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The User Experience: iOS

Apple's iPad 2 Review: Tom's Goes Down The Tablet Rabbit Hole

If you’ve already used the original iPad, nothing has changed. All of the same gestures apply: pinch, zoom, swipe, and scrolling.



Apple rolled out iOS 4.3 on March 9th, two days before the iPad 2's launch. While the interface didn't change, Safari claims big performance gains thanks the new Nitro JavaScript engine. You’ll still get this benefit from upgrading to iOS 4.3 on the original iPad, but the java experience is noticeably better on the iPad 2, since it has more CPU power to back up the engine.

I should point out that the new JavaScript engine also improves the original iPad's battery life, but this only applies when you're browsing websites that utilize JavaScript. If you tend to browse websites like Wikipedia (JavaScript-free), you're going to gain nothing in performance or battery life with the iOS 4.3 upgrade.


Multitasking in iOSMultitasking in iOSManually Ejecting Programs from RAMManually Ejecting Programs from RAM

Multitasking is the same on the iPad 2; it hasn't changed. You have to double-tap on the home button to pull up the tabbing menu, and you still can’t multitask as smoothly as you can on a desktop. All applications run full-screen, so there’s no way to simultaneously manage multiple windows. For example, if someone messages me on Skype, I need to exit email and pull up the Skype program to respond. Apple needs to figure out how to better optimize the multitasking experience, because this is part of what makes us so productive on desktop PCs.

Until Apple addresses this interface issue, any other improvements wind up fairly iterative. The iPad 2 has more memory, for instance, and you do see the benefit of that upgrade when you switch between multiple programs.

Apple iPad (left) vs iPad 2 (right): More Memory, More Multitasking

In order to understand why, you need to realize that memory management in iOS works on the principle of first in, first out (FIFO). As with the desktop, opening more applications requires more memory. If the next application you open exceeds the amount of available memory, the operating system ejects the oldest program in memory to free up space, but since swap files aren’t used in iOS, ejected apps save their data to storage memory as soon as they move into the background. This affects the Web browsing experience because Safari doesn’t store Web pages locally. When the iPad runs low on memory, Safari can no longer store a page in RAM. Instead, it stores a preview of the page that refreshes when you return to Safari. On the original iPad, it was annoying to lose my place on a Web page because when I had to open other programs. With 512 MB of LP-DDR2, the iPad 2 no longer suffers this problem.

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