Apple started selling its latest small object of desire, the iPad 2, today in Europe and it looks to be even more popular than its predecessor.
There were certainly no people queuing quite as long for the device in the US as was seen at Apple stores in London today, although that may have more to do with the density of Apple stores and traditional British queuing skills, garnished with a sprig of eccentricity.
However, most people aren't keen enough to stand in line and will still be mulling over a purchase in a more sober frame of mind. We've been trying out the iPad 2 for a couple of weeks, and here are our reasons to choose for or against the tablet.
Honourable Mention: Smart cover
Iain Thomson: OK, this is a bit of a cheat because it's not an out-of-the-box product, but I couldn't resist it - the smart cover is a greater work of genius than the iPad 2 itself.
Some bright spark at Apple no doubt noticed that the iPads you see in public usually have covers. There's the standard grey plastic slip-on cover, while some go for the leather look and I've even seen someone who built the iPad into an actual book. Apple saw a market and decided it could do better than some third-party supplier.
The smart cover attaches to the iPad 2 with magnets, cleans the screen automatically via friction and can be used to turn the device on and off. It's simple in design, functional and it looks great.
But the killer app for me is turning it in on itself and enabling the iPad 2 to be used on a slant as a keyboard. This partially rectifies a major flaw in the original iPad - its lousy virtual keyboard.
A lot of fellow journalists bought iPads when they first came out and it became rather comical watching them trying to type notes on the thing. It was ‘hunt and peck' typing made worse by having the device flat on the desk, and they had no chance of keeping up in a two-hour keynote.
With the smart cover, and the improved keyboard software on the iPad 2, this is a thing of the past. It'll still never be as fast as an actual keyboard - but you can get those too now if you don't mind carrying them - but the smart cover makes all the difference.
Shaun Nichols: One of the problems I've always had with covers for the iPhone and iPad is that they often uglier than the device itself, and actually take away from the appeal of the handset or tablet.
Apple must have noticed the same thing, because the company has stepped up efforts to push its own cover designs with the iPhone 4 and iPad 2. In this case, the smart cover for the iPad.
If you're one of the companies that sells cases for the iPad, you can't be sleeping too well these days. Apple has produced a case that is not only elegant but highly useful. The folding stand options are a brilliant little aspect of the design that could prove highly useful for desktop use as well as FaceTime chat.
5. Beautiful design
Shaun Nichols: If there's one thing you can count with Apple, it's an elegant design. The company is obsessed with creating devices that impress even before they're powered up.
With the iPad 2, the company has managed to take an already lightweight form factor and shave a little bit more. The reduction may only be a matter of millimetres, but the difference when you hold it in your hands is considerable.
The interface is the iOS environment so many have come to know and love. It's so simple that you would think it would be easy to recreate, yet none of the other platforms has managed to come close thus far.
The only reason this wasn't higher on our list is because it was hardly a surprise. Apple always designs nice-looking products and a sleek design for the new iPad was a given.
Iain Thomson: Indeed, this is lower down the list because essentially the iPad 2 is a revision of the classic iPad design, but there are significant improvements.
If you're one of those strange people who buys things and hides them away for 20 years in the hope of making some money you'll probably do OK with the iPad 2, but it won't be as highly prized as the original.
The new model is noticeably thinner than its predecessor and, while it is only slightly lighter, it feels much more portable. The first thing everyone wants to do when they see it is pick it up and feel the heft, and there's no other similar tablet that can beat the iPad 2 in this regard.
A lot of this thinness comes from a redesigned battery pack, which reorders the cells for slimmer configuration. I suspect this is the result of one of the good things about Apple's market dominance - the ability to go to manufacturers and point out that, if they put a bit more effort in, they could sell a lot more hardware.
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