The world expected Apple to announce a 7-inch version of its signature tablet today, and it delivered on that claim, but the company also surprised consumers with a refresh of the iPad that it calls the 4th generation Apple iPad. The new iPad comes with just a couple of major improvements to its processor, ports and connectivity options. While the tablet's Retina display size and resolution (9.7 inches and 2048 x 1536 pixels) are the same, the new iPad will pack an all-new A6X processor, touted to boast 50 percent faster speeds and help the slate continue to maintain up to 10 hours of battery life.
The pricing structure remains the same as for the 3rd generation iPad, which appears to be on its way out while the iPad 2 remains available. Eager iPad adopters can get the 4th-generation Apple iPad with 16GB and Wi-Fi for $499. Another 16GB model equipped with Wi-Fi and cellular connections starts at $629. The prices climb to $599 and $699 for 32GB and 64GB Wi-Fi-only models and $729 and $829 for 32GB and 64GB of cellular-enabled units.
The device houses a new 802.11n Wi-Fi radio with dual-band support for 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz connections that is slated to offer speeds twice as fast as the previous generation. There's also a big update for LTE support. According to a slide presented during Apple's press event, the 4th-generation iPad will be available on lots of carriers, ranging from Virgin Mobile and Rogers in Canada to SoftBank and KDDI in Japan. As of now, Sprint will be the first and only U.S. carrier to snag the new iPad.
As plenty of Internet rumors predicted, the new iPad will also pack Apple's recently announced Lightning port connector, however, in a twist that was little anticipated, the device will work with a lineup of new Lightning cords that can connect to USB ports and SD Card readers and can support HDMI and VGA media connections.
The 4th-generation Apple iPad is available at Apple.com for preorder this Friday, with Wi-Fi-only versions shipping as early as November 2.