Apple has just made its second-generation iPad official! It features a 1GHz dual-core A5 chip and, finally, cameras, both on the front and rear. The new CPU is said to be up to twice as fast, with graphics performance up to nine times better than on the original iPad, while power requirements have been kept the same. Battery life is, consequently, unaltered, with Apple promising 10 hours. Pricing, too, has been left unchanged, starting at $499 for a 16GB WiFi-only iPad 2 and stretching up to $829 for a WiFi + 3G SKU with 64GB of storage. The new tablet will come with an HDMI output capable of 1080p — which will set you back $39 for the requisite dongle, called an Apple Digital AV Adapter — but there will sadly be no rumblings of Thunderbolt connectivity here. What you will get is an enlarged speaker grille on the back, as expected, and the same 1024 x 768 resolution and IPS LCD screen technology as on the original iPad
720p video recording at 30fps will be on tap from the rear-facing camera, which can also do a 5x digital zoom if you’re into that kind of thing, whereas the front-facing imager will record at a more modest VGA resolution, also at 30fps.
There’s a new cover for the device, which is best defined by Steve Jobs himself: “We designed the case right alongside the product. It’s not a case — it’s a cover.” Basically, it’s a magnetic flap that protects the front and automatically wakes and puts the device to sleep according to whether it’s open or closed. Guess we know what that proximity sensor was about now. These Smart Covers will cost $39 in plastic or $69 if you opt for leather.
The iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner than its predecessor, at a mind-melting 8.8mm, and a little lighter at just over 600g, while paintjob options have been expanded: you’ll get a choice between white and black. It’ll be available on both AT&T and Verizon, and all variants start shipping on March 11th. Apple Retail Stores will start sales at the unusual hour of 5PM, which will probably make online pre-orders the fastest way to get yours.
In terms of new software, Apple’s launching iOS 4.3 alongside the new iPad and bringing with it much improved Safari performance as well as FaceTime, Photo Booth, iMovie and GarageBand (the latter two costing $4.99 a piece) apps specifically for the newly camera-enriched iPad. Personal Hotspot capabilities are also arriving in the latest version of the OS, but they’ll be exclusive to the iPhone 4, so you won’t be able to share your 3G iPad’s connection. The minimum compatible version of iTunes for the new iPad 2 will be the freshly released 10.2.