Apple Announces iPad 2, iOS 4.3 and some new Apps.

Well, Apple’s big iPad event was today, and tech blogs across the Internet are abuzz with the new unveilings. Knowing how much our readership is involved in anything Apple, we’re no different. Apple events usually have a large amount of surprise to them, even if the basic framework has been in the public consciousness for a while now. This time around, though the biggest surprise of the day came right at the beginning of the presentation, when Steve Jobs himself walked out onto stage despite his being on medical leave.

As expected, the first half of the presentation was a run down of the different aspects how great and successful the iPad has been since its launch, sales numbers from iBooks, of iPhones, and of iPads, then a short movie. There really wasn’t anything new, mostly iPads used in all sorts of places and all sorts of ways. In short, it was an iPad love-fest akin to pretty much anything OWC Mike H. says during your average episode of OWC Radio. (Sorry, Mike, had to say it…)

iPad 2

Finally, though, they got past the hype and delved into the new hardware we were all expecting. As someone who’s been somewhat cynical of the whole “OMG! It’s an Apple tablet!” mindset that seems to surround the iPad, even I find the specs on the iPad 2 to be pretty nice.

  • A5 Processor – These custom processors are dual-core and wind up being twice as fast with 9x the video performance, all while keeping the same power draw as the A4’s.
  • Front & Rear Cameras – while mostly there to support FaceTime, the rear camera is capable of up to 720p 30fps video, while the front camera gives you VGA quality.
  • Video Out Support – Supports video mirroring and output up to 1080p with an adapter.
  • Thinner and Lighter – The iPad 2 is about 33% thinner and up to 15% lighter than the original iPad, making it easier to hold and carry (and, quite possibly, making delicious salsa).
  • Black and White – Unlike the various iterations of the iPhone, Apple claims there will be a both black and white versions of the iPad 2 available on day one.
  • AT&T and Verizon – Versions will be available that are compatible with each carrier. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a hybrid version – perhaps something they’re saving for the iPhone 5?
  • Same Battery Life – despite being smaller, having a more powerful processor and adding all these features, battery life is reported to be the same.
  • Same Prices – This isn’t terribly new; Apple often will price new hardware at the same relative level as the hardware it’s replacing. Low end still is at $499; upper end is at $829.
  • Smart Cover – Unlike the Apple case that came with the original iPad, this one seems to have been designed alongside the iPad 2. Magnets keep it in place and even controls sleep/wake functionality, not unlike closing the lid on your laptop. However, you can be sure that there will be covers, cases and protectors a-plenty soon enough.

iOS 4.3

Of course, all this new functionality generally means an update to iOS and, true to form Apple announcd iOS 4.3 today as well. While many of these improvements are to compliment the new iPad, there’s plenty in there that will benefit users of original iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, too.

  • Faster Safari – Apple claims that Safari’s new JavaScript rendering engine runs twice as fast as the one in iOS 4.2, meaning interactive sites are even faster.
  • iTunes Home Sharing – You can now play iTunes content on your iDevice via your home WiFi network, without having to sync. That’s actually pretty cool, provided that the content you want to stream resides in your iTunes library.
  • Enhanced AirPlay – Sharing of media goes the other way, too. AirPlay lets you send content from your iDevice to an AppleTV, so you can see it on your HDTV. This is especially useful if you’ve got photos that you took with your iPhone/iPad/iPod and want to play them back.
  • iPad Switch Preferences – many users were upset when Apple switched the functionality of the iPad’s side switch from “rotation lock” to “mute”. Others were overjoyed. Now, the end user is given the choice of what they’d like this switch to do.
  • Personal Hotspot – This one’s for iPhone 4 users, who can now share their 3G connection with up to five other devices (iPads, iPods, computers, etc.) via WiFi, Bluetooth and USB.

iOS Apps

Apple rounded out the presentation by talking about some of their new and updated apps, all of which have been tweaked for the new iPad.

  • FaceTime – unsurprisingly, Apple pushed out an iPad version of its video conferencing software. It supports both the front and rear cameras as a video source and can work with the iPhone 4, iPad 2, 4th Gen. iPod Touch or a Mac using the appropriate version of the FaceTime software.
  • Photo Booth – Use the built-in camera to take a photo, then play with it using the different effects available. Not too much different than the  Mac version, except that it’s optimized for the iPad 2 now.
  • iMovie – Designed to make editing video on your iPad 2 really simple, iMovie offers a lot of editing options, and will be available in the App Store for around $5.
  • GarageBand – Like its Mac counterpart, GarageBand offers options to record, edit and mix your own music. It also adds things like touch-sensitive instruments and even “smart” instruments that all but play themselves. Moreover, you can even send an iPad GarageBand project to GarageBand on your Mac and edit it there for finer control. This will also be available in the App Store for around $5.

One More Thing?

Surprising to many, there wasn’t the “one more thing” that we’ve come to expect from these sorts of events. What could they have added, though? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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