Just a few minutes ago, Steve Jobs wrapped up Apple’s press event at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco as he unveiled the Apple iPad 2. The next generation model sports a thinner form factor, video chatting capabilities, better performance, access to over 65,000 tablet optimized apps, and runs on the upcoming iOS 4.3 mobile operating system.
“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again.”
To improve on the immensely popular tablet, Apple made the iPad 2 about 33% thinner and 15% lighter. Although there are no improvements to the 9.7 inch LED IPS display, it now features a dual-core A5 processor, a gyroscope, and two cameras. Although Apple does not detail the resolution of the rear facing camera, it supports 720p video capture and the front-facing one has a VGA resolution. Apple also notes that the iPad 2 offers the same 10 hours of battery life despite the slimmer profile. Unlike the original, this one will be available in black and white models.
FaceTime and Photo Booth
Although I strongly felt that Apple would only introduce a front-facing camera for calls, the iPad 2 packs two. Customers can now enjoy FaceTime video calls with iPhone, iPod touch, and Mac users from a tablet. It is also easy to switch between cameras seamlessly during a call. While Apple offers mobile broadband enabled 3G models, video calls are still unfortunately limited to Wi-Fi networks.
Apple is also bringing the popular Photo Booth Mac application to the iPad, which lets users apply up to eight photo effects to a captured image. There are many apps that offer similar features, but an official app and familiar effects are a nice touch.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless
After Apple announced the Verizon Wireless iPhone 4 last month, there was much speculation as to whether upcoming launches would come to both carriers immediately. Today, Steve Jobs put those concerns to rest as he announced that 3G enabled versions of the iPad 2 would be available on AT&T and Verizon Wireless. A Wi-Fi only version is also available for those looking to avoid monthly fees, are comfortable with their home Wi-Fi network, or already own a mobile hotspot.
iOS 4.3 Update
While many were hoping for a preview of iOS 5, Apple conservatively announced iOS 4.3, a minor upgrade to the existing version. The update brings a faster Safari browser and iTunes Home Sharing. Customers will also have the ability to configure whether the lock switch functions as a mute or screen rotation lock. The new operating system also makes it possible to let users output 1080p video content to a HDTV with an optional HDMI adapter.
As always, Apple introduces official accessories for new product launches. Their latest innovation is a SmartCover case which goes beyond just protection. Rather than clips or screws, the cover attaches to the tablet with a magnetic hinge. Sensors automatically turns the iPad 2 on and off when opened or closed, respectively. The inner cover also features a microfiber lining to keep the screen clean. The versatile form factor folds to prop the iPad 2 up at an angle for typing or upright for enjoying movies.
Pricing and Availability
For those eagerly waiting to buy one, the iPad 2 will be available through Apple’s online and retail stores on March 11th. The 16 GB Wi-Fi model goes for just $499 while the 32 GB and 64 GB variants follow at $599 and $699, respectively. The 3G model is also available in the same storage capacities for $629, $729, and $829 on either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. We will get our hands on a unit as soon as possible for a full review, so stay tuned or subscribe to get the full scoop.