We were there, stood in the Q, and got the iPad 2 – Pics and Hands On Review

Yossi Hasson, CEO SYNAQ – passionate entrepreneur and geek. SYNAQ is the leading provider of open source email and collaboration applications for small businesses delivered via the cloud. At SXSW to discover what’s happening in the tech world, and obviously, to buy the iPad 2.
It’s 08:00 AM, freezing cold and my first Day in Austin, Texas for SXSW and while heading to the Austin Convention Center we decide to make a little detour stop visit to a rumoured “Apple Pop-up store” at a discreet location. (Apple was rumoured to be building a temporary store 2 blocks from the convention center just in time for the start of SXSW – this store sold iPad 2’s only). Thinking the store would open at 9 and expecting a long queue, we arrived at the location and found… well, 1 guy. Sweet John (see pic) and a corner store that had been “blacked up”. Sweet John told us that the store would only be opening at 17:00 but that he was here for the long haul (And had been waiting since 6:30 that morning)… so, we decided – what the heck and lets wait it out as well.
And so the Apple iPad 2 journey began. Myself, Justinus Adriaanse and Graham Bradford (all South Africans) decided to camp out the apple store for 10 hours to be one of the first to get an iPad 2. By 08:30, our suspicions that this may be the correct location was confirmed when a large FedEx truck arrived delivering small “iPad sized” boxes in the thousands. Speaking to one of the delivery guys, they commented that they can neither confirm or deny that this may be the Apple store [score].
By 11:00 there was still no more than a handful of people waiting in line but by about 14:00 o’clock the line started developing at a rapid rate, spanning across the building. The general vibe was very festive with people sharing food, making friends and really enjoying their time. Reporters from various websites began coming through interviewing the South African contingent on why in the hell they would travel 30 hours only to camp out the Apple store in the freezing cold. We got interviewed by CNN Money, Mashable, TechCentral, Reuters and a couple of others and featured on the front page of CNN Money.
Minutes before the opening an army of blue T-shirt wearing Apple employees announced themselves on the street putting up blockades and handing out little tickets to each person entitling them to a maximum of 2 iPads. Moments before opening the doors they began cheering, taking pictures and building the crowd up as if one were at a rock concert. When opening the door, we were greeted by 2 lines of Apple employees, cheering, high-fiving and congratulating the “lucky few” who were able to get their hands on the iPad 2.

It was the first time for me to ever experience a product launch of this nature, the hype and build up that goes into it, entering into the store I had an adrenalin rush and never thought i’d ever be one of “those” fan boys caught up in the brilliant artful trickery that makes Apple, well Apple. But there I was, Credit Card in hand happily waiting to spend a small fortune on a small little, for all practical purposes, pretty redundant device. 
After becoming the proud owner of a 64GB iPad 2 3G + wifi (that’s a mouthful) and leaving the store we were greeted by waves of people cheering and more journalists asking for interviews.
Back home, unboxing the iPad reveled a beautiful looking sexy white tablet that only Apple knows how to produce.
Not owning an iPad 1 I wasn’t able to differentiate on the lightness or comparable thickness of the device but to me it felt quite solid and light enough not to be a nuisance while carrying around the SXSW conference. Activating the iPad requires an initial sync with your iTunes account (this could be done in store). Once activated I was greeted by an AT&T 3G signal bar and a pop-up saying that I could activate my AT&T 3G plan – pretty neat for those living in America.
Another cool features first noticed was the new inclusion of Facetime using the new front and back camera. The camera quality was very dissapointing, everything appears pixalated on the iPad screen. I would have expected Apple to include a better camera that can support higher resolutions. Using the iPad is a truly wonderful user experience. The device is responsive, apps load quickly and the UI intuitive. Email on the iPad is works brilliantly and for a person traveling replaces the need to bring their laptop. Other great applications for the iPad are Twitter and Flipboard. Both give a preview of how the new world of applications will work and form part of our daily lives.
Using the iPad i’ve found the battery life to be superb lasting an entire day of wifi usage, tweeting, taking pictures, checking email, taking notes and browsing the web. This for me is by far the biggest selling point. Having up to 10 hours of battery life on a device this small makes it an incredibly useful tool for the traveller. Another really awesome feature is the new iPad cover from Apple. It acts as a stand, cleaning cloth and protector all in one. What I love about it is that, unlike most other covers, it doesnt noticeably increase the form factor of the device and enhances the experience of the iPad (open it and the device turns on, close it and it turns off). Also, because of the magnetic strip that attached the cover, with the cover off – the iPad doesnt look like it’s missing something.
All in all I think it’s an excellent device and was blown away by the pure genius that Apple puts behind a launch of this kind. Will the iPad stand the test of time? Well, I think it’s still a bit gimmicky and I’m not entirely sure if it solves a problem for a person whose not travelling but lets see in 2 months if I’m still using it and what I think then. Till then, I’m one happy and newly converted Apple fanboy.

Update: Since this review post went live, Core has announced that iPad 2 will reach SA on 29 April. And the pricing is not half bad! Yeah, we are happy as well.