Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) never fails to put on a show. Cupertino’s favorite, most valuable company held an event late on Wednesday morning to debut its first new goods for 2012. Though there were few surprises, Apple’s new treats were certainly enough to make shareholders salivate in anticipation of record-breaking sales and further domination of the growing tablet market.
The star of the event was the new iPad. Forgoing a new numerical name of the sort conferred on 2011’s second-generation tablet, the iPad 2, this third-generation tablet from Apple will bear the iPad name unadorned. Its new features will, the company hopes, speak for themselves.
Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller took the stage at the event to discuss the new iPad’s much rumored, much improved HD screen. The new iPad has a 31-million-pixel screen with a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels. To put this in perspective, Schiller mentioned that this gives the iPad screen 1 million more pixels than an HD television screen and enough “to call it a retina display,” which is to say that the device’s screen is as pretty and clear as that of the current iPhone. Like the current iPhone, the new iPad can also record HD video in 1080p thanks to its new 5-megapixel camera.
One other notable feature is that the iPad can now take dictation. A small microphone button added to the device’s touchscreen keyboard will activate software that can translate spoken words to text, a feature that will certainly improve the iPad’s utility as a business tool.
More significant than the various bells and whistles added to the tablet is the fact that the new iPad will be the first of Apple’s mobile devices to support high-speed, 4G mobile networks. The new iPad will function on AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ) LTE-standard 4G networks, but the device is also compatible with networks that use the HSPA+ transmission standard, like the kind used by T-Mobile USA, and networks that use the HSDPA communications protocol.
The latter two protocol are accommodated, along with LTE coverage, as they are more common outside of the U.S. Multiple iPad models will be made to accommodate these networks, though, and even Verizon and AT&T will in sell iPads specifically for their LTE networks, which operate on different bands.
Other product upgrades
The new iPad will retail for the exact same price as previous models — $499 for the Wi-Fi-only model and $629 and up for versions with 4G LTE compatibility. Sources also noted that the starting price for the iPad 2 would be reduced to $399. Some Wall Street analysts speculated that Apple would continue iPad 2 production and sell them for as little as $200 to compete with Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire.
The iPad wasn’t alone onstage. Apple also announced a new version of its Apple TV set-top box, a $99 device capable of outputting, for the first time, 1080p video and featuring an improved interface.
Movies purchased through iTunes can now be re-downloaded to multiple devices like the new iPad and Apple TV through the iCloud storage service. However, not all movie studios are supporting this feature, according to a repot from All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka. News Corp.’s Fox (NASDAQ:NWS) and Comcast’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Universal can’t because of pre-existing deals with Time Warner’s (NYSE: TWX) HBO. There was no sighting of Apple’s fabled HD television set at the event. Something besides the iPhone 5 has to be saved for later this year, though.