One of the hottest speculations of this past year has been how Apple would change the iPad for its second generation. While we’ve heard rumors that this should actually be called the iPad 1.5, what we’ve found today certainly warrants a full version number, instead of just an update.

Steve Jobs, live from the stage, states that “post-pc” devices are the largest sellers for Apple, with nearly 15 million iPads sold in 2010, from April to December. As Jobs says “we’ve never had a product to get off to that fast of a start”.

Screen shot 2011 03 02 at 12.54.13 PM 520x231 Apple iPad 2 Announcement: Everything you need to know

So what is the iPad 2 all about? Here’s our list –

  • Faster — A5, dual-core processor. 9x faster graphics processing.
  • Dual Cameras — Front and rear facing cameras, for video: 720p HD at 30 FPS and front VGA
  • Gyrosope — Expect more and better applications.
  • Thinner — Apple says that the iPad 2 is 33% thinner than the previous version at 8.8mm thick.
  • Lighter — 1.5 pounds gets reduced to 1.3 pounds
  • Two Colors — White and Black, shipping from day 1.
  • Dual-3G — A model for AT&T and Verizon, though no LTE.
  • Battery — Same 10 hour life as before.
  • Same Price — Apple remains at the $499 price for the 16 gig WiFi version
  • Storage –16, 32 and 64-GB models.
  • Availability — The iPad 2 will begin shipping on March 11th for the US. March 25th for 26 more countries.

But that’s not the full story. The accessories are a big deal this time.

HDMI

HDMI mirrored output at 1080p, via cable.

Works with all applications and supports rotation. No setup required. You’ll also be able to charge your iPad while playing via the HDMI.

Smart Covers

Covers will replace cases, to add protection without adding weight. The cover will be held in place by magnets, enabling the iPad to go to sleep when it’s closed and then be brought back to life when opened. It will be available in polyurethane or leather, sold directly from Apple.

Screen shot 2011 03 02 at 1.02.57 PM 520x237 Apple iPad 2 Announcement: Everything you need to know

Interestingly, the magnets will be in the iPad itself, as well as within the cover. Oh yes, and the cover will also have a microfiber inside to clean the screen when it is closed. The poly cases will run $39, while the leather will cost $69.

iOS 4.3

  • JavaScript –4.3 will run JavaScript via the Nitro JavaScript engine, nearly twice as fast as before.
  • iTunes Home Sharing — Everything stored on your computer can be played on your iOS device. This is somewhat a reverse of AirPlay, where AirPlay would stream to your TV.
  • AirPlay — Applications and websites can play over AirPlay to your television. While many are thinking that this isn’t a big deal, it’s worth bearing in mind that The BBC and Al Jazeera have applications that can now be played directly to your TV.
  • Supports GSM iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS as well as 3rd and 4th generation iPod Touch devices.
  • Free to download on March 11th.

New Apps

  • Photo Booth
  • FaceTime
  • iMovie for iOS — Updated, available March 11th for $4.99
  • Garage Band — 8 track recording and mixing, many more features. March 11th for $4.99

So there you have it. While it might not have been everything you’ve hoped for, the fact that Apple has given a nice refresh at the same price point is welcome.

Update: If you missed it, Apple has posted a video of the keynote which you can watch here.