Apple releases the er, new… iPad

Apple has finally unveiled the highly anticipated fruit of its loins, the new Apple iPad, together with a host of new and improved software. It has also put some HD vitamins on the Apple TV device.

First off, let’s make this clear, Apple didn’t bother to number its creation. The new iPad will simply be called “new iPad”, maybe because the name is strong enough to carry its legacy unto another flood of eager Apploids, or maybe because there really isn’t that much new to it.

Apple’s new crown jewel brings with it some eye candy and new features. There are basically three merits to take into account: The first is the “resolutionary” (sic) display – hats off to Apple, here – that puts more pixels on a 9.7-inch screen than you can squint your eyes at. Apple doesn’t manufacture its own panels, Samsung does, or did – on the iPad 2 – and it stands to reason it would continue doing the stellar job it has done so far.

The 2048×1536 LED-backlit IPS retina display squeezes in exactly four times as many pixels into the same real estate as its predecessor, and exceeds by far the needs of Full HD. The pixel-per-inch count is 264, which is still a long shot from the iPhone’s 330PPI, but it’ll still be stunning to look at, we’re sure. Oh, and Apple says this particular panel has 40 percent more saturation than its predecessor.

Secondly there’s a tentative merit with this device, which is the claimed battery life. According to the Apple mouthpiece, it maintained the same battery life as its predecessor – an amazing claim considering 4G devices are assuredly more power consuming than your more mature 3G, and yes, LTE all around. Apple has signed up AT&T and Verizon in the States. In the UK the rollout of these models will surely depend on the operator’s 4G coverage.

Lastly, the new iPad has upgraded the iSight camera considerably, from the puny 0.7 megapixel camera on the iPad 2 to the five megapixel camera on the new device. You can now take some decent photos and then you can edit them in the new iPhoto app.

The iPad’s A5X doesn’t seem to be much more than a stronger graphics performer than its predecessor. It makes use of the popular PowerVR SGX543 MPCore GPU, doubling the number of graphics cores compared to its predecessor, in a clear attempt at raking in the casual gamer and handling the higher-resolution photography and video Apple promises. Apple’s Philip Schiller, Senior VP, worldwide marketing, claims the new iPad is “four times as powerful as the Tegra 3”.

Those are fighting words, sir.

Going back to the hard reality of how much dosh you’ll have to fork out for the privilege of owning one, Apple announced there will be three storage capacities and two different types of communications options. Basically six variants with 16GB, 32GB and 64GB storage, with or without 4G communications. In order, they will cost $499, $599 and $699 for the WiFi versions, and $629, $729 and $829 for the 4G versions.

So, what of the iPad 2? Apple will keep the 16GB version around for a bit and sell it at a discount price of $399, for the WiFi version.

The new iPad will begin shipping on March 16th in the USA. Other launch dates are yet to be announced.

All was not iPad this day. The presentation also unveiled new software and a revamped Apple TV, now capable of handling 1080p video and outputting it to your favourite big screen TV, while hooking itself up to your Icloud account. iCloud will be able to stream HD movies straight to your Apple TV, it seems. The new Apple TV will maintain the $99 pricing of its forefather.

There are also updates to iOS and you can now dictate directly to your iPad. There’s also some new collaborative features to GarageBand and – mostly because they could – Apple has introduced a new app: iPhoto.

iPhoto brings some filters-in-a-can to iPad photo editing. It’s simple and will keep you busy twiddling your fingers around and tweaking some neat photographs of your holidays in the Seychelles, your yacht or the Ferrari parked in your driveway. You also get the Photo Journal feature inside iPhoto, which allows you to create Facebook Timeline-like photo albums. We’re not quite sure where Apple is going with this, but it would be good to know if there is a desktop equivalent.

You can pick up iPhoto for $4.99 but no UK pricing has been announced.

This said, Apple is preparing to take on a tidal wave of Chinese-built tablet PCs that we’ve seen emerge from Mobile World Congress, and only putting the ‘pad to the bench will reveal if Apple’s technical superiority claims prove true.

It’s more or less assured the first few months will see tight supply of the device, and Apple openly claiming it beat its sales expectations but we can’t help but think that not giving the new iPad a proper name will create a bit of a problem for owners. It will be harder for them to shove down other people’s throats the fact that they own one. It won’t be “look at my iPad 3”, it’ll be just another “look at my shiny $829 bit of high-tech bling”.