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Apple iPad 2 - Software

By Hugo Jobling



Our Score:


As important as the iPad 2's hardware is, it's the software which has always been the show stealer on iOS devices, and this is as true of the iPad 2 as it was of the iPhone. Thanks to its having been open to developers for over three years now, Apple's App Store has an order of magnitude more apps available than any rival platform. And even if you accept that the vast majority of these are overpriced, pointless, badly made, or all of the above, there's still much more wheat in Apple's App Store as there is chaff compared to its biggest rival, the Android Marketplace.


Setting the benchmark are Apple's latest iPad-oriented version of iMovie and a new launch alongside the debut of the iPad 2, GarageBand. The former has been around on the iPhone for a while now, where we've found it a decent alternative to transferring video to our desktop machines for YouTube-destined clips, of the type you're likely to be using your mobile phone to record. For the iPad 2 (and iPad) Apple has gone overboard in implementing multi-touch interaction alongside surprisingly powerful processing abilities.


At the most basic level are a number of pre-set 'do-it-for-me' templates that let you roughly drag around different clips to merge them into what could just about be called, by amateur Internet video standards, a professional output. Dig deeper though and you'll discover the ability to pinch sections of the video or audio timeline to get finer control, letting you tweak transitions to your own taste, and splice in voice-overs or sound effects (be they your own or one of Apple's supplied ones). The iPad 2 handles 720p video without breaking a sweat, and as well as saving files to its own storage for transfer to a computer, it's also possible to output directly to a selection of Internet video services, including YouTube and Facebook.


GarageBand is a bit more of a niche affair, but it's no less impressive to play with than iMovie. The core functionality is effectively a cut down version of GarageBand on Mac OS, letting you manage up to eight tracks simultaneously. Like the PC version of GarageBand, you can plug a guitar into the iPad version and use it as an amplifier, giving you a plethora of effects to chose from, and of course letting you record what you play through it.

Verging from useful towards cool are what GarageBand calls Smart Instruments. No doubt to the chagrin of 'real' musicians these let anyone have a go at playing and recording music, without having to have a clue what you're actually doing. With a guitar, for example, you simply turn on the 'auto' mode, switch from notes to cord, and jab away at the screen while the 'smart' instrument jams away using the chords you told it to, but adding in some spice to make it sound passably like something a half-decent player might jam out.


Let's be perfectly clear though, Smart Instruments may be fun to play with, and with not much effort you can even template out a song or two, but using them isn’t going to turn you into a musical impresario, and you're not going to become the next Thom Yorke sitting in your bedroom jabbing an iPad 2 in the face. Then again, a lack of outstanding musical talent doesn’t seem to have gotten in the way of Justin Bieber, Jenifer Lopez, Jessie J, Nicole Scherzinger or the Black Eyed Peas…


However, impressive though some of the apps maybe - and the tablet optimised versions of the email client, contacts list, eBook reader and the like are nice to use - the starkly simplistic interface is getting a little tired. After all, the iPad/2 has a big screen to play with and having just a huge expanse of icons greeting you on the home page does feel like a less than optimal use of this space. We appreciate there's a certain charm to this basic layout, and that the similarity to the iPhone has its charm, but the likes of WebOS and Android have shown that there is room for improvement.


One example is the web browser where, rather than having tabs along the top of the screen for all the different pages you have open (liked you'd have on a desktop browser), you have to click on the tabs icon, then prod a thumbnail. It may look and sound nicer but in practical terms... well, tabs were invented for a reason and that reason hasn't changed - they're convenient. And that's aside from the limit of having only nine open at any one time - open a link from another app and the first page just vanishes. Of course the continued lack of Adobe Flash support in the web browser is another bone of contention.

The argument stands that you don't need flash with all the amazing apps that the iPad 2 offers, and to a degree this holds up. The slew of great magazine and newspaper apps that are now available do provide an arguably nicer way to read the same content you might get online. And apps for iPlayer and Sky News do mean you can watch most key online video. However, not all these apps are actually an improved way of browsing this content - The Times is rather clunky while the iPlayer feels rather limited - and moreover the two aren't mutually exclusive: why can't we have both good apps and watch online videos or view other flash content?


April 8, 2011, 4:31 pm

I love my iPad 2. I had little experience with the first gen so can't really compare but in a household that has a PS3, 360, gaming laptop as well as old gen consoles the iPad 2 has really ruled over them all.

What I particulary find pleasing is just how easy it is for everyone to use. My other half loves it too and my little kid - just turned two - already has his favourite apps that he knows how to get to and operate (really is an impressive sight when you let young kids loose on one of these).

My main complaint is how much I spend in the Appstore - far too easy to persuade myself to buy things. LAst night I bought the Korg im20 and Djay apps. Both great fun but not exactly needed.

Really is a joy to use and has replace about 90% of my pc use. The pc is now just a machine for ripping cds and downloading.

Favourite apps so far:

Sword and Sworcery - stunning game
Read it Later + Reeder - has got me into rss news feeds in a big way
Galcon Fusion - very addictive game


April 8, 2011, 5:02 pm

"Apple has managed to gain these performance improvements, and pack this faster iPad 2 into a smaller space, without impacting on battery life"

Veery true, however think how amazing it would have been if apple had kept the, not exactly porky, 13mm profile and had a battery that lasted 15-20 hours? And then would have enough room to put in the same camera as the iPhone 4, a missed opportunity IMO

Also as nice as iMovie is, with the camera quality it is currently wasted on the iPad, its such a shame that apple doesnt push the boat out and allow you to connect or import raw video footage from external video cameras


April 8, 2011, 5:06 pm

I don't understand this obession with NEEDING to own an iPad.

No one really needs most of the products on this site so I don't see why the iPad is treated any differently.

It's worth noting as well that iMovie does not work on the original iPad. A warning box flashes up and says you need a front facing camera in order to install it.


April 8, 2011, 5:11 pm

Nice work, I thought this was a fair review.

Just one minor correction though, the A5 clock speed has been disclosed by Apple who put it as a dual core 1Ghz.
see http://www.apple.com/ipad/s...

It is however able to decrease it dynamically to conserve battery depending on load.


April 8, 2011, 5:24 pm

@GK.pm: Cheers, fixed.


April 8, 2011, 6:05 pm

"For all that they leave a lacklustre impression, the iPad 2's Smart Covers don't damped our impression of the device itself."

I think that should be dampen.

@ RageBoy: I dont think anyone needs to own a luxury device, which is why they are luxury and I did not get the impression from the article that I needed it either.

Personally I am waiting for a decent android tablet, might be a long wait but the software suits my needs a lot more than the iPad does unfortunately as it does look very nice.


April 8, 2011, 6:45 pm

Sorry but "The iPad 2 is still just a toy" line REALLY frustrates me because it's absolute nonsense and geek snobbery of the worst kind.

For the majority of users the iPad (and, frankly, this applies to most tablets but let's stick with the iPad for now) does everything they ever want from a computer. Both consumption and creation tasks work well (providing the app being used is well designed) and the learning curve is a LOT less than a Windows / OS X / Linux computer. There's no real OS to worry about, just a view onto your apps. Finding and obtaining new apps is trivial, getting new content is easy, creating content is often more intuitive than a desktop if the software is built right (again, remember this is content creation for non-geeks so blog posts, facebook entries, making movies that sort of thing). Is this a good device for businesses to consider replacing desktop Windows machines with? No, of course not, but that does not automatically make this a toy.

Sorry for the rant but I really wish that geeks (and I've seen more than a few tech sites make this mistake with the iPad and now the iPad 2) would realise that computers aren't just for us anymore. User friendly devices that don't demand PC literacy are the way of the future, time to start realising that. Raw functionality isn't the only defining measure of a computer anymore, the look, feel, ease of use and overall quality of the experience count for just as much for many people. It still strikes me as odd that Apple are one of the few companies that understand that, though at least Microsoft seem to be showing signs of realising it with WP7.


April 8, 2011, 7:10 pm

@BOFH UK I agree with you but refrained from commenting on that in order to keep harmony with the hordes of naysayers. After all the article wasn't that unbalanced and with an average score of 8.4 and TR Recommended I think the reviewer actually enjoyed this particular "toy".

Those of us who now use it professionally know that it's far from a toy, I actually do a lot of things differently just one week in and feel it's a great experience. But it's easy to see how it appears otherwise to outsiders. These shifts take time to kick in, but just wait and see..

The whole industry was also clueless when the iPhone showed up, I actually talked to mobile executives who thought Jobs was crazy when he said he was aiming for 1% of the industry in one year, now they're singing a very different tune.


April 8, 2011, 7:13 pm

@BOFH UK: Couldn't have said it better myself.

Here is great example of the iPads appeal, and how it's not just a toy.

My mother-in-law got the first iPad, she's never used a computer before, and would need to ask her husband to handle anything computer related.

She now able Email here daughter in Scotland, browse the net, she's even into creating documents, (food recipes), and then printing them out. etc. )

Now to us Geeks, nothing amazing. But from the POV of my mother-in-law it's certainly more than just a toy. Both me and the wife have been amazed at how she has taken to it.

Now from the POV of a geek, the iPad may well be seen as a toy. But even then for the majority of stuff most of us do, it could still be used for productive purposes. Remember PC's were once classed as Toy's / Fad that would never catch on :)


April 8, 2011, 7:23 pm

I'm with BOFH UK to an extent. to the PC literate it's a toy, but a toy that can replace a house laptop. To those who don't have a PC, or don't like using one, it can be everything. If only Apple will get cloud iTunes working and out there, you would never have to connect it to a PC again and it would become a house PC for those not wanting the fuss of a laptop or desktop. That would make it the ultimate laptop replacement imo. Of course, the same can be said for any tablet, but iPad 2 is the market leader currently.

I will think of it as a toy personally, but I still want one. I am also hoping to use it fairly frequently at work instead of a pad and paper, taking digital meeting notes in meetings and email on the go (which is hugely useful).

And Garageband is just cool....period :o)

Brian ONeill

April 8, 2011, 7:48 pm

My dad is 70, for years he has bugged me to teach him how to use the computer. Anyone who has ever done this know it requires the patience of a saint.

Last year I got him an ipad and right from day one he could get the hang of it. He uses the BBC and CNN apps and loves looking up old photos and spending time on history forums.

I am a windows user, but for me the ipad is the only option I would recommend to non technical people who want something simple for surfing, games etc.

Apple have done a fantastic job with the ipad. They really have full-fulled the dream of bringing technology to the masses. Sure people will snipe at apple, and their fanboys can be irritating, but they do produce great machines that are very easy to use.

I got a carbon fibre case from ebay for less than £20 and they are great:


April 8, 2011, 8:00 pm

@Kempez Itunes has its own problems and isn't some peoples favourite use of a Apple product and maybe the toy comment was a simplified way of saying its a luxury item you can live without, the king of the casual use, so to speak. The smartphone market is too big for tablets to threaten in the work market even if they're designed for it properly. The pad and pen isn't the dead, no matter how hard technology has tried to kill the 'primitive' technology. Garageband is a niche product not designed to make you learn to play. Buy/hire an instrument and watch video/read a booklet for that. :0)

@BOFFIN UK/@ Keith - The real people who could really use a tablet rather than a computer or even a laptop cannot afford one, which kills the potential of them for the moment. They're still presenting people with jack of all trades selling point which all consumer products have in abundance which is all well and good, but you'd be surprised the how many of the older generation you'd thought this might work for/appeal can still use the scourge of modern geekdom, the humble PC. It's nice to see people who don't use computers find a use in the ipad, but except for taking it as a gift, can she or similar peers afford to spend that amount of money on it to avoid a computer all their lives?

Maybe in the future, the tablet market will transform itself and mature beyond the casual user. Right now imo, there is little to suggest the ipad is where that future will go...


April 8, 2011, 8:11 pm

@speedyg2012: its a luxury item you can live without,

Like I believe somebody mentioned earlier, you could put practically everything TR reviews into that category. So maybe TR instead of been "Trusted reviews", could be renamed to "Toy Reviews" :)


April 8, 2011, 8:19 pm

Maybe TRUER? (Toys R Us Expensive Reviews) :0)

Apples marketing power and global brand reach for the ipads will make it have the edge over the 'geekier' Honeycomb for some time to come I think.


April 8, 2011, 8:25 pm

As much as I don't like Apple products I don't think £400 is expensive compared to their usual pricings. The pressure is on the tablet competition now. Myself i'm waiting on ZTE to bring something to the table.


April 8, 2011, 8:30 pm

@BOFH UK: To paraphrase Keith (perish the thought), I couldn't have said it better myself either. :)


April 8, 2011, 8:38 pm

@speedyg2012 are you implying Google doesn't have marketing power and global brand reach? I thought that was exactly their business.


April 8, 2011, 9:25 pm

@speedyg2012 - Much as Apple's superior marketing and global brand reach have ensured that iPhones are more popular then Android phones, and OS X is the world's most popular operating system ... oh wait ;)


April 8, 2011, 9:54 pm

I haven't read the review, yet. Just got some popcorn and skipped straight to the comments!


April 8, 2011, 10:03 pm

@GK.pm Apple in this case of consumer electronics. Google haven't mastered that section of the market just yet coming from software/search engine beginings, but early signs for them are promising in the smartphone sector. Google can catch up, never said they can't, but Apple have the experience and the edge for the mean time.


April 8, 2011, 10:21 pm

@Pbryanw - Ipods too. :P TBH, we all know they gave up on the home computing Market years ago living in the niche market, no matter how much the Apple 'I'm a Mac/PC ads tell you. Wow what a load of marketing hogwash that campaign was! :D

@lifethroughalens - Hope you're enjoying yourself, I'm at work. :(


April 8, 2011, 10:44 pm

It is a toy. It's a very good, nicely functional toy but it quite simply isn't an absolute replacement for a laptop.

I like the iPad 2 but if you offered me a choice between one and my Macbook the latter would always win out. Fortunately I don't have to choose as I can have both. :)


April 9, 2011, 12:46 am

@lifethroughalens @Hugo:
:( you started without me...


April 9, 2011, 1:20 am


Excellent points, but you do have to accept that this website is aimed at a very technically minded and computer literate audience, and for those people the iPad really is just a 'toy'. But it is a *wonderful* toy, and it will no doubt be the device that teaches millions of technophobes to email, browse the internet, download music, etc. for the first time because of its fantastic simplicity and user friendliness, which might never have been possible for them on a PC or laptop.


April 9, 2011, 1:53 am

@hugo ive had a camera phone of different types for the last 10 years i recall taking about 50 pictures in that time (most for ebay) how many do you take?

also have you not heard of vlc stream where you can wirelessly stream any video format?

ive noticed that TR inly comment on the stock ipad without taking into consideration 3rd party apss and devices that solve almost all problems you could come up with.

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