Apple's iPad: What you need to know

Apple on Wednesday finally delivered a tablet computer, calling it the iPad. Find out more about it, and Apple's other announcements in this roundup.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
5 min read

Apple on Wednesday finally unveiled its tablet computer, called the iPad, at an invite-only event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco. The device, which looks like a larger version of Apple's iPod Touch will be available in two to three months, and starts at $499.

Read on to get a quick overview of everything that was announced, and why it matters.

New hardware: The iPad

Apple's CEO Steve Jobs introduces the iPad James Martin/CNET

Proving rumors right, Apple unveiled the iPad, a device that looks akin to a large iPhone or iPod Touch. It sports a 9.7-inch LCD touch-screen display, which makes use of the same multitouch technology found on the iPhone, Apple's Magic Mouse, and its notebook trackpads. It also has the same in-plane switching display technology that made its debut in the latest crop of iMacs.

Like the iPhone and iPod, it sports a finger-friendly OS with an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, and an accelerometer that can detect whether the device is in portrait or landscape mode. It has a 30-pin dock connector, built-in Wi-Fi, and a home button that jumps users back to the main screen of the OS. It also has a volume rocker and a mute button--just like the iPhone.


Along with a big screen, it's sporting a 1Ghz custom Apple chip (from its pick-up of PA Semi back in 2008). Apple says it can get 10 hours of video, which is about four more than the iPod Touch and the same as the latest generation iPhone. This translates to "a month" of standby time. The iPad will come in 16, 32, and 64GB capacities for $499, $599, and $699, respectively. That's just the Wi-Fi version though. Apple will also be selling a version of the iPad that includes both Wi-Fi and a 3G wireless modem built in. iPad users who want to make use of the 3G service, which is being offered by AT&T, can pick up one of two plans for that: $15 a month for 250MB of data, or unlimited for $29.99 a month. It also bumps up the baseline price of the device to $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB), and $829 (64GB).

The iPad with just Wi-Fi will be shipping in the next 60 days, with the 3G version in the next 90 days. 

Other noteworthy specs:

• The Wi-Fi antenna supports 802.11 a/b/g/n

• The iPad weighs just 1.5 pounds. The version with 3G is .1 pounds heavier.

• The screen resolution is 1024x768 (the iPhone/iPod is 480x320).

• It can playback 720p HD video, though video output to external sources is limited to 480p. • It has the same oleophobic coating that made its debut on the iPhone 3GS. This helps face and finger grease bead up and wipe off easier.

Bigger apps

As for apps, the iPad's screen runs larger than what can be found on Apple's smaller portable devices, which means developers have more screen real estate to work with. At the same time, the iPad is backwards compatible with existing iPhone and iPod Touch applications. Apps with smaller screen resolutions are simply scaled up to fit. Apple is giving developers a way to modify their applications to work with both sets of hardware.

Up close with the Apple iPad (photos)

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated the tablet running numerous first-party apps, including iTunes, a photo gallery, its Safari Web browser, iCal, e-mail, Google Maps, and YouTube. Many shared traits of what's been seen on the iPhone, just with more screen real estate. This was most evident in Apple's Mail app, which now features a two-up panel display with a preview of the selected e-mail in the larger part of the screen. According to Jobs, all of its apps were re-written to fit natively on the bigger display.

Several companies also demonstrated their new iPad-optimized apps:

• Gameloft showed off a larger-resolution version of its hit first-person shooter N.O.V.A., which will be out "later this year."

• The New York Times demoed a tablet-friendly version of its app, which mimics the layout of reading a newspaper in portrait mode, except with video links that open up within an embedded player.

Brushes, a popular iPhone app, demoed the upcoming iPad version of its image editing software, which now makes use of the larger screen real estate to conceal large pop-up menus.

James Martin/CNET

• MLB.com unveiled a tweaked version of its app that adds video highlights, team info, virtual baseball cards, and more on-screen overlays.

Apple also introduced an updated version of its iWork software. It's the first version of the software to run on one of Apple's portable devices, and makes full use of the iPad's touch screen. This confirms a rumor from The New York Times earlier this month. Worth noting is that iWork will be offered as three separate apps, all of which will cost $10 apiece. Having Numbers, Keynote, and Sheets will run iPad users $30, as opposed to the $79 price tag for the desktop version.

Book distribution

(James Martin/CNET)

Jobs unveiled a new content delivery system called iBooks (not to be confused with Apple's former laptop line, the iBook). The new app features a virtual bookshelf with content from five major publishers: HarperCollins, Hachette,Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Shuster (note: Simon & Shuster is a division of CBS Corporation, which publishes CNET).

Apple said the iBooks store will feature both popular books as well as text books. Notably absent was any mention of whether magazines will be available as well.

Just like iTunes, books are split up into what's popular and by genre. Users can preview the first few pages before purchasing, and downloaded books are sent directly to the user's virtual bookshelf. They can then be read in a similar manner to what's already been available with Amazon's Kindle app. Users can read their books in portrait or landscape mode, change the size of the text, and hop around using a persistent table of contents.

Other tidbits

Apple will be selling a dock that comes with a keyboard for the iPad. Apple
• Apple confirmed to CNET that the iPad is just like the iPhone and iPod Touch when it comes to Adobe Flash--it does not support the popular Web plug-in.

• 250,000,000 iPods have been sold since 2001.

• Apple has 248 retail stores that have seen 50 million visitors.

• The App Store now has more than 140,000 applications.

• There is still no multitasking. Apps can only run one at a time, that is, unless they're Apple's apps.

• The iPad appears to use Apple's unibody machining process, which made its formal debut in the company's late 2008 MacBook line.

• The new OS borrows a few cues from Snow Leopard, including the capability to change background wallpapers, and a 3D-style dock.

• 125 million credit cards are already hooked up to the iTunes and App Store.

• Apple is selling a number of first-party accessories, including a dock with a full-sized keyboard, a camera connection kit that lets users import images from their SD cards, and a case that doubles as a stand. Apple has not announced pricing for any of these items.

Below is just one of our live videos from the event. Also, be sure to check out our Live Blog, which has many more pictures and details.