San Francisco - Apple plans March 11 U.S. availability of an iPad 2 that's 33 percent thinner than its predecessor, but adds new Apple dual-core 1GHz processor, dual cameras, FaceTime Wi-Fi video chatting, iOS 4.3 operating system and a gyroscope.
For the first time, a version with embedded 3G cellular will be available for the Verizon Wireless network. Separate versions will be available for GSM/HSPA networks, including AT&T and international carriers. A Wi-Fi-only version will also be available, like before.
Neither the AT&T nor Verizon versions operate on those carriers' 4G networks.
Despite its smaller size and weight, the iPad 2 maintains its predecessor's 9.7-inch display size with 1,024 by 768 resolution and LED backlighting.
It will be available in white and black at the same prices as the current iPad. Prices for the Wi-Fi-only versions start at $499 for the 16GB model. Prices for the 3G GSM/HSPA versions for AT&T and international carriers start at $629 for the 16GB version. The $629 price is also the starting price for a 3G Verizon Wireless 3G versions.
The iPad 2 ships in 26 other countries on March 25 and later in additional countries.
Also on March 11, Apple will begin offering the iOS 4.3 operating system as a free upgrade for the current iPad, to the GSM iPhone 3G S and 4, and to the iPad Touch third and fourth generation.
Among other things, the iOS 4.3 will enable the GSM iPhone 4 to act as a personal Wi-Fi hot spot in the same way that the current Verizon iPhone 4 does.
With Apple's new A5 dual-core 1GHz processor, the iPad 2 will deliver 9x faster graphics processing than the company's previous single-core 1GHz processor, yet battery life remains the same at 10 hours, the company said.
For AT&T's network, the new model adds 3G HSUPA support for faster cellular uploading.
The new model is also 33 percent thinner than its predecessor, at 8.8 mm thick, and is thinner than an iPhone 4. Weight also goes down by 15 percent to 1.3 pounds.
The rear-facing video camera captures 720p video, and the front-facing camera features VGA resolution. Both can be used for FaceTime video chats. The iPad also stores 1080p video.
A new HDMI Video Mirroring feature lets users mirror whatever is on their iPad screen on an HDTV via an optional adapter.
With the iOS 4.3, the iPad and other Apple devices will deliver faster Safari web browsing. The new OS also adds to AirPlay's ability to stream audio, video and photos from the mobile device via Wi-Fi to an Apple TV. Streamed content can now include video from third-party apps and from websites as well as video from the iPad's Photos app.
The OS adds iTunes Home Sharing, which lets users stream music and video via Wi-Fi to their handheld device from their networked PC. The iOS 4.3 also gives users the ability to make the iPad side switch either lock the screen rotation or mute audio.
The OS's personal hot spot feature enables a GSM iPhone 4, like the Verizon iPhone 4, to act as a personal hot spot to share Wi-Fi connections with up to five devices in a combination of up to three Wi-Fi, three Bluetooth and one USB device.
When joining a Personal Hotspot, once the feature is enabled, a status bar displays how many devices are currently connected. Every connection is password protected, and when not in use, the Personal Hotspot turns itself off to save battery life.