What's New With the iPad
Apple's iPad 2 announcement was just about what we expected. The new iPad, launching March 11, is thinner, lighter and faster than its predecessors, with the front- and rear-facing cameras that grumpy photogs have been waiting for. Apple also introduced some new iPad software and features in the iOS 4.3 update, also coming March 11. Let's take a closer look at Apple's iPad 2 news.
Much Thinner, a Little Lighter
The iPad 2 has the same 9.7-inch, 1024-by-768 resolution display as its predecessor -- no retina display this time around -- and the same storage capacities of 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB, but it's stuffed inside a tinier package. Compared to the original iPad's 0.5 inches and 1.5 pounds, the new model measures 0.34 inches thick and weighs 1.33 pounds, or a little more for the 3G version.
Dual Core Processor
To compete with incoming tablet competitors, the iPad 2 packs Apple's 1 GHz, dual-core A5 processor. Apple won't say how much RAM is in the iPad 2, but claims that gaming is up to nine times faster, and generally says users will notice smoother multitasking and better performance when surfing the Web, watching movies and loading apps.
Front- and Rear-Facing Cameras
Tech watchers expected a front-facing VGA camera in the iPad 2, but the 720p, 30 frames per second rear-facing camera was a bit of a surprise. Apple's not disclosing the resolution on either camera, but they both support videos and still images.
3G from Verizon or AT&T
The 3G iPad 2 is available with either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. Apple is using dual-mode chips in the Verizon iPhone 4, hinting that future devices that could support both networks, but for the iPad 2 you'll have to commit to a single carrier when buying.
Sweet Case, Bro
Out goes the big floppy jacket of the original iPad. In comes an optional cover -- $39 for polyurethane, $69 for leather -- that creates a magnetic hinge and rolls out to cover the screen. Rolling the cover into a triangle creates a stand that can either hold the iPad 2 upright for video calls or slightly inclined for typing. It's arguably the most forward-thinking aspect of Apple's iPad 2 announcement.
With an optional $39 dongle, users can connect the iPad to a television through HDMI, and the tablet's display will be mirrored on the big screen. It supports portrait and landscape modes, and a secondary 30-pin connector port allows the iPad to charge at the same time.
iPad 2 Software: Photo Booth
The iPad 2 will come bundled with Apple's Photo Booth software for editing and effects. It's not clear whether original iPad owners will get the software as well.
iPad Software: GarageBand
Apple's music creation software is coming to the iPad for $5 on March 11. It includes eight-track editing, touch-based instruments and compatibility with GarageBand for Mac. The coolest feature is a piano that uses the iPad's accelerometer to detect note velocity. Can we get a pressure-based typing keyboard, please?
iPad Software: iMovie
Starting March 11, iMovie will become available for iPad 2 models through the App Store for $5. It's similar to the software that's already available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but with a Precision Editor that allows for more accurate cuts.
iOS 4.3: Airplay
An AirPlay upgrade in iOS 4.3 allows users to stream video from the iPad's Photos app to an Apple TV. Slideshows on the iPad can also take advantage of Apple TV's built-in transitions.
iOS 4.3: iTunes Share
It's not the wireless iTunes syncing we've been waiting for, but a new iTunes Share feature in iOS 4.3 allows users to play videos, music and photos from a Mac or PC on an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, over a shared Wi-Fi network.
iOS 4.3: Safari Tweaks
iOS 4.3: Orientation Lock Returns
Only Apple has the gall to yank a feature, only to restore it and treat it as something wonderful and new. A contingent of users (including myself) hated how iOS 4 turned the iPad's orientation lock switch into a mute function. Now, users can choice either function. How revolutionary.
The iPad 1: Now $100 Cheaper
The iPad 2 goes on sale March 11 with the same pricing as before: $499 for 16 GB, $599 for 32 GB, $699 for 64 GB and an extra $130 for 3G on all models. But right now, you can get the first-generation iPad for $100 cheaper on all models. How long this offer will last is unclear.