By Mary Anne Potts; photograph courtesy Apple
When the first iPad came out just over a year ago, we were sure it would transform travel: Apple's tablet computer married work and play utilities so well, it rendered a laptop excess weight on a vacation. Thirteen months later, our computing behavior has already evolved drastically. Everyone from VPs to restaurant sommeliers to preschoolers are using iPads everywhere. It did not take long for the tablet to find a place in our lives.
Since the second generation iPad was released a month ago, much has been said about the new lighter, smaller, faster model. And the fact that Apple has added significant new features to iPad 2—such as the front- and back-facing cameras—without raising the price (it starts at $499). Let’s consider what the iPad 2 does to further transform travel with its smaller size, new cameras, innovative new travel apps, and iMovie travel videos.
1. Packable Size, Speed
Yes, the iPad 2 is light (33 percent lighter than iPad 1) and thin (thinner than the iPhone 4). It’s so fast—two times faster thanks to the A5 chip—that the graphics seem to fly across the screen as you use it. The sleek, skinny iPad 2 disappears in your handbag, tote, or backpack. And at the airport, iPads do not have to be screened separately in the security line.
2. Ample Battery Life
The ten-hour battery life means you can literally not worry about charging your iPad for days. Battery life is simply not an issue. The iPad also has its own voltage converter, so you just need to find a power adapter for your host country and you are all set.
Here are three ways to maximize your iPad’s battery life:
• Turn down the brightness of the screen.
• Limit the apps in your multitasking. Each open app is using a bit of battery. Close out of the apps you aren’t using.
• Turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings when you are not using them. They soak up battery power.
3. Cameras for Video Chatting, Hi-Def Video, Photos
The much anticipated front- and back-facing cameras enable FaceTime chats from wherever you have a Wi-Fi signal—airport layovers, coffee shop chats, Madrid’s Plaza de Santo Domingo. More and more cities are publishing maps of their free Wi-Fi hotspots. Though the cameras' video is hi-def, the photos are less sharp than photos taken with the iPhone 4. But in reality, shooting photos and video on the iPad is a little strange. For my iMove travel video (below), I used my iPhone 4 to shoot photos and video, then synced to my computer, then to my iPad. You can also use the USB adapter to sync iPhone 4 photos directly to iPad.
4. Top Travel App Innovations
With the addition of the new gyroscope and cameras, and the existing GPS, the world of travel apps is about to take off. The gyroscope and GPS could enable some very cool virtual tour guides of favorite travel sites—say an iPad tour of Machu Picchu where you point your iPad at a feature and it tells you historical facts. Here are some of the more impressive new iPad travel apps out there:
• iMovie – $4.99
Optimized for the iPad, this app could transform you into a filmmaker. For travel videos, it’s amazing. It makes editing videos simple—little kids could do it. See the section below to read the full review.
• National Geographic National Parks Maps HD App – $4.99
This app pairs hi-res images of points-of-interest within National Geographic HD topo trail maps for 15 parks (Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, and ten others). The iPad’s Digital Compass will locate you within the park when you are ready to start exploring.
• JetSetter – Free
This visually stunning, content-driven travel app lets you discover travel destinations through a gorgeous layout and photography. The stories and editorial reviews will tantalize you to take a trip—and the app even allows you to book a hotel stay with a cool calendar feature. It also has “Flash Sale” limited-time travel deals.
• Word Lens – Free, $9.99 per language
This app utilizes the camera to photograph and translate text. Right now it only works for English to Spanish and Spanish to English. Still it’s a remarkable service on the iPad. It’s not perfect. I tried it on my friend Mark Adam's new book title, Turn Right at Machu Picchu. It came up with “Turno Correcto a Machu Picchu,” which is a little off, but the possibilities are exciting.
• TripAdvisor – Free
Thanks to the iPad’s digital compass, TripAdvisor’s vast database of user reviews are made available on Google Street maps. Simply locate yourself via the GPS, then read reviews of nearby restaurants and hotels positioned on a Google Street View map. What’s surprising is all the local information. I always considered TripAdvisor to be best for international hotels. But with the app, I located myself in my apartment in Brooklyn and it showed me all the restaurants and businesses on my street with contact info and user reviews.
• Fotopedia Heritage – Free
Brilliant photos illustrate the world’s UNESCO World Heritage sites in this app. The Machu Picchu slide show alone has 59 images.
• FlightBoard – $3.99
This app quite simply lets you see the Arrivals and Departures flight boards in any airport. Pretty handy if you are dealing with weather delays.
• AllSubway HD – $.99
This is the first collection of subway maps from the world’s great cities, from Moscow to Munich to Perth. You don’t need a Wi-Fi connection to use it, so subterranean navigation is possible.
Starting in May, Apple is going to offer free travel app workshops for consumers at their 200+ U.S. stores. At these workshops, Apple instructors will show the latest and best travel apps available.
5. iMovie: Geo-Referenced Travel Videos
iMovie ($4.99), which we loved for the iPhone 4, is now optimized for iPad and so easy to use. The added screen real estate allows for great control and precision while editing your trip video. You can trim video clips before you add them to your edited material, and then re-edit the cuts throughout the process with multiple video editing tracks. The app is so superior, it gives you the confidence to actually cut together a video you could be proud of.
I tested the process on a morning run to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., last week. In my case the early morning light on an overcast and rainy day didn’t really show off the scenery as much as I’d hoped. I used my iPhone 4, then synced the images to my computer, and then to my iPad. You can also use the USB adapter to sync directly to your iPad. Because the photos and videos are geo-referenced, I easily tagged locations in iMovie. This would be particularly handy if, post trip, you couldn’t remember where you snapped the shot. I did all my video editing on the go, mostly on my subway commute.
If I had more time, I would have attempted to compose my own cherry blossoms run soundtrack in the new GarageBand ($4.99), now optimized for iPad. In the same way that iMovie makes you feel like a capable filmmaker, GarageBand makes you feel like a diamond-in-the-rough musician. And they are both so fun to use. Apple’s creativity-developing apps encourage us to document, record, and present our lives in a personal way. The resulting videos or even music compositions may not win an Oscar or Grammy, but they contribute to focusing on some of life’s best moments—our vacations with family and friends.