Coming of Age: A Review of The New iPad


For the prelude to this post, please read Living Without the iPad.

Friday afternoon, I found myself anxiously awaiting a distant knock at my apartment door. Scheduled for a flight at 3 p.m., I impatiently rose to my feet every so often, my eyes darting toward the immediate stretch of road below my window. Uncomfortably close to the cut-off time for leaving my apartment, a gentleman from FedEx arrived and dropped off my new iPad.

Bag already packed, I quickly placed the unassuming brown box on my kitchen counter top -- the box adjacent to a set of pre-arranged package implements. Scissors quickly cut through brown tape, a knife through the plastic wrap. I placed the iPad upon a pillow and innocuously turned it on. Somewhat separated from my awareness of the device's Retina display, the screen dimly lit its resting area and I found myself in a moment of distinct pause. Unlike the iPad I had unceremoniously sold several weeks prior, the new device I found before me was an entirely different animal. Overhead lights off, curtains drawn, the form factor was hidden from view - the Retina display being the only visible portion of the device.

Hurriedly tapping through the introductory pages, I quickly found myself at the device's home screen. Halting for a moment to absorb the background image and icons, a telling smile stretched across my face. Satisfied, excited, and desperate to experiment further, I attached a brand new slate-colored polyurethane Smart Cover to its side, slid the iPad into a felt case, and left my apartment.

Some forty five minutes later, I found myself at the pertinent gate for my upcoming flight. Miraculously, I had managed to navigate my way through spring break traffic, airport parking, security, and swathes of fliers in a thoroughly reasonable amount of time. In the reprieve between arriving at the gate and my flight, I pulled out the new iPad and signed up for my new AT&T LTE data plan.

Interestingly, in order to purchase the LTE account, my connection was limited to a "4G" connection akin to my AT&T iPhone 4S. Given the quantity of fliers -- and despite the 4G moniker -- the connection was paralytic in pace. Helplessly waiting for the various informational screens to proceed, I absorbed the Retina lettering of the page -- a blurred and distorted AT&T logo in the upper-right hand corner poignantly juxtaposed to the crisp edges and shadowing of the user interface.

Upon activating LTE, the connection speed leaped to an overwhelmingly comfortable 20 megabit down and 18 megabit up. When compared with its 3G predecessor, the experience was jarring. Opening Safari, I found my iCloud bookmarks ready and immediately visited ONE37. As a weblog driven primarily by attractive text and large images, the experience certainly did not disappoint.

Satisfied with the appearance of the site, I navigated my way to the App Store and begun downloading apps. Visiting my purchased screen, populating the device's display was a matter of tapping multiple iCloud icons and waiting for only a few moments.

Unlike any other technological product in this interconnected era, I beheld a device bereft of dependencies upon other products. A device capable of existing whole and apart from the boundaries defined by our most frequently used products. With my mid-2011 MacBook Pro sitting dormant in my apartment, I held a device independent and unquestioning of its contextual surroundings. As I did so, I understood the staying power of the iPad, the coming of age of the product line, and was reminded of the coming changes to the computing landscape.

Over the course of the weekend, with the exception of some brief walks on the beach, the iPad remained with me at all times. Unfettered by connectivity concerns, the experience can simply be described as refreshing in its ubiquitous simplicity; liberating in the implications therein.

Returning home Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting on my sofa just as I had found myself just over two weeks ago. Grasping a cup of tea, a familiarly growing stack of magazines and reading materials at my feet, I gazed out of my apartment window at a cloud-softened sky. Stepping over the stack at the foot of my sofa, I drew the curtains and pushed the home button on my iPad.

Here, in this darkened space, I did something heretofore unpleasant on an iPad -- I read. Bathed in the vivid glow of the device, I perceived fonts as they were designed to be. I slipped through the digital pages of The New York Times, I cast my eyes across beautifully colored graphic novels, and I flicked through pages of Kindle e-books and iBooks alike.

The device in my hands -- although deceptive in its appearance -- could not have been further from its predecessor in those moments. Both the original iPad and the iPad 2 were defined by their novelty, but this device is characterized by a distinct sense of maturity.

In our younger years, we are often guilty of dressing poorly, of various degrees of attention deficit, and of interest in the immature. While such qualities never truly fade, we certainly improve upon them as we age. Dressing properly is a basic tenet of the adult experience, insofar as -- right or wrong -- appearance shapes the manner in which society may cursorily comprehend the individual. The world is superficial and, accordingly, details are of importance. Entering the working world, the individual is equally expected to work efficiently and without distraction. One is expected to accomplish goals, complete projects, and operate with characteristic clarity. Individual interests graduate from Saturday morning cartoons to The Wall Street Journal's sociopolitical commentary, politics, and intellectually stimulating entertainment.

And yet, beneath this evolutionary movement, the younger self remains. One's appearance, although fundamentally improved, remains recognizable. Attention, although similarly improved, is characteristically corruptible. And, despite adult interests, escape is just as tantamount to the day-to-day experience as it is in childhood.

The same tenets of human experience hold true for the new iPad.

The new iPad is not a radically different entity, it is a refined one. Maturing apps and application programming interfaces compliment an evolutionary experience -- a device characterized not by its specifications, but by its integration and metaphorical parity to our own day-to-day lifestyles.

The guiding conceit of the tablet genre is providing a window onto the outside world. With the new iPad, the window has been metaphorically opened. The experience is not defined by what cannot be achieved or the persistent awareness of staring at a display, but by a distinct sentiment of limitless potential, clarity, and capability.

Leaving for work this morning, I quickly put my iPad in my backpack with my Kindle Touch, a copy of The New Yorker, a Field Notes notebook, and a tin of soup. As someone known not to carry anything unless absolutely necessary, I felt empowered by the possession of this collection of items. Although connected, the experience is not compelled by distraction. Rather, it is compelled by the comfort of capacity. Whether the goal is escape or productivity, the new iPad excels far beyond my expectations.

The iPad has a place in life and need not subsume the position of all that is important to you. But, with the new iPad, its necessity and importance is without question. With the ubiquity of competent connectivity, lengthy battery, and the capacity for reading without strain, the new iPad's evolutionary existence has earned its position at the forefront of my day-to-day experience -- the guiding device beneath which lies items of unhindered peripheral importance.

The new iPad is the embodiment of Apple's contemporary ideology and trajectory -- a world unencumbered by boundaries and complexity. Read about the pixel density of the Retina display, the slight form factor shifts, and the granular specifics elsewhere, I attest only to the experience and the intent therein. In beholding this device, you perceive the impending future of computing and, if such matters are of interest to you, the new iPad provides a revelatory experience wholeheartedly worth investing in.