It’s undoubtedly been the gadget to have over the last year, but Apple’s iPad has been threatened by an impending tsunami of tablet contenders; so it’s no wonder that the company this week launched the iPad 2. It’s a move aimed at ensuring that it continues to dominate the tablet market.

“While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

Unfortunately the launch leaves South African consumers in something of a conundrum. The original iPad was only launched in the country in late January and there’s no news on when the new incarnation of the gadget will appear on our shores. But, before we look at that issue further, let’s examine the product itself.

The iPad 2 is described as a “device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading ebooks and much more”.

The new version features an entirely new design that is 33 percent thinner (the thinnest on the market) and up to 15 percent lighter than the original iPad, while maintaining the same 9.7-inch LED-backlit LCD screen.

iPad 2 features a new processor for faster performance and stunning graphics. And, as expected, it now includes two cameras; a front-facing VGA camera for video chatting, and a rear-facing camera that captures 720p HD video.

Though it is thinner, lighter, faster and packed with new features, iPad 2 still delivers up to 10 hours of battery life that users have come to expect.

For the first time, iPad 2 will be available in black or white and Apple has also introduced the innovative iPad 2 Smart Cover in a range of polyurethane and leather colours.

The cover, with a unique self-aligning magnetic hinge, both protects the iPad and doubles up as a fold-up stand to make typing easier. It automatically wakes the device when it’s opened and puts it to sleep when it’s closed, and has a soft microfiber lining to help keep the screen clean. (The cover costs extra, however.)

iPad 2 comes with iOS 4.3, the latest version of the mobile operating system, with new features including faster Safari mobile browsing performance.

Additional iPad 2 features include a built-in gyro for advanced gaming; HSUPA support for enhanced 3G upload speeds on iPad 2, and HDMI Video Mirroring that lets users mirror their iPad screen on an HDTV using an HDMI adaptor.

Are there problems? Yes. Apple continues to refuse to make the iPad compatible with Flash because it has unilaterally decided the it doesn’t like the format. iPad 2 doesn’t yet support 4G, plus Apple did not include its Retina Display technology, which would have ensured that reading on screen is as easy on the eyes as it should be. (Wait for the iPad 3 for this).

Finally, Apple tellingly did not reveal the resolution of the iPad 2’s cameras, but some commentators say that they could be no better than a tragic 1.3 megapixels, but here’s hoping for better. And there’s no flash to illuminate matters. Here, the iPad lags behind its competitors.

The iPad 2 will be available in the US on March 11 and 26 countries around the world on March 25; but not in South Africa. It’s unclear when this will happen with the local distributor apparently left in the dark when it comes to a local launch.

“We’re currently in discussions with Europe and don’t have information on whether it [the iPad 2] will be launched here,” Core Group communications manager Taryn Hyam told News24.

It’s also rather unfortunate that the iPad 2 has launched just over a month after the first iPad was released in South Africa.

Note that just last month, Core insisted in a radio interview on 702 that they had no knowledge of the iPad 2 launching anytime soon.

Now, either Apple kept them in the dark deliberately (and Core should be mightily pissed off) or this was a blatant lie and lame attempt to fool South African buyers into spending their money on the iPad 1. Either way, it’s rather pathetic and reeks of Apple’s arrogance and dismissive approach to local consumers.

So what to do? Wait for it to eventually come to South Africa (perhaps just before the iPad 3 is launched)? Buy it from overseas? Or just be happy with your original iPad? Who knows, because it seems the local distributor is as confused as the rest of us.

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