Summary: iPad 2 to lead slew of Apple releases on March 11

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Apple unveiled a new iPad on Wednesday—a model that’s thinner and lighter than its predecessor and features front- and rear-facing cameras. The iPad 2 announcement highlighted an Apple press event packed with product news, including an iOS preview and iPad versions of Apple’s iMovie and GarageBand applications.

But the iPad 2 was the star of the show. The new models, which arrive on March 11, come in the same capacities and have the same price tags as the original Wi-Fi and 3G-equipped tablets. But there are plenty of other differences, starting with the design. The iPad 2 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, weighing 1.3 pounds and measuring 0.35 inches thick. There’s also a white iPad, a development sure to please anyone longing for Apple’s still missing-in-action white iPhone 4 model.

The updated iPad also runs on a new processor—a 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 chip—which should provide a boost over the 1GHz A4 processor that powered the original iPad. The new processor offers a similar low-power consumption rating as the A4.

The iPad 2 features two built-in cameras, for use with FaceTime video chat and other apps. The front camera can record VGA-resolution (640-by-480) video at 30 frames per second with audio and take still photos at 640-by-480. The back camera can record HD video at 720p at 30 frames per second with audio. When in still camera mode, the back camera has a 5X digital zoom.

Get more information on the iPad 2

When it ships, the iPad 2 will run on Apple’s iOS 4.3 mobile operating system. Apple previewed the updated OS on Wednesday, showcasing improved Safari performance, wireless media streaming in the form of iTunes home sharing, AirPlay enhancements, a Personal Hotspot option for all iPhone 4 models, and personal settings options for the iPad’s side-switch.

Get more information on Apple’s iOS 4.3 preview

iOS 4.3 won’t be the only software update to greet the iPad 2 on March 11. Apple announced that its mobile version of iMovie will undergo an update so that it’s optimized to work on Apple’s tablet. In addition, the mobile video editor will offer multitouch gestures, new themes and sound effects, a precision editor, and multitrack audio editing and recording.

iPad users will also have a version of GarageBand to call their own on March 11. The mobile version of the music creation program will let users play and record multiple instruments either by connecting them to the iPad, or through the use of a number of touch instruments, including keyboards and drums.

Get more information on iMovie and GarageBand for the iPad

The iPad 2 announcement Wednesday was not that much of a surprise—Apple’s invitation to the press-only event more or less confirmed that a new iPad would be the centerpiece of Wednesday’s press event. A surprising—and welcome—part of the event was the appearance of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has been on leave from his day-to-day duties at the company since January for medical reasons. Jobs handled much of the presentation duties Wednesday, including a rundown of sales figures for the iBookstore, the original iPad, and the iPhone.

Apple also showcased a pair of a iPad 2 accessories—the iPad Smart Cover and the Apple Digital AV Adapter. The Smart Cover works as a stand for typing and watching movies on the tablet. It also features a unique design that includes magnets that hold the cover in place on the iPad. The Apple Digital AV Adapter offers HDMI mirrored video output, allowing what you see on the iPad 2 screen can also be viewed on the big screen in 1080p. The AV Adapter will also work with the original iPad, the iPhone 4, and the fourth-generation iPod touch, providing video out for those iOS devices. (Mirroring is only supported on the iPad 2.)

Updated at 1:05 p.m. PT to include information on iPad compatibility for the Apple Digital AV Adapter.
Updated at 1:44 p.m. PT to correct information about the A5’s power consumption rating.
Updated at 2:12 p.m. PT to clarify Apple Digital AV Adapter support.

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