Update on Apple and the iPad 2


Last month, Apple raised concerns when it launched its digital billing subscription service for all content app publishers. The model, first used by Rupert Murdoch’s, The Daily, lets publishers set the price and length of their iPhone and iPad app subscriptions.

However, for subscriptions bought via the App Store, Apple will retain 30%. Publishers will be allowed to sell app subscriptions through their own sites, bypassing this stake, but they’ll also have to offer them for the same price, or less, via the App Store.

Publishers say it’s too early to comment on how this will impact their business. A statement from The Financial Times, which uses its own in-app system to collect subscription payments, said “we obviously have concerns over changes to an approach that has so far worked well for our readers and the broader publishing ecosystem around tablet devices, and that may compromise our business model.”

Publishers tend to prefer offering content through Apple platforms, taking advantage of its seamless iTunes payment system. However, more might opt for different platforms as a result of another recent entry into the market. Just a day after Apple announced its news, Google One Pass launched. This lets publishers take payment for digital content, only forfeiting a 10% share.

Meanwhile, the first reviews of the iPad 2 are starting to appear. Here are a few of the comments I took note of.

The Wall Street Journal made a point of the drawbacks of the device:

The iPad 2 does have some drawbacks. Its cameras take mediocre still photos and Apple won’t even reveal their megapixel ratings. The company says they were designed for video, not still photography. They did capture decent video in my tests, including high-definition video from the rear camera and video good enough from the front camera for satisfying video calling.

The New York Times paused to discuss the iPad 2 cameras:

Some of the iPad’s new features play industry catch-up. A 5-megapixel camera on the back (no flash) can also record high-definition video. If you’ve never used a tablet as a camera, you’re in for a treat; the entire screen is your viewfinder. It’s like using an 8-by-10 enlargement to compose the scene.

There’s also a low-resolution front camera that’s useful for video calls, like clear, sharp Wi-Fi calls to iPhone 4, Touch, iPad 2 and Mac owners using Apple’s FaceTime software.

The Daily was impressed by how powerful yet battery-friendly the iPad 2 is:

Despite a slimmer body and a processor that performs like it’s been shooting steroids, Apple claims the iPad 2 maintains a 10-hour battery life — just like the iPad 1. Initial tests showed that the iPad 2 can go the 10-hour distance under normal operating conditions — I played Tiny Wings and watched both “Inception” (in SD) and “Wall-E” (in HD) on the flight back to NYC from San Francisco without the battery conking out. But we’re not about testing things under “normal operating conditions” at The Daily. Once we’ve had more than a week of hands-on time with the device, we’ll get back to you with how it performs under a multitude of abnormal circumstances.

USA Today reminded us that the hardware isn’t the only great thing about the iPad 2:

Apple continues to lead in the third-party apps sweepstakes by a wide margin. It has more than 350,000 apps, of which about 65,000 are optimized for the iPad. Meanwhile, Apple drummed up new iPad versions for two of its popular Mac programs: GarageBand, the virtual recording studio you can use with real or software musical instruments, and iMovie, for editing high-definition videos. At $4.99 a pop, the apps are a bargain for would-be rock stars and would-be Spielbergs.

So, there you have it. Personally, I am intrigued to know more. The iPad 2 is thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessor, has cameras on the front and back, and will make the competition sit up and reassess their own policies on price, functionality and marketing. Competition will intensify. One thing seems clear: Apple has raised the bar one notch more on what was a high level they had set for the market originally.

But, for a company known for quality, which bundles a new still-photo app with the device, the cameras are disappointing.

Also, the battery life, while very good, isn’t as strong as I found it to be on the first iPad. In my tough battery test, where I played full-length movies until the battery died, with the screen brightness at about 75% and both Wi-Fi and cellular radios running, the iPad 2 just barely exceeded Apple’s claimed battery life, dying after 10 hours and nine minutes. That’s 2.5 hours better than the Motorola Xoom did on the same test, but more than an hour less than I got from the original iPad, which clocked in at 11 hours, 28 minutes.

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