Updates to iPad and AppleTV Announced; iCloud Now Supports Movies

     March 7, 2012

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Apple has just finished giving their highly-awaited press conference, and the company revealed updates to their iPad, AppleTV, and iCloud products.  Apple started off their presentation talking about iCloud now supporting movies.  For the AppleTV, you’ll be able to re-download movies you’ve purchased on any device, and now movies and TV shows can be viewed in 1080p.  There’s also a new user interface, but it’s not in the traditional iOS design.  I don’t have an AppleTV so I can’t comment on whether the UI needed an update, and I don’t know if this redesign will be any better.  For me, iCloud supporting movies was the big deal.  The new AppleTV will cost $99 (same as the current model) and be released on March 16th.

Hit the jump for a recap on the new iPad, the release date, and pricing info.

ipad-apple-imageTo begin, the new iPad is called “the new iPad”.  Not iPad 3 or iPad HD.  Some may feel that this is confusing, but unless you march into an Apple store and scream, “I WANT IPAD!” I think you’ll be okay.  The iPad 2 will continue to be sold, and the 16GB Wi-Fi only version will be $100 cheaper; the 3G version will cost $529.

But who wants the iPad 2?  That thing is a hunk of junk compared to the new iPad!  It’s new, which means it’s better!  Right?

Actually, the new iPad feels only slightly superior to the iPad 2.  Again, there’s no radical redesign here, and honestly, there doesn’t need to be one.  Simply put, the new iPad is prettier and faster.  Ever since the reveal of “Retina Display” (Apple’s ridiculously hi-res screen) for the iPhone, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the technology came to the iPad.  That time is now.  The picture quality on the new iPad is 2048 x 1536, sure enough. That’s 3.1 million pixels.  According to Apple CEO, that’s “the most ever in a mobile device.”

Naturally, this kind of visual upgrade requires more processing speed, and so the new iPad will have the A5X professor with quad-core graphics.  Apple has made sure every piece of the iPad hardware took advantage of the Retina Display.  That means it has a 5-megapixel backside illuminated sensor on the back, 5-element lens, IR filter, and ISP built into the A5X chip, which is the same as the iPhone 4S.  The video recording will now be in 1080p, and will now feature footage stabilization.

The other piece of big news was 4G LTE.  Again, the upgrade makes sense when you consider how much streaming is being done for the new iPad.  If you want to pull a movie from the iCloud onto your iPad, you’re probably going to want it faster than 3G can deliver.  4G LTE will be available on both AT&T and Verizon, but each carrier will have their own device.  That means if you buy an iPad with AT&T 4G LTE, you can’t switch your carrier over to Verizon later.  The new iPad will also be “World-Ready” meaning it can be used anywhere in the world (no mention of what the roaming charges will be).

iLife has been updated (Apple spent a ridiculous amount of time talking up iPhoto), other stock apps have been updated and optimized, and existing apps will be scaled up and text will be automatically rendered in higher-resolution.  Siri doesn’t come with the new iPad, but there will be a voice dictation feature.

new-ipad-3-hd-imageBut everything else is the same.  The new iPad is still the same size as the iPad 2, it will cost the same*, it still has 10 hours of battery life (although running 9 hours on 4G is impressive), no SD slot, and it’s the same pricing structure.  While it will sell like hotcakes regardless, the biggest benefactors of the new iPad upgrade will be people who want an iPad 2.  The upgrades to the new iPad don’t feel significant enough to warrant the same price, and if sacrificing a sharper screen and some speed will get you a $400 iPad 2 (16GB, Wi-Fi only), I think that’s more than a fair deal.

Apple also didn’t offer up a competitor to the Kindle Fire, which is rapidly gaining in popularity and will almost certainly have its next model due out this year.  Granted, the Kindle Fire isn’t a tablet as much as it’s an advanced e-Reader, but it’s priced cheaper ($200) and can be held in one hand without wrist strain.  Apple currently has no answer to that.

The new iPad will be available on March 16th.  Apple is currently taking pre-orders.  No word yet on when the new iPad 2 prices will go into effect.

*The new 16GB iPad will carry iPad 2’s old 16GB price, not the one that’s $100 cheaper.

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