Apple Introduces Second Gen iPad

The iPad 2 offers a lighter and thinner design than the original iPad.

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Today, at an event in San Francisco, Apple unveiled the company's new iPad 2. Unlike the previous iPad, which was released with much fanfare in April 2010, the iPad 2 is essentially an updated tablet with a few new features—rather than the revolutionary device the first iPad was marketed as. The iPad 2 offers a lighter and thinner design than the original iPad, as well as front and rear-facing cameras, and an improved processor.

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The iPad 2 has the appearance of an original iPad that's gone on a strict diet. Apple made the new iPad 33% thinner and 15% lighter than its predecessor, while still including the same 9.7-inch LCD touchscreen. Stuffed into this smaller frame is a new dual-core A5 processor that Apple claims will make the iPad 2 up to nine times faster than the original iPad. Even with this new processor, Apple states the new iPads will continue to support up to a 10 hour battery life.

The main purpose of the front and rear cameras on the iPad 2 are for support with Apple's FaceTime video messaging system. FaceTime allows you to "video chat" with other people who are using Wi-Fi connected devices such as the iPhone 4, iPod Touch (4th generation), a compute running Mac OS X, or other iPad 2 tablets. The cameras can also be used to capture photos in conjunction with Apple's Photo Booth application.

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With the iPad 2 release, Apple also announced a new Smart Cover protection feature that can be used with the new tablets. Smart Cover, which comes in a variety of colors, uses a self-aligning magnetic hinge and the cover will automatically put the iPad 2 to sleep when attached (or wake it up when removed). The Smart Cover is sold separately from iPad 2 at prices ranging from $39 to $69 depending on the material used (polyurethane or leather). An optional HDMI adapter was unveiled along with the iPad 2 as well.

Like the first iPad, the iPad 2 will be available with both Wi-Fi support or with Wi-Fi + 3G capability. The Wi-Fi only models start at $499 for the 16GB model, go up to $599 for the 32GB model, and top-out at $699 for the 64GB version.

The 3G capable models can be connected to either AT&T or Verizon's cellular networks, but, remember, the 3G service is sold separately through your network provider. The prices for the 3G capable models start at $629 for the 16GB model and go up to $829 for the 64GB iPad 2. A 32GB version is available for $729.

All iPad 2 tablets are available in white or black and will begin shipping on March 11.

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