The new iPad is here. Apple unveiled a new version of its hit tablet on Wednesday, adding more power, an optional 4G Internet connection, and a supersharp HD display, but keeping the overall look and feel of the previous model.
The changes may disappoint Apple fans who hoped for a radically redesigned gadget. But given the iPad's huge success, a few upgraded features might well be enough to keep its position as the world's top tablet, and Apple's status as the world's most valuable company.
The company will also continue to sell the current iPad 2 model at a discounted price.
Apple CEO Tim Cook and other company execs showed off the new iPad at a media event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Calif.
High-Resolution Retina Display
As expected, the new iPad features a screen with roughly twice the resolution of the iPad 2. The Retina display, as Apple calls it, first debuted in the iPhone 4 and quickly drew raves for its crisp, detailed images. The iPad's 2048x1536 display makes it the first Apple tablet able to show movies in full HD.
More Powerful Processor
The new device also has an A5X processor with quad-core graphics. The added power will help keep the Retina display running smoothly.
Speedy 4G Internet Connection
Apple is offering a 4G connection through both AT&T and Verizon on its new iPad. It's the first Apple device to feature the fast wireless technology.
Battery Life, Size, and Weight
The new device can run for 10 hours, said Apple Vice President Phil Schiller. It will last nine hours when on 4G. It weighs 1.4 pounds, and is 9.4 mm thick.
Pricing and Release Date
The new iPad is available in several models. A basic 16GB model costs $499. 32GB is $599 and 64GB is $699. Models with 4G connections cost $629, $729, and $829, respectively.
It will be available March 16, Cook said.
Official Name and Other Features
After months of speculation about whether Apple would call it the iPad 3, iPad HD, or something else, the company simply called it "the new iPad" during today's unveiling.
An improved camera that can record video in full 1080p HD.
Same dock connection as the iPad 2. The new iPad has the standard Apple 30-pin connector. It does not have an SD card slot, as some Apple fans had hoped.
Updated iOS 5.1 software. The newest version of Apple's mobile operating system adds support for Japanese and other languages.
Positive Early Reaction From the Tech World
Tech sites covered today's Apple event obsessively, as usual. Few writers were surprised by the new tablet, but most were impressed nonetheless.
CNET.com's Donald Bell said the new Retina display is the only new feature buyers should care about. "The company took its already excellent product and updated it with a gorgeous screen," he writes. He recommends that iPad 2 owners resist the temptation to upgrade, and suggests new tablet buyers also consider cheaper options like the Kindle Fire.
"Unsurprisingly, Apple has managed to produce something that's truly beautiful to look at," Engadget's Darren Murph wrote. The upgrades could be enough to convince owners of the original iPad that it's time to trade up, he predicted.
Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz also said the new Retina display was enough to set the iPad apart from its rivals. "It's almost like looking at a glossy magazine page," he writes. The Verge's Joshua Topolsky was similarly impressed, calling the screen "stunning to behold."
Older iPad 2 Still Available for $399
Apple will continue to sell the current version of Apple's tablet for $100 less than the new model. The device will have 16GB of memory and Wi-Fi, but no 3G or 4G Internet connection.
Apple is offering an updated versions of iWork, Garageband, and iMovie that are optimized for the new iPad's A5X processor and Retina display. There is also a new version of iPhoto for iPad that offers multi-touch editing and sharing tools called Photo Journals and Photo Beaming. Apple also showed off a new iPad game, Infinity Blade Dungeons, which featured incredibly detailed graphics.
Apple TV Upgrade Also Unveiled
Apple also showed off a new version of its Apple TV device, which lets users stream audio and video from iTunes. The new gadget has an improved interface and supports 1080p resolution for full HD video. The price remains the same at $99.
Tablet Competition Heating up
The iPad dominates the hot tablet market, but it's facing increased competition. A report by Forrester Research estimated the iPad had 73 percent of the tablet market as of last September. But that was before Amazon's hot-selling $199 Kindle Fire debuted. The market research firm iSuppli estimates Amazon shipped 3.9 million Kindle Fires in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with 15.4 million iPads shipped by Apple.
There are other challengers, too. Microsoft is preparing a touchscreen-friendly new version of Windows that will further blur the lines between a tablet and traditional computer. And Samsung, Asus, Toshiba, and others continue to improve tablets running the Android operating system, though none of the devices has caught fire the way the iPad has.
With a gorgeous new display and other improvements, the new iPad may be enough to keep Apple's hot streak alive.