You have to hand it to Apple. The company is a master when it comes to building up anticipation in advance of a new product or even a product refresh -- as was the case with last year's iPhone 4s. It's no wonder, then, that things had built up to a fever pitch ahead of yesterday's unveiling of the new Apple iPad -- yes, just iPad, not the iPad 3 or iPad HD as just about everyone had expected. One pre-launch survey said that nearly a third of users who own a mobile device expect to buy the new iPad. Other research reported that 42 percent of current iPad owners planed to upgrade to the latest version. Certainly, the new iPad packs in a bunch of technical upgrades, some pretty major. However will it be enough to sustain the pre-launch enthusiasm? That's an open question, but given Apple's track record, I wouldn't bet against it.
Apple's success story, made better?
There's no denying that when it comes to tablet computers, it's the iPad and then everyone else. The success of a device that some pundits predicted would fail when first unveiled is staggering. In fact, Apple's Tim Cook reported yesterday that more iPads were sold in the last 3 months of 2011 then any PC maker sold of their entire PC line worldwide over the same period.
To be honest, we are not sure that yesterday's reveal moved the goal posts all that much. On the other hand, there's enough nifty tech to keep the iPad safely atop the tablet food-chain -- at least for now.
For most, the biggest upgrade will be the new high-definition retina display with a resolution of 2084 by 1536 pixels -- way more than enough for the 1080p TV and movie content that is newly available in the iTunes store, as was also announced yesterday. Look for a new batch of games and other apps designed to take advantage of the new screen as well. While the rumored/hoped-for quad core main processor did not materialize, there is a quad-core graphics processor that Apple claims can outperform an Nvidia Tegra 3 graphics processor by a factor of 4.
Others might be more jazzed by the fact that this is the first Apple mobile device to support 4G LTE networks (see this blog post for more about those networks). In the U.S., versions for both AT&T and Verizon will be made available (necessary because of technical differences between the two carriers). Another plus is that the iPad can act as a personal hotspot for up to five other devices. However, LTE support won't mean much to those opting for a Wi-Fi only iPad. Even those who do spring for an iPad with 4G capabilities might want to limit how much they use that feature considering how easy it is to eat up megabytes doing things like streaming moves (a much more pleasant experience with 4G LTE compared to 3G, to be sure), and how quickly data costs can add up when you exceed the caps on your plan. Using Wi-Fi for some tasks will help you stay within your data plan's limits.
Apple does claim to have beaten one major negative with LTE -- greatly decreased battery life. According to the company, the iPad will have 10 hours of battery life when using Wi-Fi, and a downright incredible 9 hours when connecting with 4G LTE.
There are some other bump-ups large and small -- such as an upgraded 5 megapixel rear camera capable of shooting 1080p video. Speaking of bump-ups, the thickness and weight of the iPad has been increased as expected to house the new tech, but only ever so slightly -- few will notice the difference, reports say.
What hasn't been bumped up is the price. Apple will be bringing the newest iPad to market in the exact same configurations and the exact same price points as the iPad2, stating at $499 for a Wi-Fi only, 16 GB version. In addition, the iPad 2 itself lives on as a budget alternative, with a 16 GB Wi-FI model remaining on sale at $399, and a 16 GB Wi-Fi + 3G version offered at $529 -- that's a $100 cut over current pricing for either model.
The new iPad hits the street on March 16, though you can pre-order right now on Apple's web site.