I came to the iPad 2 with a clean slate (pun intended), having only very briefly used the original iPad in store displays. I sort of knew what to expect from the iPad from using my iPhone 4 (or so I thought); it'd be the same experience, but faster and on a bigger screen. Once again, I was wrong, and pleasantly so. The iPad 2 is far more than just a scaled-up version of a smaller device. It feels like this is what Apple was aiming for all along, and the iPhone was just a stepping stone.
After using my iPad 2 for a few days, I already consider it indispensable. Going back to using the iPhone feels like peering through a keyhole into a diorama version of the world after using the iPad, and using a Mac feels simultaneously more flexible and more limited. I can switch between tasks more easily on my Mac, and for now, typing on a physical keyboard is still more comfortable. However, the fact that only one thing happens on-screen at a time on the iPad actually helps me a lot with my focus, and it's also part of the almost mystical allure of the device.
The iPhone is a great device in its own right, but at no point while using it did the device itself disappear. I was always watching videos, browsing the internet or playing games on a tiny box. That's not the case with the iPad, and using it has reminded me of the way Bruce Lee talked about how water flows and adapts to whatever container holds it:
"Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless -- like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot." It's the same thing with the iPad. Launch Safari, and you're not holding a device that shows the internet -- you're holding the internet itself. Launch Pages, and your iPad becomes a word processor. Launch Flipboard, and the iPad transforms into a magazine. Launch iBooks, and your iPad is now a book. The edges of the device itself fall away, and the iPad simply becomes whatever you tell it to become.
It's a phenomenon I've read about, but experiencing it for myself has brought the joy back into computing for me. It's been a long time since the simple act of discovering new things brought a smile to my face when using a computer; honestly, the last time I remember feeling this truly connected with a device was the first time I used a Mac, in 1989. The same "a-ha!" cognitive gelling that happened the first time I double-clicked an icon to launch an app rather than having to type in an arcane string of characters happens again every time I find out what this deceptively simple touchscreen device is capable of.