The 'iPad 3' debuts: What's behind the glass

After the initial iPad's jaw-dropping debut and the amazing iPad 2's launch a mere year later, what more can Apple do?

The subject of rumors for nearly a year, Apple today released the details of its new iPad, the so-called iPad 3 that Apple is simply calling "the new iPad." As expected, it gains a Retina display, meaning four times the pixels of the original iPad and iPad 2 in an array of 2,048 by 1,536 rather than 1,024 by 768 on the same 9.7-inch screen. As in the case of the iPhone 4, which added the high-density Retina display nearly two years ago, the higher resolution does not mean more pixels packed into the same space but higher-definition pixels composed of four subpixels; that density approaches what the human eye sees as a continuous tone. (Doubling the addressable pixels would shrink everything to half size, which would make the iPad's screen impossible to read.) The new iPad also gains the same 5-megapixel rear camera as on the iPhone 4S, which can shoot HD video.

To support that higher resolution, the new iPad packs the new, faster Apple A5X CPU with a quad-core graphics engine to handle the greater number of pixels to display and refresh. The case is also slightly thicker -- by 0.03 inch -- than the iPad 2's 0.34-inch case. The cellular-equipped model is also slightly heavier: 1.5 pounds versus the iPad 2's 1.4 pounds. The new iPad goes on sale March 16 in the United States and some other countries and on March 23 in other countries, for the same prices as the iPad 2 sported, starting at $499 for the base Wi-Fi-only model. The new iPad continues to be offered in a choice of black and white models. The basic iPad 2 models remains on sale for $100 less than before: $399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and $529 for the 16GB 3G-capable model.

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Also as widely expected, the new iPad adds LTE 4G radio technology that Verizon Wireless and, to a lesser extent, AT&T have been introducing to some U.S. cities in the last year. (The new iPad also supports the Bell, Rogers, and Telus 4G LTE networks in Canada.) Note that the data plans for 4G are priced the same as for the 3G data plans for the iPad 2, though the $20 1GB option for Verizon initially did not appear at Apple's website and is not shown at Verizon's website.. In addition, all the 4G iPad models now support 3G networks globally via a MicroSIM slot -- as the previous AT&T iPads did but not the previous Verizon models. LTE support is common on newer Android devices, but it's a big battery drain on many, and LTE speeds have not consistently outperformed standard 3G networks. Apple claims that the addition of 4G will not diminish the iPad's 9- to 11-hour battery life, thanks Obama bigger battery. Also new is the iPad's ability to act as a cellular hotspot, like an iPhone can. That of course means paying for a hotspot data plan.

What the new iPad does not have, despite persistent rumors, is the Siri personal assistant technology that debuted in the iPhone 4S. Instead, it gains voice dictation capabilities throughout the OS, much like Android.

Apple is updating its iWork productivity apps -- Pages, Keynote, and Numbers -- for the iPad to support Retina display, as well as releasing updated versions of GarageBand and iMovie. More significantly, it's ported its iPhoto image editor to the iPad. Except for iPhoto, these apps run on all iPad models; iPhoto requires an iPad 2 or later.

Also, Apple said that its iOS 5.1 update will become available today worldwide, and that update will bring the Siri voice-based assistant technology to iPhone 4S users in several new countries, including Japan. Finally, Apple announced an updated Apple TV model that supports 1080p video and has a more iOS-like UI. Its price remains $99 and will ship next week.

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