Faster, sharper iPad coming March 16 with better camera

In Apple’s first major product announcement in the post-Steve Jobs era, the company on Wednesday introduced the latest version of its best-selling iPad tablet, which sports a higher-resolution display, better cameras and faster wireless connectivity.

The product, dubbed simply "the new iPad," will go on sale March 16 at the same $499 to $699 prices as earlier versions. Pre-orders began Wednesday through Apple’s website.

In a media presentation in San Francisco, Chief of Marketing Phil Schiller announced that the new iPad will have an updated LCD display that is four times the resolution of the iPad 2. Called "a retina display" for its density of pixels, its dots on the screen will not be distinguishable by a user viewing from distance of 15 inches.

The new device also will be compatible with faster 4G wireless cellular networks offered by AT&T and Verizon. With the new networks, users will be able to stream video or download apps at much faster speeds than with the older, slower 3G networks. Verizon’s 4G network has been deployed and turned on in Utah, while AT&T’s has not.

The iPad will also be equipped with a new 5-megapixel back camera similar to the one used in the latest iPhone 4S. The earlier iPad 2 was widely criticized for its weaker set of back- and front-facing cameras.

The new iPad will be powered with a faster A5X quad-core graphics processor in order to meet the demands of the higher-resolution screen. Schiller said the device will have the same 10-hour battery life as the older iPad versions.

In order to take advantage of the tablet’s new 2048-by-1536-pixel screen, developers will have to program their apps to run in the new native resolution, though Schiller said older apps will be scaled up and should look better.

Reaction to the announcement was mixed.

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