Gadget-filled weekend as iPad 2 and Nintendo 3DS launch

25 Mar 2011

Today’s a big day for gadgets in Ireland, with the launch of both the iPad 2 and the Nintendo 3DS.

iPad 2

The highly-anticipated iPad 2 is seeing a debut in Ireland today, boasting twice the speed as the previous model and more powerful graphics capabilities.

It’s lighter, slimmer and will be available in both black and white, looking a lot sleeker than the original model.

According to HMV and Compu B, the tablet will be available across Irish stores and internationally from 5pm onwards, so anyone who wants one first thing this morning is out of luck. HMV will offer the tablet in its Dundrum and Grafton Street stores in Dublin and at its Galway store.

Many were a little disappointed the iPad 2 was more of an upgrade than a huge leap from the first model. That didn’t stop it from selling out in the US, with as many as 500,000 models sold on day one alone.

Interestingly, 70pc of iPad 2 buyers didn’t own the first iPad. Perhaps this reflects how popular tablets have become since the launch of the first iPad. Or perhaps this shows that an upgrade may not be enough to tear iPad 1 owners away from their tablets.

Regardless of this, Apple still seems to have the edge when it comes to the tablet market at the moment. Many of the tablets announced earlier this year, such as the HTC Flyer and the BlackBerry Playbook, will see a release from May onwards.

That said, the next Android tablet will be the Motorola Xoom available on 4 April. However, early US reviews have said that, while it’s an impressive device, it’s still early days for Honeycomb, especially when it comes to tablet app offerings.

Not only that, but the price seems to be a key factor, too, with the Xoom costing between US$600 and US$800 in the US. Compare that to the iPad 2, which costs from US$499 (€479 in Ireland) to US$829 (€799 in Ireland). While the upper prices are in sync, the lower spec offerings may appeal to new customers curious about the tablet market.

The big question, of course, is how many iPad 2 models will there be available in the first few weeks? And judging by stock the US, there may not be many. On the US Apple store, there’s still a four to five-week delay on shipping.

Reports say there are still hundreds queueing outside stores for the iPad 2, a week and a half after its launch. I’d imagine only a lucky few will get their hands on an iPad 2 in Ireland today.

Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS will have the strictly gaming side of gadgets covered today. Some gamers who stayed up for the midnight launch at GameStop or HMV may already be at home trying the console out for themselves.

The device is the next step in Nintendo’s portable gaming range, adding 3D capability to gaming. It has two screens – the bottom is a touchscreen which utilises a telescoping stylus and the top screen shows off its 3D, which doesn’t require glasses to view.

It can take 3D photos, has Wi-Fi connectivity and six augmented reality cards.

From launch, there’ll be 13 individual titles available, including Street Fighter IV 3D Edition, Pilotwings Resort and The Sims 3. Nintendo fans are also looking forward to the 3D portable remake of the classic Nintendo 64 title Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which should come out later this year.

Nintendo hasn’t had a great year, seeing its net sales down 31.7pc in Q1 2011 since the year before.

Sales have been slow on the Nintendo Wii and the DS. During the Christmas period, there was no killer app from the company, giving Sony and Microsoft the chance to release their own motion-controlling devices for the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, respectively.

The Kinect for the Xbox 360 had a particularly merry Christmas, selling 10m units in a few months. It even won a Guinness World Record for its troubles.

The portable gaming world has changed dramatically in recent years, too, thanks to the rise of mobile gaming. One obvious example of its success has been Angry Birds, whose popularity has helped developer Rovio raise US$42m in investment.

Sony is also seeing the potential in mobile gaming, hoping to launch the PlayStation Suite to introduce the PlayStation experience to smartphones. It’s also launching a powerful successor to the PSP soon. 

The 3DS is vital to Nintendo’s upcoming gaming strategy in order to see whether there’s still a demand for separate handheld gaming devices or if portable gaming will become integrated into smartphones.

I still believe there is room for both, as long as handheld gaming consoles have an edge against smartphones for gaming capabilities. They need to offer features that smartphones can’t, due to compromises they need to make for other hardware requirements and phone-based functionality. However, a lot of progress is being made with smartphones very quickly.

The 3D capabilities of Nintendo’s next portable console are certainly intriguing and if that can be used in an innovative way, then it can still stand out.

Of course, what keep people coming back to Nintendo time and time again is its high-quality first party games, and if the 3DS can offer a solid library of fantastic titles, as well as working on bringing in more third-party developers, then it will prove to be a must-have device for gamers everywhere.