Apple today unveiled the latest version of its blockbuster tablet, the "new" iPad.
After months of rumor and speculation, the company revealed exactly how it plans to counter the threat of a maturing Android ecosystem and the impending launch of Windows 8, Microsoft's attempt to bridge desktop and tablet computing experiences.
It's a market Apple won't give up without a fight. After all, post-PC devices, as Apple's CEO Tim Cook terms the iPad, made up 76 percent of Apple's revenue in Q4 2011. The company sold a staggering 15.4 million iPads in that same quarter. Cumulatively, since its introduction in 2010, 55 million iPads have been sold.
However, for Apple, staying on top in tablets is about more than just pushing hardware. The company is also determined to grow iOS as a platform.
Counting the iPhone, iPod Touch and, of course, the iPad, Apple sold 315 million iOS devices through last year, 62 million in Q4 2011 alone. The iTunes App Store is now home to 585,000 apps and just recently crossed the 25 billion download threshold. Considering the sheer number of developers coding for iOS and the percentage of each sale Apple keeps -- 30 percent, in fact -- it's little wonder that Apple wants to keep the momentum going.
And that means a new iPad.
As expected, the new iPad arrives with a higher resolution screen that crams 2048 x 1536 pixels into 9.7-inch screen real estate versus the 1024 x 768 display of its predecessors. Boasting a "Retina"-like pixel density of 264 pixels per inch, it falls just short of the screen fidelity of the iPhone 4 and 4S, each of which packs 326 pixels per inch. It adds up to 3.1 million pixels, roughly 1 million more pixels than on a standard 1920 x 1080 HDTV.
Powering the new iPad is a dual-core A5X, ARM-based processor with quad-core graphics processing. According to the Apple, it delivers four times the graphics performance of the NVIDIA Tegra 3 chips in competitors' tablets.
Wireless connectivity gets a boost, too. In addition to Wi-Fi-only models, a new 4G model replaces the 3G model but still connects to 3G networks and supports 4G LTE, delivering speeds of up to 73 Mbps. And travelmates can now enjoy faster personal hotspot connectivity, provided that carriers support it. Both AT&T and Verizon were identified as LTE partners.
The rear iSight camera has a similar setup to the shooter found in the iPhone 4S, with a 5 megapixel, back-illuminated sensor that also captures 1080P video. In a bid to banish shaky footage, the new iPad features electronic image stabilization. Also new is a voice dictation feature that is invoked by using a new microphone key on the on-screen keyboard. It's not quite Siri, like some predicted, but it can be a productivity enhancer for those who prefer speaking to typing.
All these new features do little to diminish the new iPad's battery life. Users can expect 10 hours out of a full charge or 9 hours with 4G.
The new iPad -- no iPad 3 or iPad HD branding to be found -- goes on sale March 16th, but the company is accepting pre-orders now. Prices mirror those of the last generation. Wi-Fi only models cost $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64 GB. 4G models are priced at $629 for 16GB, $729 for 32GB and $829 for 64 GB.
And don’t say good-bye to the iPad 2 just yet. Apple will continue selling the 16 GB model in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G flavors for $399 and $529, respectively.