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BW Businessworld

Sent From My iPad

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The eagle has landed," announced an enthusiastic PR team as the iPad 2, much to the surprise of one and all, actually arrived on Indian shores. With the original iPad making its way here only towards the end of its life cycle and the iPhone 4 not here yet, early gadget adopters and the tech media have been miffed at being singled out for no-iPads. Even the sales folk at electronics stores told me that Apple was not about to do much about the iPad in India as it wanted to remain "premium". Apple says it's no such thing and reminds us that all other products happen to be as much in India as elsewhere — and that is true enough.

Anyway, the iPad was launched in India at the same time as in the rest of Asia and even before China. Stocks came in, and stocks went out. In hours, major stores such as Croma sold their Rs 1.5 crore worth of units and just did not have any left for customers asking for them. The Apple stores were taking orders for the next lot. Incidentally, at the iPad 2 launch in China, thousands gathered, and even fought it out, for iPads until, in four hours flat, stocks ran out there, too. A headline reads: "Four injured in iPad fight at Beijing Apple store."

There is no arguing the popularity of the iPad, specially the iPad 2, which has had staggering estimated sales so far. New stocks are about to come in this week, so if you are thinking of joining the queue, read up the many reviews for all the technical details. Here, I thought I would answer some of the questions I am being asked most frequently.

The first and biggest of these is: iPad 1 or 2? What is the difference? I don't believe there will be a choice for buyers much longer. There may be some stray original iPads, but they will be gone soon and no new ones will come in. For those considering giving away their iPad 1s and moving to the next generation, here is what struck me the most: The iPad 2 is supposed to be one third lighter, but feels much more. That may have to do with the way it has been reshaped and rounded. It is so dramatically more holdable that I find my usage has gone up some 10 times over — at least. I find myself reaching for it much more often, working and playing on it much longer. This morning, for example, I wanted to hear the main news, but didn't want to get out of bed and didn't want the television dominating the room and the morning. So, I just took up the iPad and watched the few moments of the news I could stand and that was all I needed. I'm also writing this on the iPad instead of my laptop, and that is something I didn't do with the iPad original.

The iPad 2 has a ‘closer' display thanks to changes made to its shape. It's also much faster (they say nine times faster). You'll only know that when you use something power hungry, like video, graphic-heavy games, editing heavy pictures or producing music on Garageband. For basic regular moving around, the iPad 1 wasn't slow to begin with.

The functionality on smartphones and tablets comes from the apps you install. So, what does it have? I can't answer easily. But it does, of course, have a front and rear camera. They are very grainy, you may not be able to use them for fantastic pictures, but you can use them for FaceTime, which is the big hardware difference — video calling. I prefer not to see some of the people I talk to and I am sure they return the compliment.

On battery life, I would unhesitatingly say the iPad 2 lasts the day on a charge. Unless you make a special effort to stress it out. It doesn't take much time to recharge either. They have done a remarkable job in this aspect, and I say that as a frustrated user of an Android phone whose battery doesn't last more than a few hours. Six at the most. Not that I will be giving up on it anytime soon.

The next question concerns 3G, and this depends on how mobile you are and where you will mostly use the iPad. If you will be on 3G only 10 per cent of the time, consider tethering it to your phone. I do have a 3G iPad, but am mostly in Wi-Fi zones (I could swear I can't breathe properly if I'm not) so haven't felt the need to hurry with the 3G. A friend bought the 64GB model as he thought he was going to future-proof it and store everything he has got on the device, but honestly the iPad is not a storage device and there are enough cloud solutions for this.

If you have the money, there is no reason why you shouldn't go for top-end, of course, but if you don't, you might want to go for a lower model and leave room for accessories. Remember, everything but the iPad and its charger and cable is extra. And that includes the fantastic smart cover. It is a little work of genius, that cover, and a pleasure to use. It even switches off the iPad, like a fridge, when it flips over the screen.

mala(at)pobox(dot)com, @malabhargava on Twitter

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 23-05-2011)