The new iPad

Yesterday, on the way to visit family out in Essex, Reva and I stopped by the Apple store at the Westfield mall in Stratford. But I think a more accurate description of events would be that I dragged Reva to the Apple store at the Westfield mall in Stratford. It was the day after the release of the new iPad aka the third generation iPad and I wanted to get a glimpse of the screen that had been described as “resolutionary” by Apple’s marketing but had also been talked up greatly by all the blogs and podcasts I’m subscribed to.

Overall, yes the screen is a lot brighter and sharper, but to see the difference I really had to compare it to the iPad 2. I do see the difference between the iPhone 3G and iPhone 4S, but only on close inspection. I don’t know if the difference would be noticeable to me in daily use. In fact, I’d say it isn’t because I regularly use both an iPhone 4S and a Nexus One. And it’s not the screen on the Nexus One that annoys me (but that’s a story for another day).

The 3rd generation iPad is similar – only when compared to an iPad 2 up close can I really notice the difference, but ohh boy – what a difference it is. The size, shape and weight is almost identical to the iPad 2. The rear camera is apparently better, but personally that’s not a big selling point. Faster processor (quad core graphics?) and increased RAM are two big factors for me because original iPad I have is almost unusably slow with iOS 5 on it. LTE? Well, not until there’s some serious LTE push outside North America will I take notice of it.

Bottom line? If it’s the first tablet one is buying, then this is the best tablet on the market. If one already has an iPad 2, then don’t buy it unless one has $800 burning a hole in one’s pocket. What about me? I have an iPad 1. I’m sorely tempted, but I think I could last another year. Hopefully by then there’ll be a reason to get it for LTE in Europe.

The iPad as a gaming platform

I’m not a heavy gamer on iOS devices.  I will admit to having downloaded several free games, and even a few paid ones for my iPhone/iPad, I don’t spend any extended time gaming on them.  Despite reports of the iPod Touch being a serious, competitive threat to other portable gaming consoles, the platform never held much draw for me.  Actually, portable gaming itself doesn’t interest me all that much.  Chalk it down to having been spoiled by playing Call of Duty on a 100″ screen in 1080p.

There are, however, a few games I think the iPad does well with bringing into the 21st century.  The first is Scrabble.  It works best if played in “Party Mode” with iPhones or iPod Touches as companion devices. These act as your tile-rack, while the iPad is the Scrabble board.  The “board” auto-rotates to face the player whose turn it is.  The tile-racks have an integrated dictionary so it’s easy to check words before playing them.  And of course, score is kept automatically.  The game does need all devices to be connected to the same WiFi network, and does suffer from frequent dropped connections if the device screens are allowed to shut off. But these minor gripes aside, playing Scrabble on such a platform is incredibly entertaining and fun for a group of players. The iPad portion of the app costs $10 and the tile-rack app for the iPhone/iPod touch is free.

The other game where the iPad works well as a platform is Pictionary. Reva & I had a few friends over for dinner last night and the conversation soon turned to the iPad, when then turned to Scrabble.  But since we didn’t have enough iDevices to go around, we thought we’d try and play Pictionary on it.  I have a sketching app on it, but it is not optimised for the game. A quick search of the  App Store showed no results for an official Pictionary app, but a substitute with pretty decent reviews (and a light version) is Sketch n’ Guess. The full version is only $1.99, so after a quick go at the light version, I purchased it. We had a great time drawing on it and guessing the words. Some drawings (and guesses) were definitely better than others 🙂  I think Hasbro/Mattel is missing a trick here by not developing an official Pictionary app for the iPad.  If it is as  good as their Scrabble app, I’m sure people would pay at least $5 for it.

**Note: the Scrabble app for the iPad is officially made and distributed by Electronic Arts