Last week, March 2, Apple held a special press event at the Yerba Buena Theater in San Francisco. Those who attended were surprised, and pleased, to see Apple CEO Steve Jobs on stage for the presentation. Jobs has been on a medical leave from Apple since January. In his usual flair, Jobs unveiled the next generation iPad tablet device, the iPad 2.
The original iPad was announced in January 2010. A WiFi only model went on sale April 1, while the 3G/GPS model came at the very end of April. Over the last 11 months, the iPad tablet has been one of the most successful consumer electronic devices ever launched. The iPad itself created a whole new computing category, the touch tablet. In less than a year, Apple has come up with the iPad 2.
The iPad 2 brings only a few new things to the table, but they are welcome additions to a unique device. If you had both new and old iPads lying on a desk it would be hard to tell which one was which. Looking edgewise is a different matter. The new iPad is 33 percent thinner with a sleeker curve to the back, which gives the illusion of being even thinner. The iPad 2 is slightly lighter at 1.3 pounds.
On the outside of the iPad 2 you will now find two cameras. While the exact specifications of these cameras were not stated, the front camera is said to give VGA quality video, which is fine for its intended use for video chat - via FaceTime or Skype. The back facing camera is stated to shoot 720p HD video at 30fps with audio. In all likelihood, these are probably the exact same cameras that are found in the latest iPod Touch.
Inside the iPad 2 is a whole new game. While the original iPad was very spiffy using the Apple A4 1GHz processor, the iPad 2 has the new Apple A5 chip. This is a dual-core mobile processor based on the ARM processor and is designed by Apple (presumably manufactured by Samsung). Apple claims the A5 is twice as fast as the A4 with graphics speeds up to nine times faster. Apple also claims that the new A5 chip has the same power requirements as the A4, which means that the new iPad will have the same amazing 10 hours of running time per full charge and one month in standby.
The graphics power of the new iPad 2 looks to be pretty amazing. The combination of a dual-core processor and faster graphics will make the iPad 2 more of a creation device than a consumption device. While the faster speeds will make gaming even better, Apps like the new iMovie for iPad show what can be done with a tablet device. I wouldn't be surprised to see new photo and video Apps that take advantage of the iPad 2's graphics capabilities and built-in cameras.
The iPad 2 comes with the next version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 4.3. This next version of the mobile OS was necessary for the new features in the iPad 2. This OS will also be a free update for the iPad 1 and other iOS devices when the iPad 2 starts shipping.
Storage and pricing has not changed with the iPad 2. It is available with 16, 32, or 64GB of flash storage. Pricing is still $499, $599, or $699 respectively. These prices are for the WiFi only model. If you want 3G cellular data then just add $130 to the WiFi only price. The big news here is that you can buy either an AT&T model or one that will work on the Verizon cellular network. This means there are actually nine different iPad 2 models.
Another new feature, one that I think is major, is the ability to output 1080p video. Not only can Apps output 1080p video, it looks like the whole screen at any time can be mirrored out to a second monitor. There is a new cable for the iPad 2 that connects to the 30-pin Apple port that has both an HDMI connection and another 30-pin port. This means that the iPad 2 can be connected to power while outputting HDMI video. Along with this digital video adapter are adapters for VGA, Component, and Composite video cables.
All in all, the new iPad 2 is very impressive. It's hard to say, but I doubt that most iPad 1 owners will abandon theirs for an iPad 2. If you need more speed, need built-in cameras, or need the new HDMI mirrored video output, then upgrading to the iPad 2 makes sense. If you have been waiting for the next iPad, the wait will have been worth it. The best news is that you won't have to wait long. The iPad 2 goes on sale March 11.