Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) unveiled a faster iPad tablet with a sharper display and the ability to connect to the Internet on 4G broadband networks.
Dubbed the iPad, the tablet will start at $499 for wi-fi only models, though some versions capable of 4G speeds will cost as much as $829. It will be available starting March 16 in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France and Germany.
Although the tablet will feature high-definition TV reception, a retina display similar to that on the iPhone 4S, one of its hottest feature is the ability to operate on high-speed 4G LTE or Long-Term Evolution networks, which are 10 times faster than current 3G technology. The extra speed may help banish the sometimes shaky video quality on previous devices.
The device has an A5X processor from ARM Holdings and a quad-core graphics chip; there's also an iSight camera similar to the version inside the iPhone 4S. The camera only has five megapixels, but it also has a backside illuminated sensor with a five-element lens and is capable of capturing 1080p video.
The iPad's 4G capability could be good news for Verizon Wireless and AT&T, its initial telecommunications partners, company officials said.
Apple is hoping the latest iPad will help the company maintain its dominance in the tablet market against rivals including Amazon and Samsung. With sales of tablets like the iPad soaring, analysts suggest their sales may soon surpass those of PCs. Indeed, market researchers such as Gartner reported 2011 sales of tablets more than doubled to 60 million while sales of PCs rose less than 1 percent to 350 million. This year's tablet sales are expected to soar, given the latest iPad as well as rivals from other electronics companies.
The global tablet user base reached 67 million in 2011, according to Strategy Analytics.
The Cupertino, Calif. company also introduced a new version of Apple TV device for $99 that will connect to the company's iPhone 4S using the iCloud. Apple TV will be available next week. The company sold only about 1.5 million Apple TVs last year. The company also announced an upgrade to its iOS operating system, dubbed iOS5.
Wednesday's event was CEO Tim Cook's biggest product launch since the voice-enabled iPhone 4S came out last year.
Apple shares rose 43 cents to close at $530.69. Their record high was $548.21 set March 1.