Apple unveils iPad 2, matches expectations

Apple's iPad even wowed people, but is iPad 2 revolutionary or is catching up to other tablets?

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REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the iPad 2 on stage during an Apple event in San Francisco.

As everyone expected, Apple today unveiled the iPad 2. The device includes Apple's A5 processor matching the dual core architecture that is becoming almost expected of any new tablet. Unlike some competitors, Apple maintained its approach of emphasizing features and user experience over specs (some most mobile device manufacturers could learn to emulate).

The new iPad retains the same price points as the original. It will, however, now be available in black and white case options and with native 3G support for both GSM (AT&T) and CDMA (Verizon) networks. That places the iPad 2 below any competition currently on the market.

As expected, the iPad 2 will include front and rear facing cameras. This is becoming a common denominator of all tablets, but Apple has one-upped many tablets by offering apps that take advantage of both cameras and the screen real estate available on a tablet. The company will be making iPad-optimized version of its Mac-based Photo Booth, FaceTime, and iMovie apps to support the iPad 2's features. These apps will also be available for iPhone 4 users.

In addition to unveiling the iPad 2, the event served as a preview of the future version of Apple's iOS with mentions of iOS 4.3 for iPad and iPhone. Many of the updates to iOS exist to support the iPad 2's dual cameras and related apps for both iPads and iPhones.

The company confirmed it will include the mobile hotspot for all iPhones in iOS 4.3 – currently a feature limited to Verizon iPhone 4 users. While that is a nice feature parity decisions with other mobile platforms, Apple has apparently decided to restrict it to just iPhone devices and not iPads. Given that the iPad is equally capable as a 3G device, that seems rather questionable. My guess is that discussions with wireless carriers was part of the decision.

And speaking of 3G… it was really surprising that Apple didn't announce a 4G/LTE capable iPad. With so many other tablets coming to market with initial or future LTE support, it's somewhat shocking that Apple chose to stick with 3G data access. Apple may talk smack about other companies focusing on specs rather experience (and rightly so), this is an area where specs and experience could be better from an Android, webOS, or PlayBook tablet.

Share your thoughts in the comments – will the iPad 2 kill the competition or is Apple wrapped up in its own ego? Can Android, webOS, or RIM's PlayBook steal the tablet crown?

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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