Apple unveils new iPad

The new iPadsports a Retina display, a vastly improved camera, the new A5X processor, the high-speed mobile broadband technology LTE, and voice dictation support

Apple on Wednesday unveiled a new iPad, the third edition of its wildly successful multitouch tablet. The new tablet sports a Retina display, a vastly improved camera, the new A5X processor, the high-speed mobile broadband technology LTE, and voice dictation support. Rather than give the iPad a new name like iPad 3 or iPad HD, Apple appears to be calling the new iPad simply “iPad” or the third-generation iPad.

Apple CEO Tim Cook declared that there is only one company that could best the iPad 2’s big screen and “superfast A5 chip,” and that company is Apple. Cook said that the iPad “redefines the category that Apple created with the original iPad,” before bringing out Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, to introduce the new iPad.

Retina display

Although the iPad’s display measures the same 9.7-inches (diagonal) as the first two iPads, it doubles the number of pixels in play; that means the screen now contains a whopping 2048-by-1536 pixels—264 pixels per inch—for a total of over 3.1 million pixels, which Schiller called “the most ever in a mobile device.”

Apple coined the term Retina display when it unveiled the iPhone 4. It describes a screen with pixel density so high that, at normal viewing distances, the average human eye can’t discern the individual pixels.

A5X and quad-core graphics processor

The iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 both leverage Apple’s custom-designed A5 system-on-a-chip. The iPad is instead powered by the new A5X chip. The new iPad also offers four times the performance of the Tegra 3 processor that powers many Android tablets, Schiller said, thanks to its new quad-core graphics processor.

New cameras

The iPad now sports a 5-megapixel iSight camera with a 5-element lens, IR filter, and in-plane switching built into the iPad’s new chip. Schiller said the new iSight camera has automatic exposure and auto-focus, and now records HD video at 1080p resolution. Like the iPhone 4S’s camera, the iPad’s camera features automatic face detection, automatic exposure lock, and automatic focus lock. Also thanks to the new A5X chip, Schiller said, you also get image stabilization.

Apple historically doesn’t discuss details like the amount of RAM built into its iOS devices. The iPad 2 offers 512MB of RAM, doubling the original iPad’s 256MB. It’s not yet clear whether the iPad doubles the memory size again.

Voice Dictation

New to the iPad is a microphone button on the virtual keyboard, one that looks just like the corresponding icon on the iPhone 4S’s keyboard. You can use that microphone for dictation anywhere the keyboard appears.

That’s obviously short of full Siri integration.

4G LTE

LTE is a high-speed wireless broadband technology—which is as much as ten times faster as 3G Internet access. Like its predecessors, the iPad will come in both Wi-Fi-only and in mobile-broadband equipped models; the iPad will be the first iPad to offer support for high-speed LTE networks.

In fact, the iPad will support HSPA+ with a maximum downlink of 21 Mbps, dual-carrier HSDPA with a maximum of 42 Mbps, and LTE with a maximum of 73 Mbps download. Schiller described the performance of the upgraded broadband technology as “amazing.”

The new iPad will work with Verizon, Rogers, Bell, Telus, and AT&T for LTE support, Schiller said. All iPads will offer 3G support. The iPad can also now serve as a personal hotspot, if your carrier supports it. Because of different technologies at play, there will be different iPads for Verizon and AT&T’s networks.

As before, iPads with cellular broadband cost $130 more than the Wi-Fi-only models.

Other details

Schiller said that the iPad still offers 10 hours of battery life, and nine hours on LTE. It’s 9.4mm thin, and weighs 1.4 pounds. The iPad will be available in 16, 32, and 64GB capacities, just like its predecessors; the pricing remains the same—$499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB. The models with LTE and 3G support cost $130 more.

Pre-orders for the new iPad start Wednesday, Schiller said, with the iPad available starting March 16 in the US, Canada, France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong, and others. A week later, the iPad will be available in 25 more countries.

Schiller also said that Apple is offering updated versions of its iWork suite for the Retina display, a new version of iMovie with support for movie trailers, an update for GarageBand that adds the ability for four iOS device users to jam together, and a new app: iPhoto for iOS.

The iPad 2

Schiller said that Apple will continue to offer the iPad 2 in a 16GB model for $399, with a Wi-Fi + 3G model available for $529.

Updated 2:23 p.m. ET to add details about cheaper iPad 2, clarify processor details, and specify that the new iPad is named simply iPad.

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