Today, Steve Jobs took a sabbatical from his sabbatical to hop up on stage and tell us all about the iPad 2, the next revision of Apple’s wildly popular tablet PC.

The announcement concerned both hardware and software – the iPad 2 is coming to the US on March 11, and with it will come the iOS 4.3 update, iMovie for iPad, and GarageBand for iPad. It will launch at the same capacities and price points as its predecessor, will come in both black and white, and launches internationally on March 25.

The iPad 2 - More of the Same

The iPad has had, for all intents and purposes, the tablet market to itself for most of the past year. That’s all set to change in 2011, based on the plethora of Android and Windows tablets we saw at CES, so the iPad 2 must be not only a solid extension of the original product’s strengths, but also a worthy competitor to the first wave of products from Google, Microsoft and the rest.

For convenience’s sake, I’ll be comparing the new iPad’s specs to both the old iPad and to the Motorola Xoom, which we reviewed last week. While the Xoom certainly doesn’t represent all of the Android/Honeycomb tablets that will come to market in the next few months, it does represent Google’s reference design for Honeycomb, and as such I feel safe considering it the standard (or perhaps the ideal) hardware configuration for Google’s new tablet OS.

Tablet Specs
  iPad iPad 2 Motorola Xoom
Processor 1GHz Apple A4 1GHz Apple A5 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2
Memory 256MB Unknown 1GB
Storage 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB 32GB + microSD card
Display 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 10.1-inch 1280 x 800
Dimensions 242.8mm x 189.7mm x 13.4mm 241.2mm x 185.7 mm x 8.8 mm 249.1mm x 167.8mm x 12.9mm

1.6 lbs (3G model)

1.5 lbs (wi-fi model)

1.34 lbs (3G model)

1.33 lbs (wi-fi model) 

1.6 lbs

Apple took this opportunity to move from the Apple A4 processor it used in the iPhone 4 and original iPad, which combined a Cortex-A8 processor with a PowerVR SGX 535 GPU. The A4 is very closely related to the processors used in the iPhone 3GS, so that should give you a frame of reference for how long we've been waiting for a true architecture bump.

The new A5 processor is a dual-core affair running at the same speed as the A4 in the original iPad. Just as Apple was coy about mentioning the A4 being powered by an ARM Cortex A8, it's quite possible that the A5 is powered by two ARM Cortex A9 cores. Thankfully, the increased performance doesn't come at the cost of decreased battery life - the iPad 2 is rated at about 10 hours of battery life, same as the original iPad.

The new iPad's graphical capabilities should be impressive, though; Apple claims that it is up to nine times as fast as the original iPad. The improvement in GPU performance is likely due to the rumored PowerVR SGX 543 that's inside the A5. We'll need to wait until we have the device in hand to separate the actual speed from the on-paper speed, but if this claim holds up we should be seeing games and apps that look an order of magnitude better on the new iPad.

System memory is also a bit of a wildcard at this point, and my best guess varies based on the precedent I use. The original iPad has 256MB of system memory, which was the same amount as the then-current iPhone 3GS. If Apple follows this pattern, then the new iPad should have the 512MB of system memory that the iPhone 4 has. However, if Apple is more interested in staying abreast of Android, the new iPad will have the 1GB of system memory encapsulated in the Xoom. Either way, we'll probably need to wait until we have the device in hand to figure this out, since it isn't mentioned on Apple's otherwise exhaustive spec sheet.

The iPad 2 comes in both wi-fi only and 3G flavors - separate 3G iPads will be available on both the Verizon and AT&T networks from day one. It remains to be seen whether the iPhone 5 will be a universally compatible device, but based on the iPad 2 the next iPhone may continue to come in two slightly different flavors. Just as before, Assisted-GPS is only available on the 3G versions of the iPad 2.

Moving from the inside to the outside, the new iPad also receives the front (VGA) and rear-mounted (720p) FaceTime cameras that have become nearly ubiquitous in Apple’s products since FaceTime’s introduction in the iPhone 4 - the original iPad had a space inside the case where a camera would fit, but manufacturing troubles led the company to leave the camera out.

Apple delivers all of this new stuff in a package that is slighlty lighter and significantly thinner than the previous iPad at the same price points, which I don't think anyone can complain about, and it comes in both black and white varieties.

Moving into the Land of Accessories, Apple showcased two things today. The first was a new case design for the tablet - using magnets built into both the iPad's chassis and the case's hinge, it manages to protect the device's screen and serve as a stand without adding a lot of additonal bulk to the tablet.


The previous iPad case was a foamy, bulky thing that made the tablet more unwieldy while also restricting access to its data port and obscuring its pretty exterior. The new case looks to protect the tablet's most vulnerable asset while also maintaining the device's aesthetics. The new cases will run $39 for a polyurethane cover, and $69 for a leather cover.

Also demoed was an HDMI adapter, which promises to output any app at 1080p resolutions with a minimum of setup and fuss. You'll pay $39 for the privilege - it's up to you to decide whether this is useful to you.

The Software - iOS 4.3, iMovie, and GarageBand
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  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - link

    I'm just wondering why people keep referring to this iPad as "more of the same" when just about everything but the screen was bumped up! And heck, were there not rumors of a "retina display iPad", I think the public would have been very satisfied with this update. Regardless, nothing can really top the original iPad announcement as we had zero expectations about what the device was about. This time, leaks were plentiful, and renders/cases from China were spot on.

    I think what happened is people aren't "wowed" anymore because they know what's coming. That's why Apple tries to be so secretive until announcement day.
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - link

    Oh, and iOS announcements are usually in March/April. It wouldn't be a good idea to announce the iPad 2 today, and then also change the UI in iOS 5. That's too many competing messages.
  • sprockkets - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 - link

    In case you haven't figured it out, it finally has features we expected from a tablet since day one. Apple does this, all the time, to milk money from its loyal followers.

    And of course it follows the usual irrational design logic of being thinner or smaller in some way. For those who don't understand what that means, look at the ipod nano.
  • dagamer34 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Before the iPad, no "viable" tablets existed, unless you really want to count Windows tablets from 2002.

    As a gen 1 device, the iPad stands well on it's own. If you felt like they were "holding back on you", no one was forcing you to buy an iPad. Forcing your own expectations onto a device is just wishful thinking.

    And you're the first person I know to complain that being thinner on THIS device was a bad thing. We can discuss how bad the Nano is another time.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    There have been plenty of Tablets in the past. Lenovo, Dell, HP, Palm, Panasonic.. but I suppose since Almighty Jobs says his is must be.

    People are disappointed, because like everything apple makes it's already behind the times by the time it comes out..They put the minimal in to make it sell and screw the rest. It's not that anybody feels forced to buy's just the other companies are taking too long to put out a real winner.

    I'm not sure I like the extra thinness either. Lighter wouldn't be a bad thing..but ipad classic has overheating issues as it is, and it's already flimsy enough. Personally I would like to see a slight grip on the back of one of these (similar to the nook). As a flimsy and awkward mobile device it needs to be easier to hold onto.

    And the reason they said it's more of the same is because put minimalistic hardware in and made the thing almost identical to the ancient one. That, and the iOS is just as boring as ever.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    "There have been plenty of Tablets in the past. Lenovo, Dell, HP, Palm, Panasonic.. but I suppose since Almighty Jobs says his is must be."

    No, the *market* has spoken. PC tablets have flopped time and time again while the iPad is probably the biggest hit in consumer electronics. It sold more units faster than other consumer electronics blockbusters like the Nintendo Wii and the XBox 360. More iPads were sold in one year than 360s were sold in *three*. If that isn't mainstream success then I don't know what is.

    So yeah, those other tablets you mentioned are irrelevant. Even if you don't accept that, other hardware companies seem to since they are scrambling to replicate what was done with the iPad a year ago.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Nobody claimed that the businessman wasn't good at advertising. Nobody claimed America is full of smart consumers either..and I don't see a reason to discredit the tablets that Jobs stole his ideas from first.

    If you believe that other companies are "scrambling" and "replicating" the ancient have not done your homework. Take a look at who is now in charge of Google's Tablet OS team. Go take a look at Nvidia's boasting tactics and future hardware (they are almost as full of themselves as the leaders at Apple). Have you wondered why the new macbooks are not using the cards from the king in graphics anymore?

    The one thing that Apple did actually bring to the table, is showing the rest of the companies that we are finally in the age where tablets can be popular for simple media consumption for many people. Now that they've done that they can leave.

    Many past tablets have been moderately successful, but not so much used for media consumption..just business.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    No, they are actually scrambling to replicate what the iPad did, which was to pair a mobile OS and SoC with a large screen. Until then, it was all about putting power hungry desktop/notebook operating systems on the necessary hardware to drive it, with low battery life, running applications that were not optimized towards a 100% touchscreen interface.

    It's chasing. And if you believe that it is a 100% media consumption device, you also aren't paying attention. It hasn't even been a year and I've seen a surprising number of iPads get adopted for business use.

    The main thing other companies need to worry about, particularly Google, is software. It is actually more profitable to develop for Windows Phone 7. Android users for whatever reasons do not want to pay for apps. Unless Android users on tablets have different spending habits from Andoird users on phones, how are their tablets supposed to compete in terms of applications and practical usage? The hardware is just a platform, it doesn't mean much without software.
  • Juzcallmeneo - Thursday, March 3, 2011 - link

    Are they replicating the iPad? or the Tablets that the iPad replicated....

    When did I say 100%?
    I know what the iPad is used for, most is media consumption..but no thats not all.

    It is used in businesses where people have replaced their old tablets with the iPad trying to get a new and updated model that works faster than their outdated one..and the Capacitive touch screen (by toshiba & sharp) is also highly useful..however, the reason they got the iPad is not because the iPad is particularly good for business use..but because it was the ONLY one at the time worth any thing.

    I can't tell you how many people I know are planning on getting the Playbook or a honey comb tablet. Most of them are businessmen/women.

    The Xoom isnt great. Cheap LCD screen, Cheap front-facing camera, Cheap buttons, high price, honeycomb still in beta..but that doesn't mean that honeycomb won't be successful on the cheaper, more well built tablets in the future (Eee Pads, etc.)

    It may be more profitable to create for other platforms, but that doesn't stop people from developing for the most open platform..haven't you noticed the skyrocketing number of apps available?
  • takumsawsherman - Friday, March 4, 2011 - link

    I'm sure your hilarity is unintentional, but I must congratulate you. I have just read through this entire comment section because your comments are so amazing. Amazing, because it's a rare pleasure to see someone who has such dedication to expressing the hate they have for a company.

    I can only imagine you were kept in focus by the music streaming to your Cowon J3 (?!?!)

    Allow me to poorly summarize:

    Apple only copied the tablet idea after seeing what other companies had made.

    They were successful where others failed due to great marketing.

    They limit the consumer in all sorts of ways, but the consumer in America is too stupid to figure out that there are better alternatives.

    Businessmen/women are seeking alternatives to the iPad, like the PlayBook and Honeycomb based tablets.

    Developers are choosing the open Android system over the iPad.

    The iPad suffers from a lack of hardware capability.

    You hate Apple.

    Now, allow me to poorly summarize some reality for you:

    Other companies tried to make tablets, but they were miserable failures because the nobody wanted the junk they were making. Others have already explained why. Apple made something that many people want. There are millions of people who really want an iPad, but haven't gotten one yet (they will). There are maybe thousands who really want a Honeycomb tablet or PlayBook. Many more may get them, but usually as misguided Christmas gifts from others (I saw a lot of this with Zune).

    Apple is successful with the tablet because they try to think of what the user might like to do if given the opportunity. They are a user-centric company.

    Users don't care about what you want to do with a tablet. They want a tablet that does things they would like to do, and does them well. They want it to sync easily on a Mac or PC. They want the system to work as expected.

    Businessmen/women want an iPad. Many already have one. The majority wouldn't even consider an alternative. They don't care about any of the things you have mentioned. You don't know many successful businessmen/women. Successful businessmen/women are not going to buy a product that they feel has a high chance of being abandoned or forgotten. This describes the PlayBook. They also don't want a product that feels rough and unpolished if there is an alternative. This describes the Android experience.

    99.99 percent of businessmen/women don't know what the PlayBook is, in this context. 99.9 percent don't know what HoneyComb is. 99.9 percent know what an iPad is. Most would like to have one.

    Developers that want to make money (and know how to do so) will develop for iOS first. They will also develop for Android if they have the resources to do so after they have finished the iOS version. A few sorry souls will try to develop for PlayBook, hoping that by being the only ones doing so they will have less competition and make money. Typically, they will not make money.

    The iPad has all the hardware it needs to make it an incredibly attractive product to billions of people.

    Apple has widely-loved products precisely because they do not cater to people like you. It would be an endless and fruitless chase to worry about satisfying your whims. You have some slight technical ability, and enjoy the fact that you can use that technical ability to overcome annoyances on other platforms to achieve some marginal amount of flexibility as to how your electronics function.

    The vast majority of people don't want a toaster that has a scale to weigh the bread. They want a toaster that fits their bread products, toasts well, and is reliable.

    Most who are far more technically inclined want that exact same thing. When you spend your days fixing things for others or for yourself, it is a blessing to have a device that "just works". Such a device does not expect you to figure out how to make it perform it's functions. It is carefully engineered to make complex things simple.

    One day, you may find some peace in therapy. I hope so, because self-medicating through internet rants is just a mental crutch for a soul with a bum leg.

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