Apple’s Steve Jobs Unveils iPad 2

Apple’s iPad 2 / Photo courtesy Apple

As anticipated, Apple unveiled the iPad 2 March 3 (surprisingly by CEO Steve Jobs himself). Rumors of this improved version started popping up around September of last year, and now it’s here. In comparison to the original iPad (released April 3, 2010), this new version is 33 percent thinner, 15 percent lighter, adds two cameras, a gyroscope and a new dual core processor.

“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” says Jobs. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again.”

iPad 2 maintains the same 9.7-inch LED back-lit LCD screen and features Apple’s new dual-core A5 processor for fast performance and stunning graphics. The front-facing VGA camera is used for FaceTime videoconferencing, and the rear-facing camera captures 720p HD video. iPad 2’s battery will last about 10 hours. In addition, Apple added a Smart Cover option to protect the iPad screen ($39/polyurethane or $69/leather). The Smart Cover comes in multiple colors and is designed with a self-aligning magnetic hinge that makes it easy to attach and remove. It folds into a stand for typing and viewing videos.

The iPad 2 comes with iOS 4.3, Apple’s latest mobile operating system that includes a faster Safari browser, iTunes Home Sharing and enhancements to AirPlay. Additionally, you’ll have the choice to use the iPad side switch to lock the screen rotation. iMovie and and GarageBand for iPad also are available for $4.99 each. iMovie allows you to shoot and edit videos right from your iPad, and GarageBand turns your iPad into an 8-track recording studio as it allows you to perform with onscreen keyboards, guitars, drums and basses using multi-touch gestures (even if you don’t play an instrument).

Apple made a good move to release the iPad 2 now since it’s fairly close to the Motorola Xoom launch last month. General public opinion is that the Android-based Xoom is probably the only “real alternative” to the iPad.

If you ask me, not really. While the Xoom is an impressive piece of hardware, the Android tablet market lacks content. Apple has worked hard at developing its iTunes store and iBook store, and has more than 65,000 tablet apps in its App store. Android Xoom has about 100 apps available.

So the burning question: Is upgrading to the iPad 2 worth it? For me, yes. For you, maybe not. If you don’t have one now, then definitely buy one! But if you already own the original iPad, and you feel the iPad 2 doesn’t offer anything that much more extraordinary, then there’s nothing wrong with sticking with your current one. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is working on version No. 3.

This time around you have the luxury of choosing between AT&T and Verizon (rather than being stuck with just AT&T). Whether you’re on AT&T or Verizon, the Wi-Fi version sells for $499/16 GB, $599/32GB or $729/64GB. The Wi-Fi + 3G versions cost $629/16GB, $729/32GB or $829/64GB.

The iPad 2 hit store shelves March 11.

Unfortunately, there is no pre-ordering available, so maybe I’ll see you in line at one of the Apple Stores. Or, if you don’t want to bother fighting the crowd, visit to make sure you snag one.

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