iPad 2 Comes With A Few Surprises

As expected, Apple announced the iPad 2 today. Most of the rumors about the device turned out to be true. It has a better processor. It’s thinner and lighter. It has front and rear cameras and is FaceTime-ready. Same battery life. Same display.

The biggest surprise of the event was that Steve Jobs was present. There have been rumors that his health is failing, but he looked happy and relatively healthy (if a bit on the skinny side) today. Apple fans have to be thrilled to see Steve, although the questions about what will happen to the company when he’s gone remain. With any luck, he won’t be leaving us any time soon.

The second-biggest surprise was that the iPad 2 will be available very soon–March 11, to be exact. Many industry insiders had predicted that it might not ship until April or even May. There was also a mild surprise when it was announced that the iPad 2 will ship in white and black. Jobs poked fun at the failure of the white iPhone 4 (we still haven’t seen any sign of it) that the white version of the iPad 2 would be ready for the initial launch date.

Jobs seemed very excited to show off some new covers for the iPad. They come in polyurethan and leather versions (with about a $30 price difference) and snap onto the iPad 2 with magnets. They do exactly what you’d expect a cover to do: cover the front (glass) side of the iPad when it’s not in use. You can get a look at how it will work here. It’s hard to get excited about a cover, but they seem useful enough. I’d still favor a full case because I’m paranoid about scratching the backs of my Apple devices.

Finally, Jobs and company announced iOS 4.3 (we didn’t get many details about it, except for the fact that it will include the ability for iPhone 4 users to create a mobile hotspot) and a few new apps that have been tailored for use on the iPhone (Photo Booth and GarageBand).

Overall, it was one of the least exciting Apple events in recent memory. There isn’t really a compelling reason to upgrade to the iPad 2 if you currently own an original iPad, but the fact that the iPad 2 won’t cost any more than the original iPad will make it attractive to those looking to purchase their first tablet computer.

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