Apple unveils new iPad with sharper screen

The new iPad features a higher-resolution screen and a camera with auto focus and auto exposure. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News/MCT)

Apple Inc. has given the latest version of its iPad tablet several new features but no new name. And in a move that could prove useful for schools, the company will continue selling the older iPad 2 model, but at a reduced price.

When it goes on sale next week in the U.S. and several other countries, the latest version of the iPad will simply be “the iPad” or perhaps “the new iPad”—not “iPad 3” or “iPad HD,” as some had speculated.

The new iPad, unveiled March 7, comes with improvements that might not be readily apparent to the casual observer. It has, as expected, a sharper screen, driven by a faster processing chip that acts as the “brains” of the device. What was more surprising was that the new features mean the tablet computer will be slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, because it needs a larger battery to power the high-resolution screen.

Prices aren’t changing from the previous models. They will start at $499. Versions capable of accessing cellular networks will cost $629 to $829.

Apple is keeping the basic model of the iPad 2 in production and dropping the price to $399. That could help Apple regain some market share from cheaper tablets like Inc.’s $199 Kindle Fire and could make the device even more popular with schools. Samsung Electronics and other makers of full-size tablets have cut their prices to below $500.

The battery life of the new model remains the same: about 10 hours of use. Apple says the battery capacity is 70 percent higher than for the old model, which suggests that it could have kept the old screen and extended the battery life to 17 hours instead of upgrading the screen resolution.

Apple said the new display will be sharper than the average high-definition television set. In a hands-on demonstration for an Associated Press reporter, text shown on the screen was noticeably crisper. The higher resolution won’t make a difference, however, for most web images, which are of low resolution. The new screen should be able to show all the detail in high-definition movies, which the iPad 2 does not.

The new screen also can show deeper and more vibrant colors than previous models, Apple said.

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