Slimmer, lighter and faster than its predecessor, Apple’s iPad 2 comes to market with a number of new improvements that might come in handy for small-business owners. The new tablet also falls short in several key areas. Entrepreneurs will need to weigh the pros and cons before determining if this second-generation iPad is the right fit for their business.
Among the positives, the iPad 2 comes with dual cameras for casual videoconferencing or high-definition video recording, is 33% thinner and 15% lighter, and packs roughly twice as much computing muscle via a speedier 1GHz dual-core A5 processor. It's priced from $499 for 16GB WiFi units to $829 for 64GB WiFi/3G-enabled editions, comparable to first-generation iPad units. Most important of all, the iPad 2’s features continue to grow at a blistering clip, and receive unprecedented support from the third-party software development community. Business owners may find it more than a match for their needs, either now or before the year is out.
On the flip side, the iPad 2, like its predecessor, still is not compatible with high-speed 4G networks, meaning the device may not download from the Internet fast enough to keep up with the demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. This can be a problem when dealing with large files such as multimedia content or satellite imagery. The issue is likely to become further pronounced in coming months, as increasingly more advanced apps continue to grow in size and scope. But if you’re not dealing with large volumes of data, then current 3G speeds may be more than enough.
Another feature that is missing is Flash web browsing, which allows for richer animations and interactivity on certain sites. (Although Adobe recently released an experimental tool called Wallaby that converts Flash content into the iPhone- and iPad-compatible HTML 5 format.) The iPad 2 runs on the iOS 4.3 operating system, which is enabled for streamlined web browsing and using an iPhone as a WiFi hotspot. Small-business owners who rely on Flash may prefer to choose compatible tablets based on the Android operating system instead. The Android Honeycomb operating system is specifically optimized for tablet PCs and could offer an alternative for those who require speed and multitasking functionality.
Other downsides include poor photo-taking, as well as a lack of SD Memory Card and mini-USB ports. The iPad 2 also does not come with cutting-edge features such as near field communications (NFC) technology, which lets customers pay bills or exchange info electronically with posters, vending machines and everyday objects embedded with special chips. What's more, battery life tops out at 10 hours, longer than the average notebook PC, but less than new laptops like the ThinkPad T420 and HP EliteBook 8460p, which promise more than 30 hours of power.
Related: Will the iPad Wow Business Owners?
Still Beating the Competition
Despite its shortcomings, in some areas the iPad 2 stands head and shoulders above competing tablets and notebook PCs. It remains one of the easiest portable computing options to travel with and is visually arresting for conducting presentations or product demos. Support for more than 350,000 apps also provides the gadget with unmatched versatility, allowing it to double as a mobile invoice tracker, inventory replenishment solution or even foreign language translator on command just to name a few uses. Among the easiest and most enjoyable units to browse digital publications on, the iPad 2 also makes a natural fit for sharing and skimming corporate communications, continuing education and training materials.
But perhaps best of all are the doors the device opens for digital communications. With face-to-face interaction through new videoconferencing features, the iPad 2 allows users to conduct virtual meetings and to enjoy more personal relationships with clients and colleagues. Professionals who travel often may also appreciate the ability to personally say goodnight to loved ones while on the road. Aspiring directors or website publishers can also take advantage of high-definition video recording features to capture video diaries, customer testimonials and product demos on-demand.