Welcome to the iPad 2: Inside Apple's new tablet

Jobs reveals the next-gen faster, thinner, video-oriented iPad as the competition from Google Android tablets starts to heat up

Today, Apple revealed the details of the much-rumored iPad 2. The new iPad is called the iPad 2 and has a dual-core A5 chip (a new processor) that Apple CEO Steve Jobs says improves graphics performance by 900 percent with the same power consumption of the original iPad's A4. The new design has front and rear cameras and a gyroscope. It's also 75 percent the thickness than the original iPad, it weighs 1.3 pounds versus the original's 1.5 pounds, and it comes in both white and black versions.

Jobs claims the iPad's battery life is the same as the original model's 10 hours. Prices remain the same, starting at $499 for the Wi-Fi-only, 16GB model and ending at $830 for the Wi-Fi + 3G, 64GB model. Shipments begin March 11 in the U.S., and two weeks later in 26 other countries.

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There will be models for both AT&T's and Verizon Wireless's 3G networks, but you can't use the same iPad 2 on both networks, such as to switch to the carrier with better local coverage while traveling. Thee are as yet no details on data pricing. For the first-gen iPad, AT&T charges $15 for 250MB and $25 for 2GB on a no-contract basis, whereas Verizon charges $20 for 1GB per month on other devices with a two-year commitment.

Accessories include a $39 HDMI-out connector that also lets the iPad 2 mirror its display, so it can be connected to a monitor or projector like a laptop. It displays 1080p video. The original iPad had only a $29 add-on VGA dongle that could present the screens of only apps that specifically supported video-out. On the iPad 2, the VGA dongle also mirrors the display.

A new, optional Apple case -- what Jobs called a "smart cover" -- uses magnets to attach and protect the screen. The cover self-aligns and even cleans the screen as it moves. Plus, it neatly folds into several shapes to reveal the rear camera and to double as a multiposition stand for easier typing. Polyeurethane models cost $39, leather ones cost $69; both materials come in a choice of five colors.

Apple claims the updated iOS 4.3 runs the Safari browser significantly faster, as well as autoconnects to Apple TVs and AirPlay devices. The iOS update also lets users choose whether the mute switch works as a rotation lock or as an alert muter; iOS 4.2 changed the behavior of the switch from locking the rotation to silenting alerts, which many users did not like. With the new cameras, the iPad 2's iOS 4.3 also includes Apple's FaceTime videoconferencing app, and it supports 3G tethering. Owners of the first-gen iPad, third- and fourth-gen iPod Touch, iPhone 3G S, and non-Verizon iPhone 4 can update their devices at no cost as of March 11. (Apple had no details yet on iOS 4.3 plans for the Verizon iPhone 4.)

New apps available for the iPad 2 are the $5 iMovie video-editing app and the $5 GarageBand multi-instrument player; iMovie had previously been released for the iPhone 4 and Mac OS X and GarageBand for Mac OS X. The PhotoBooth photo-effects app from Mac OS X is included free on the iPad 2.

Jobs today also noted that Apple now has sold 100 million iPhones and has 200 million iTunes accounts linked to its Mac OS X app, iOS app, and media stores. Jobs said the iPad and the iPhone now account for the majority of Apple's sales, transforming Apple into a what he called a "post-PC" company.

The original iPad has been a runaway hit, with Apple selling about as many iPads as it has Macs in the last year. The iPad has also gained fast traction in even regulated businesses as mobile workers have found many uses for it, from sales to bedside patient care. Apple's iOS 4 added security capabilities that also helped overcome initial cocerns at many IT organizations.

The new iPad announced today comes as the first credible Google Android competitor, the Motorola Mobility Xoom, hit the market, following six months of poorly received Android tablets that ran the smartphone version of the Android OS rather than the tablet-oriented Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS that debuted with the Xoom. Tablets from Research in Motion and Hewlett-Packard, using their own OSes, are also promised for this year.

This article, "Welcome to the iPad 2: Inside Apple's new tablet," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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