Apple CEO Tim Cook and other company executives unveiled updated versions of the company’s hit iPad tablet and somewhat less popular Apple TV set-top box at an eagerly anticipated event in San Francisco on Wednesday.
“We think the iPad is the poster child of the post PC world,” Cook told a packed audience of tech journalists and analysts at the event held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, The Verge reported.
The new iPad and Apple TV will hit stores on March 16. Users could pre-order the iPad beginning Wednesday at the entry price of $499, the same as the original iPad and iPad 2, although the price fluctuates depending on which features are included and the size of the onboard storage, up to $829 for the most expensive model.
Apple’s latest tablet comes with five key new features, some new software and some new hardware. Among them:
A higher-resolution screen (2048 x 1536 pixels, or 1 million more than a standard HDTV, as Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said), what Apple calls its “retina display,” and which can also be found in lower resolution on the latest version of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S.
The new iPad will also come with an improved built-in back camera, the iSight, which boasts a 5-megapixel resolution, 5 element lens, and built-in IR filter, again similar to the camera found on the iPhone 4S, as Engadget pointed out.
1080p Video Recording
The new iPad allows users to take high-definition video with built-in image stabilization, prompting various tech bloggers to snark that the iPad would become an unwelcome intrusion at concerts and other live events.
Apparently taking a cue from the popularity of its voice-activated digital assistant for the iPhone 4S, Siri, Apple has added voice dictation capability to the new iPad, allowing users to speak to their device and have it convert their words into text. The feature supports English (North American, British, Australian), French, German and Japanese, according to Engadget.
The fifth new iPad feature was one widely anticipated: Support for new high-speed wireless 4G LTE networks, supporting data transmission at a blistering fast 73 megabits per second, compared to 7.2 using HSPA networks on the iPad 2. Verizon and AT&T were named among the carrier companies that will offer 4G LTE networks for the new iPad, although there was some speculation if the arrangement would entail two devices with separate internal hardware, as the two networks are not the same from a technical standpoint.
The new iPad runs on an A5X chip and quad-core graphics processor, compared to the iPad 2’s A5 processor and dual core graphics chip. Actual speed increases weren’t given, but Apple said it was four times faster than the iPad 2.
Apple also showed off new software from its own Cupertino team and third-party companies designed specifically for the iPad. New Apple apps included iPhoto, Apple’s Mac photo editing software, a new version of GarageBand, its music creation software, and a new version of iMovie, its movie editing suite.
The most well-received of the new third-party apps designed specifically for the latest iPad was a game called “Infinity Blade: Dungeons,” the latest in a series of medieval-themed adventure slashers from Epic. During the demonstration, Epic’s presenter said that the iPad offered a higher resolution and more memory than dedicated game consoles the XBox 360 and the Playstation 3.
Meanwhile, Apple’s new set-top box Apple TV, a device that allows users to wirelessly play HD video content from iTunes and Neflix directly on their separate HDTV sets, now offers 1080p support.
Physically, however, the new iPad and the new Apple TV aren’t easily distinguished from their predecessors.
The new iPad contains a slightly larger screen, at 9.7 inches compared to the iPad 2’s 9.5 inches, and is actually slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, at 1.4 lbs compared to 1.3 lbs and 9.4 mm width compared to 8.8 mm width previously. The new Apple TV looks nearly identical to its predecessor — a palm-sized black box.
Rumors that the new tablet would contain something called a “haptic” screen, or a touch-screen with force feedback to simulate pressing actual buttons, turned out to be entirely unfounded.
A half-joking speculation that the device wouldn’t contain a physical “Home” button was torpedoed as well.
Even the popularly rumored names of the device — the iPad 3 or the iPad HD, turned out to be incorrect, as Apple appears to have simply rebranded the latest version of its device “The new iPad.”
While the event might be disappointing to some who were expecting flashier, more drastic updates, Apple has proven time and time again that consumers will flock to whatever new iterations of devices it puts out, so it’s a safe bet that the new iPad will continue that history of sales success.