Iconic US technology giant Apple this morning revealed the next version of its flagship iPad tablet would hit Australia on March 25, along with most countries outside the US; but the company has yet to unveil localised pricing for the device.
The iPad 2 showcased this morning at a press event in the United States represents a substantial upgrade to the original iPad, which has already sold in the hundreds of thousands in Australia.
Perhaps the most obvious new features include a design that is 33 percent thinner than the original model, coming in at 8.8mm thick, and a lighter weight, with the Wi-Fi version of the iPad coming in at 601g compared to 680g, and the 3G version at just over 600g, compared with 730g for the old model. White and black models are both available; the original iPad only came in silver.
Apple has also updated the CPU for the iPad 2, with the new Apple-produced A5 processor retaining the same speed rating (1GHz), but adding a second core to bring the iPad up to speed with an incoming wave of devices based on Google’s Android platform and utilising NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra architecture. And a new magnetic cover is available which can protect its screen when not in use, or allow the iPad 2 to be propped up on a table.
Like the iPhone, the iPad now comes with both front and rear-facing cameras, meaning the device is now capable of using Apple’s FaceTime videoconferencing application, and it also now comes with a HDMI output port — meaning it can export 1080p video to your television. The rear camera can record 720p video at 30 frames per second.
“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” said Apple chief executive Steve Jobs in a statement. “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.”
However, much remains the same with the introduction of the iPad 2. For starters, the device’s screen is identical — it’s a 9.7″ LED-backlist LCD screen, and the iPad 2 still comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models, with Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi plus 3G options. It now has a triple axis gyroscope in-built, but the original iPad also had an accelerometer — and so does the iPad 2.
Apple also unveiled the latest version of its iOS mobile operating system at the event, noting new features such as a faster mobile web browser, personal Wi-Fi hotspot sharing from an iPhone 4 and updates to the AirPlay, which links Apple’s mobile devices with its Apple TV media centre. iOS 4.3 will be available as a free download on 11 March globally. And new versions of its iMovie movie editing and Garageband music editing applications will be available for the iPad.
Australian telcos have already started confirming they will support the iPad 2 when it comes to Australia, as they did with the original iPad.
“We’re delighted to confirm that Telstra will support this new Apple iPad on our Next G network when it arrives in Australia,” said a spokesperson for Australia’s largest telco. “The original iPad was a huge hit with our customers and exceeded all sales expectations — today more than 100,000 of these touch-screen devices are connected to the Next G network.”
“We know our customers are going to love the second generation iPad which will help them take a world of entertainment and information which them on the go. And teaming it with Australia’s largest and fastest national mobile broadband network will allow people to enjoy the benefits of fast, reliable internet connectivity in more places.” The spokesperson said Telstra customers would be able to connect their new iPads to the telco’s network via its existing pre-paid plans for the device.
However, the iPad 2 will face a wave of competition in Australia this year from similar tablet devices. Although a number of companies — such as HP, Research in Motion and HTC — have not yet confirmed local launches for their own tablets, some — such as Samsung — are already planning to introduce their next models. The devices also come in varying form factors and sizes — with Apple only offering the one size and two colours for the iPad 2.
Image credits: Apple