New iPad features better screen & camera, not much else

I make no secret of the fact that I’m one of those annoying Apple fanboys who will stop at nothing until every computer or mobile phone running some flavor of Windows is buried in a landfill somewhere out in New Mexico (not unlike what allegedly happened to copies of the Atart 2600 game based on the movie E.T., but that’s for a different column). I’m writing this story on a MacBook, I’ll edit it on an iMac and I’ll get feedback on it pushed to my iPhone. And while I don’t have an iPad, I’ve wanted one since they made their debut two years ago.

That being said, I awaited the announcement of Apple’s third iPad on Mar. 7 with bated breath. I followed along with one of the many websites live-blogging the event to see what was going on … only to read along and become somewhat disappointed.

“The new iPad,” as it’s being called in Apple’s marketing materials, looks and feels just like the first two generations of the device, as was expected. Most of the changes to the tablet come from improving the iPad’s hardware: Apple replaced the somewhat-pixelated screen found on the iPad and iPad 2 with a “retina display” similar to the ones found on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. The retina display is a fancy way of saying that the device’s screen has a resolution so high that the eye cannot discern the individual pixels — the dots that make up images on a computer screen — from each other, creating a fluid and seamless picture. This required a faster processor running the iPad, which ostensibly makes the whole thing faster, but battery life has remained the same despite the increase in the tablet’s computing capability.

Another change came with the cameras built into the iPad. Originally introduced in the iPad 2, the tablet’s cameras front- and rear-facing cameras left a lot to be desired, providing users with grainy images for face-to-face video calls or for taking photos (though the idea of using a 10-inch wide camera to take a photo does seem silly). Instead, Apple slapped a five-megapixel camera in the back of the iPad that allows it to shoot video at 1080p, which is one of the more commonly used formats for filming in high definition. Combined with an overhauled version of iMovie, Apple’s consumer-grade video editing software, made specifically for the device, the new iPad may be one of the few devices where filmmakers can shoot in high definition and edit their material immediately after filming it — all on the same device. New models also have a built-in dictation feature, making it even easier for a user to write things lazily (or have someone else take notes in class).

The new iPad also features the ability to connect to 4G LTE (long-term evolution) wireless networks, thereby enhancing the user’s ability to download items and browse the Internet at high speeds while traveling. However, models featuring 4G connectivity cost $120 more on top of the base model’s $499 price.

(I would be remiss not to mention that, on the same day as the iPad announcement, a new version of Apple TV was launched, but seeing as virtually nobody owns the set-top box that allows users to stream iTunes movies, Netflix and other online content to their television sets, I didn’t think it was really worth noting, despite its $99 price tag.)

Would I buy one of the new iPads? Maybe, but you won’t see me rushing to queue outside an Apple Store to do that when they go on sale on Mar. 16. Don’t get me wrong — having a better screen and nicer cameras are nice, and they show just how far the market for tablet computers has come since Apple introduced the original iPad two years ago. But when you’re a company with more cash on hand than the United States Treasury (according to July reports in the Christian Science Monitor, CNN and other sources), you can afford to blow us away with something even more amazing. Apple, though, is savvier than that — the company knows people will still buy their products no matter how minute the changes might be since the older model is suddenly one step closer to obsolescence no matter how viable it may still end up being.

There is one good thing to come out of the launch of the new iPad, though: it’s caused the price of the iPad 2 to drop $100.

Information for this article was taken from Apple and from www.gdgt.com.

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