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What you need to know about the iPad 2 (FAQ)

CNET spells out some of the key features of Apple's updated tablet, what's new in the iPad 2, and how much one of these gadgets will cost you.

James Martin/CNET

The new iPad 2 will hit store shelves in the U.S. on March 11.

If you've been waiting to see what Apple would put in the latest version of the hit tablet, here's a quick FAQ that spells out some of the key features. It also is a quick guide to what's new for the iPad 2 and how much one of these new devices will cost you.

For a blow-by-blow account of today's announcement in San Francisco, check out CNET's archived Live Blog. And for a recap and analysis on what it all means check out this CNET story.

How is the iPad 2 different from the original iPad?
In a nut shell, the iPad 2 is thinner, lighter, faster, and has two cameras for video conferencing.

The new iPad uses a new A5 dual-core processor, which Apple CEO Steve Jobs says is twice as fast as the previous iPad. He also said it will help boost graphics performance making it nine times faster. The newer iPad is also about 33 percent thinner and lighter than the original iPad: 1.3 pounds instead of 1.5. And it now comes in white as well as black.

Additionally, the iPad 2 now offers two cameras, which means it can be used for video conferencing via Apple's FaceTime app or a third-party video conferencing app, such as Skype. The rear camera is 720p. And the front camera is "VGA-quality" suitable for video and still photography.

I'm glad Apple added HDMI capability, but how does it work? Do I have to buy something extra?
Yes, you do have to buy an adapter. Apple didn't change much about the overall design of the iPad in the latest version. Specifically, it didn't add additional ports to the device. But it is offering a $39 HDMI connector that will allow the iPad 2 to be connected to a flat-screen TV so whatever you're seeing on your iPad can be viewed on a big screen. The adapter fits into the iPad's 30-pin opening and then connects via an HDMI cable to the TV.

What's the deal with the new case that Apple is offering? Is that also extra?
Apple is offering a special protective case that also turns into a stand for the iPad. But this isn't just any protective case. It's considered a "smart cover" that fits over the iPad and uses magnets to fit to the device. When it's closed, it puts the iPad to sleep. The case is bendable and can be used to prop the iPad up. The cases come in 10 colors. The plastic covers are $39 and the leather ones sell for $69.

How much does a new iPad 2 cost?
Here is the pricing for the Wi-Fi only versions:

  • 16GB: $499
  • 32GB: $599
  • 64GB: $699

Here is the pricing for the Wi-Fi/3G devices:

  • 16GB: $629
  • 32GB: $729
  • 64GB: $829

Has the original iPad gone down in price?
Yes, it is has gone done in price. You can save about $100 if you buy the older version of the iPad.

Here's the pricing for the original Wi-Fi only iPad:

  • 16GB: $399
  • 32GB: $499
  • 64GB: $599

And here's pricing for the original Wi-Fi/3G iPad:

  • 16GB: $529
  • 32GB: $629
  • 64GB: $729

Will a 3G version of the iPad work on either Verizon's network or AT&T's?
No, if you want a 3G-enabled iPad 2, you will choose either an AT&T version, which uses GSM technology, or a Verizon Wireless version, which uses its CDMA network technology.

How much are the service plans from AT&T and Verizon Wireless?
For Verizon Wireless the pricing is as follows:

  • $20 per month for 1GB per month
  • $32 per month for 3GB per month
  • $50 per month for 5GB per month
  • $80 per month for 10GB per month

AT&T offers two pricing options:

  • $15 per month for 250MB per month
  • $25 per month for 2GB per month

Customers of either AT&T or Verizon Wireless are not required to sign a contract for the 3G service. They can turn the service on and off as they like.

What will the iOS 4.3 upgrade offer?
The new iOS 4.3 will improve the Safari mobile browsing performance with the Nitro JavaScript engine. It will add iTunes Home sharing, which allows users to play music, movies, and TV shows on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch from their iTunes library on a Mac or PC over a local Wi-Fi network. The new update also added enhancements to AirPlay, a wireless technology that allows users to stream music, photos, and video to Apple TV. Photos and videos can be shot with an iPad 2, iPhone, or iPod Touch and streamed directly from the Photos app to Apple TV.

The software update also adds a Personal Hotspot feature, which turns a device into a Wi-Fi router allowing a device connected to the 3G cell network to connect up to 5 devices to the Internet using Wi-Fi. But this Personal Hotspot feature, which was first introduced for the Verizon Wireless version of the iPhone, is only available for the iPhone 4. It doesn't work for 3G connected iPads.

Will the 3G version of the iPad 2 be able to create a Wi-Fi hot spot?
No, the Wi-Fi Personal Hotspot feature is only available for the iPhone 4.

Apple introduced two new apps, iMovie and GarageBand, for the iPad 2 that were originally available on Macbooks and iMacs. Will these new apps work on the original iPad?
The iMovie app, which will allow you to edit movies right on your iPad, can only be used with the iPad 2 and fourth-generation iPod Touch and iPhone 4.

The GarageBand app is just for "iPad." Apple didn't specify, which iPad model specifications, so I am assuming it's available for the iPad 2 as well as the previous generation.