FAQ: Apple’s new iPad

March 9, 2012

The dust is settling following Apple’s iPad announcement on Wednesday; here are some of the most frequently asked questions floating around about the tablet in one easy guide.

Er...what should I call it?: There’s been quite a bit of confusion over what, exactly, is Apple calling its new iPad. The answer is: the iPad. Really.

It seems that Apple is doing away with numbering its tablet devices and taking a marketing tack like it already does with its non-mobile devices like the MacBook Pro or the iMac, which don’t ever have version numbers.

Still, it’s a bit confusing for consumers when the original iPad is still floating around out there with the same name as the third-generation tablet. I’ve already heard people referring to it as the “iPad 3” anyway, to avoid confusion.

Chances are this won’t be a problem in conversation — you’ll probably call it “my iPad,” right? — but it still looks a bit strange to see the numberless phrase “The new iPad” emblazoned across Apple’s Web site.

How is it different from the iPad 2?: Not all that different at first glance. No one will notice it’s the new iPad in passing, but the guts of this tablet did see an improvement. The screen, for one is noticeably better, according to hands-on reports. Apple greatly increased the number of pixels in the display to 3.1 million, meaning that it’s pretty hard to see a pixel on the screen at all. That makes the device ideal for photo and video editing, not to mention gaming.

Hand-in-hand with the new screen, Apple also announced that the new chip in the tablet — the A5X — has a quad-core level graphics processing unit, though it’s still a dual-core chip for computing. The new iPad also has an updated camera, plus voice dictation which brings some of the technology of Siri to the iPad. You can’t ask your iPad questions, but you can hit a microphone icon on your phone to dictate whenever you have access to the keyboard.

One thing that is the same: the price. The iPad starts at $499 for 16GB, then goes up to $599 for 32 GB and $699 for 64 GB.

I’m on the fence. A new iPad, the iPad 2?: Apple’s made that a bit more difficult to decide, by dropping the price of the 16 GB WiFi-only model to $399. That’s a drop of $100. If you just want a very good tablet and don’t think you need the the high-res, high-speed bells and whistles, then the iPad 2 is a compelling option.

And while a $400 price tag may still seem like a lot, it could be enough of a draw for people who want more functionality than they may get from something like the $200 Kindle Fire, which is purely a consumption device.

Should I buy the 4G LTE model?: With the new iPad, Apple finally has a 4G LTE-capable device in its product lineup. But the addition will cost you, adding $130 to the price of the tablet plus the cost of a data plan. On AT&T, you have the choice of 250 MB fo $15 per month, 3 GB for $30 per month or 5 GB for $50 per month. On Verizon, you can have 1GB for $20 per month, 2 GB for $30 per month or 5 GB for $50 per month.

The addition of 4G is huge for the iPad, making it faster and more portable but if you don’t plan on using the iPad in places you wouldn’t have WiFi anyway — the office, your home, hotels — the price may not be worth it.

And, since you mentioned it, what about the Kindle Fire?: The Kindle Fire is Apple’s fiercest competitor in the tablet market, but — really — it’s also a totally different device. Especially with the new features Apple has introduced, the iPad is becoming more of a general-purpose tablet with creation and consumption possibilities. The Kindle Fire is a device made purely for consumption, and almost completely for consumption of Amazon products and the Amazon-curated app market.

So if you’re an online shopaholic, an avid e-book reader or a tablet couch potato who doesn’t want a tablet for working beyond e-mail, then the $199 Kindle Fire is a good fit in your life. If you want more function out of your device, for sketching, writing, editing, photo, video or just access to more apps, you should consider alternatives like the new iPad.

I’m still not sure. When does it hit stores?: The new iPad will hit shelves on March 16, so that’s the first day to play with it in stores. Though, if history is any indication, you’ll want to wait at least a day to avoid the early adopter crowds.

Related stories:

Apple ready to tackle television with its new iPad

Apple TV: What’s new and when it’ll be available

New iPad: Retina display is biggest improvement

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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