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Apple’s new iPad will be faster and prettier, company says

By Jeremy C. Owens, San Jose Mercury News –

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple unveiled the third generation of its popular iPad tablet computer Wednesday, with a host of upgraded features including 4G, or LTE, compatibility, a high-resolution display and a quad-core processor far superior to competitors.

In an event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives announced the anticipated new gadget, along with two other offerings: a universal iPhoto app and a new Apple TV set-top box.

The star of the show, however, was the new iPad, which was not christened with an official name, as executives alternately referred to it as the third-generation iPad and the new iPad. It will be available for purchase in the United States on March 16.

“When we set out to create the iPad, we set out to create a new category, the best device for doing the things you do most often, like browsing the web and checking email. It was a tall order, but iPad users tell us that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Cook said in the introduction to the new tablet.

“Who will come out with a product that’s more amazing than the iPad 2?” he asked the audience.

“Well, stop wondering,” he added, to laughter. “We are.”

“Today we’re launching the new iPad, and it’s amazing. We’re taking it to a new level and it makes amazing improvements over the most fundamental features of the device, while retaining everything that millions have grown to love about it,” Cook said, turning the stage over to Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

Schiller ran through the upgraded components of the new iPad, starting with a retina display, which was first introduced in the Cupertino, Calif., company’s iPhone 4 smartphone.

“Until you see it, you can’t understand how amazing it is,” Schiller said.

The display has a resolution of 2038×1536 pixels, giving it more than 3.1 million pixels, the most in history, Schiller said.

The brains inside the new iPad is an A5X microchip, Schiller announced, saying that “other competitors use 1X.”

“This is a graphics powerhouse,” he said.

The new iPad also has upgraded cameras with better sensors, a hybrid filter with backside illumination and the ability to shoot high-definition video. The new cameras will provide “incredible detail and sharpness and auto face detection,” Schiller said.

The fourth feature of the new iPad is voice dictation, which Schiller demonstrated to large rounds of applause from the audience. The new iPad will not include the voice-recognition system known as Siri, which has been popular on Apple newest iPhone iteration, the 4S.

The last feature Apple detailed on the new iPad is perhaps the most desired from its hard-core fans: the ability to connect to the newest generation of mobile networks, known as long-term evolution, or LTE. The device can also be used as a mobile 4G hotspot, Schiller said.

The new iPad will start at $499 and cost up to $829 for the highest-end version; the iPad 2’s starting price will drop from $499 to $399. The device will be available in the U.S. and select other countries on March 16, Schiller said, with 25 more countries added a week later, which Schiller said “will be the fastest rollout we’ve ever had.”

The first new product introduced at Wednesday’s event was an updated Apple TV set-top box, which will support 1080p high-definition video and make searching for content easier, Cook announced. It will cost $99 and be available next week, Cook announced.

Apple will also release a universal iPhoto application that will work on the iPad. The app will have smart browsing, multi-touch editing, professional-quality effects and the ability to pass photos from an iPad to an iPhone and back, Schiller announced. It will cost $4.99.

“It is amazing,” Schiller said.

Apple will also release new versions of iWork, iMovie and Garage Band, the company announced.

Cook wrapped up Wednesday’s event by promising more new products from the tech giant in 2012.

“This is what we love to do, what we stand for. And across the year, you’re gonna see a lot more of this kind of innovation. We are just getting started,” Cook said before leaving the stage.

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