The simpler moniker--the iPad HD and iPad 3 were rumored names bandied about--alludes to the lack of any groundbreaking new features. Instead, Apple added a few incremental upgrades to the processor, display, and wireless connection. It also cut the price of the iPad 2 to make it a bit more competitive with some of the newer entrants in the market.
That doesn't mean that Apple didn't have anything to say. The company ran through a list of features, including the introduction of a native iPhoto app, as well as updates to GarageBand and iMovie, and showed off new gaming capabilities of the device.
The presentation also gave Apple CEO Tim Cook a chance to run through the company's vision of a post-PC world, which now also includes the iPhone and the iPod. He said the devices sold 172 million units last year, making up more than three-fourths of Apple's revenue.
"In many ways, the iPad is reinventing portable computing, and it's outstripping the wildest of predictions," he said.
The new iPad doesn't boast many new features, but that doesn't mean that it won't sell like gangbusters.
Read on to find out more about the new iPad's most important changes.
The move to a higher-resolution screen, similar to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S's Retina Display, was clearly the highlight of the presentation. The new iPad boasts a resolution of 2,048x1,536, or 3.1 million pixels. Apple says it's the best resolution available on a mobile device. The company took great pains to show off the visual prowess of the device through demonstrations of such things as a video game. If Apple was pushing the iPhone 4S as a gaming device, it's pushing that concept twice as hard for the new iPad .
Also notable is the inclusion of LTE, or Long-Term Evolution, a 4G technology that enables a speedy wireless connection. The new iPad is the first Apple device to use LTE, and it almost certainly confirms that the next iPhone will have LTE as well. The company talked up the benefits of the LTE network, which is a far cry from Cook's past comments about LTE forcing too many compromises in the design. It's also notable that AT&T and Verizon Wireless will get their own LTE-enabled iPads.
The new iPad doesn't use a true quad-core processor, but then again, Apple didn't refer to its upgraded A5X chip as utilizing a quad-core graphics chip. Apple did say the chip is four times as fast as Nvidia's Tegra 3 quad-core chip, which just hit the market earlier this year. Just like Apple has said the number of megapixels don't matter in a camera, the company is now saying the number of cores in a processor don't matter as much.
Pricing for the iPad remains relatively unchanged. The base model with Wi-Fi connectivity and 16GB of storage will cost $499, while the most expensive 4G version, with 64GB, will cost $829. There are various combinations in between. The device will start selling on March 16 in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, making what Apple says is its widest global launch for the iPad yet.
The iPad's battery life remains consistent at 10 hours, though it dips to 9 hours with 4G. That's an impressive figure, considering that 4G LTE has been a huge drain on batteries in other devices.
The company also unveiled a next-generation Apple TV box. The new hardware has been updated to enable 1,080-pixel resolution movies and TV shows, and it features a redesigned user interface. The box will be available on March 16 for $99.
One of the biggest complaints about the iPad 2 has been somewhat addressed with an upgraded camera. The iSight camera will be a 5-megapixel shooter capable of shooting 1080-resolution video with image stabilization. The camera's quality is on par with that of the iPhone 4, though it's still behind the upgraded 8-megapixel camera found in the iPhone 4S.
Apple also furnished the iPad with new apps, including updates to GarageBand and iMovie, which respectively now have collaborative music creation and the ability to create trailers. A lot of time was devoted to the launch of iPhoto for the iPad, which boasts an impressive array of photo-editing capabilities. All of the apps are available today. iPhoto is $4.99, while GarageBand and iMovie remain $9.99 each.
Looking ahead, it'll be interesting to see how aggressively the wireless carriers push the LTE-enabled iPads and whether that fosters interest for 4G technology. Now that Apple has made its mark, its rivals will get a chance to respond with new tablets of their own.