Apple CEO Steve Jobs, currently on a medical leave, popped up today to introduce the iPad 2, with a new design that’s 33% thinner and up to 15% lighter than the original iPad, while maintaining the same 9.7-inch LED-backlit LCD screen.
The iPad 2 sports Apple’s new dual-core A5 processor and now includes two cameras, a front-facing VGA camera for FaceTime and Photo Booth, and a rear-facing camera that captures 720p HD video, bringing the innovative FaceTime feature to iPad users for the first time. Though it is thinner, lighter, faster and packed with new features, iPad 2 still delivers up to 10 hours of battery life.
The iPad 2 is available in black or white, features models that run on AT&T’s and Verizon’s 3G networks, and introduces the iPad 2 Smart Cover in a range of polyurethane and rich leather colors.
“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” Jobs said at a special media event launching the product. “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.”
With the new front and rear cameras, iPad 2 users can make FaceTime calls to iPhone 4, iPod touch and Mac users so they can see family and friends anywhere there’s Wi-Fi. Photo Booth, formerly just on the Mac, lets you apply visual effects, including eight photo special effects like Squeeze, Twirl and Kaleidoscope, to photos captured by either camera.
The iPad 2 comes with iOS 4.3, with new features including: faster Safari mobile browsing; iTunes Home Sharing; enhancements to AirPlay; the choice to use the iPad side switch to either lock the screen rotation or mute audio; and Personal Hotspot to share an iPhone 4 cellular data connection over Wi-Fi. Additional iPad 2 features include: a built-in gyro for advanced gaming; HSUPA support for enhanced 3G upload speeds on iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G on AT&T, and HDMI Video Mirroring that lets users mirror their iPad screen on an HDTV using an optional adaptor.
The new iPad 2 Smart Cover provides protection for the iPad screen while maintaining its thin and lightweight profile, Jobs said. Designed with a self-aligning magnetic hinge designed to make it easy to attach and remove, the new iPad 2 Smart Cover automatically wakes the iPad 2 when it’s opened and puts it to sleep when it’s closed, and has a soft microfiber lining to help keep the screen clean.
The Smart Cover also folds into a stand for typing or viewing videos and is available in vibrant polyurethane for US$39 or rich leather for $69 in a range of colors, including a (PRODUCT) RED one that helps support the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Apple also introduced two new apps: iMovie and GarageBand for iPad, both available on the Apple App Store for US$4.99 each. With iMovie, iPad 2 users can shoot and edit videos right on their iPad and post their movies to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and their MobileMe gallery; watch them on their iPod, iPhone or iPad; as well as view them on their HDTV using AirPlay and Apple TV.
GarageBand turns your iPad into a collection of touch instruments and 8-track recording studio, allowing you to perform with onscreen keyboards, guitars, drums and basses using multi-touch gestures — even if you don’t play a musical instrument.
The iPad 2 runs almost all of the over 350,000 apps available on the Apple App Store and there are more than 65,000 native iPad apps available from a range of apps in 20 categories, including games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel.
The iPad 2 with Wi-Fi will be available on March 11 for a suggested retail price of $499 for the 16GB model; $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 for the 64GB model. The iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G will be available for a suggested retail price of $629 for the 16GB model, $729for the 32GB model and $829 for the 64GB model.
The iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G compatible with the Verizon network will be available in the US only for a suggested retail price of $629 for the 16GB model, $729 for the 32GB model and $829 for the 64GB model. The iPad 2 will be sold in the US through the Apple Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers.
The iPad 2 will be available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK on March 25; and in many more countries around the world in the coming months. Further international availability and pricing will be announced at a later date.
— Dennis Sellers