Yes, the new model has the same magnetic Sleep/Wake feature as the iPad 2. And while the version of the Smart Cover that Apple is selling today has a different model number than the one originally designed for the iPad 2, Apple’s website claims the new version works with both iPad models. We suspect this means that the original Smart Cover models will fit the new iPad, as well.
Can I use my iPad 2 case with the new iPad?
The iPad 2 and the new iPad are each 9.5 inches tall and 7.31 inches wide, but as we noted above, the new models are 0.03 inches thicker. This difference is small enough that most cases designed for the iPad 2 should fit the new model, although cases that fit exceptionally snugly, or are designed with especially fine precision, might—in theory—have issues. We haven't come across any yet, but we'll be testing many more as we get more iPads in-house.
So it’s called the iPad 3, right?
Actually, no. For whatever reason, Apple is publicly calling this new model iPad—the same name as the original iPad. While some people take issue with this confusing nomenclature, others see no problem with iPad, iPad 2, and iPad again. In places where iPad might cause confusion—support articles and the online Apple Store—the company has been using iPad (third generation) or iPad (3rd generation), but the public name is simply iPad.
What configurations are available, and how much will each cost?
As with the iPad 2, the differences between available models are the wireless capabilities, the screen-bezel color, and the storage capacity. Specifically, the new iPad is available in Wi-Fi-only or Wi-Fi + 4G models, the latter for AT&T (GSM) or Verizon (CDMA); in black or white; and with 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of storage (sorry, there’s still no 128GB model). Yes, this means there are still 18 different models available, at least in the U.S.
As is common for Apple products, the new iPad models have the same price points as the previous models: The 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB Wi-Fi-only models will sell for $499, $599, and $699, respectively, while the corresponding Wi-Fi + 4G models will sell for $629, $729, and $829.
What’s this about a new AppleCare+ option for iPad?
AppleCare+, which debuted with the iPhone 4S last fall, is a version of AppleCare that covers accidental damage. Like standard AppleCare plans, the new AppleCare+ for iPad provides two full years of hardware warranty-repair coverage and telephone support (compared to 90 days of phone support and one year of hardware coverage for the iPad’s stock warranty). But AppleCare+ also covers, over that two-year period, two incidents of accidental damage—for each incident, Apple will replace a damaged iPad with a new or refurbished unit for a fee of $49.
You must purchase AppleCare+ within 30 days of the purchase of the iPad itself.
Will Apple be keeping the iPad 2 around at a lower price, as it does with previous-generation iPhone models?
Yes, the company will continue to sell the 16GB iPad 2, in black or white, at a lower price. The Wi-Fi-only model will be priced at $399, and the 3G-capable version will sell for $529—each $100 lower than before.
So when can I get my hands on a new iPad?
Apple says the new iPad models will be available on March 16 in the U.S. and several other countries, including Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Hong Kong. One week later it’ll roll out in 25 more countries.
Great, where can I place my order?
If you’re in a country where the new iPad will be available March 16, you can pre-order from the online Apple Store now.
[Updated at 4:54pm pacific to correct information about dictation requiring a data connection.]
[Updated 3/16/2012, 6am, to add more information about the Retina display and apps, the iPad's speaker, memory, iPad cases, battery life, and dictation.]
This story, "Third-generation iPad: What you need to know" was originally published by Macworld.