any device (ipad, laptop or anything) sees it as a wireless router. The phone can’t use wifi though – only 3g. So it acts as a 3g modem for the device.

  10. gary says:

    It connects to wifi, but isn’t an access point for other devices until the OS update is released.

  11. Squander Two says:

    Ah. Yes, that makes more sense. Still annoyingly crippled, though. When you consider the clout Apple have wielded with the networks (no using contracts to subsidise cost, for instance), I’d’ve thought they could get their customers out of this if they felt like it. “Charge for Ipad tethering and you won’t be selling Iphones any more” would work a treat, and it’s not like Apple would have any problem with that sort of extortion. So presumably they’re perfectly happy for their customers to get screwed in this way.

  12. gary says:

    Apple may be playing a long game here: there are persistent rumours of their developing a smart sim that would basically choose the best bandwidth as and when required; essentially apple would be the network operator with current providers relegated to dumb pipes. Let the incumbents worry about the odd fiver for tethering while Apple gets on with ruining their entire business model.

    In related news, three announced unlimited data on PAYG today for £15 per month.

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