iPad arrives April 3

Apple announces the Wi-Fi-only version of its tablet computer/iPod Touch hybrid will launch in the US the same week as the DSi XL; 3G Models arrive in late April.

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Late January saw Apple unveil its long-awaited iPad at a San Francisco event. One month and a billion feminine hygiene product jokes later, the company announced the computer/iPod Touch hybrid will arrive on April 3, the same week the DSi XL goes on sale on March 28. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata isn't worried though, having already dismissed the device as containing "no surprises."

The iPad can embiggen any iPhone game.
The iPad can embiggen any iPhone game.

April 3 will see three models of the Wi-Fi-only iPad go on sale: 16GB ($499), 32GB ($599), and 64GB ($699). The 3G and Wi-Fi models will arrive later in the month, also in three models: 16GB ($629), 32GB ($729), and 64GB ($829).

Both types of iPad will use the 802.11n wireless standard. AT&T will offer two prepaid monthly plans for the 3G model--$15 for 250MB of data and $30 for unlimited data--with no contractual obligation. However, unlike the iPhone, the iPad will be unlocked, allowing users to use micro-SIM cards from other providers.

The iPad resembles a large iPhone or iPod Touch. It will have a half-inch thick, 9.7-inch multi-touch screen and will weigh just 1.5 pounds. At its heart is an all-new 1GHz processor that places the CPU, graphics, and memory all on a single chip.

The device has Bluetooth and a compass built in, and its battery life is around 10 hours--with over a month of standby. It will not, however, include a camera as MacBooks and iPhones do, nor will it support Adobe Flash, the ubiquitous browser software used by Web sites for animation.

All non-camera-based App Store programs--including games--can run on the iPad unmodified, and the iPad will use the same touch-screen and accelerometer-based control scheme as the iPhone. iPhone apps' pixels can be doubled to fit the iPad screen with the touch of a button, and new apps can be designed with the iPad screen in mind. (Apple released a software developer kit for the device in January.)

Companies making iPad-optimized games include Gameloft, which showed off a first-person shooter called Nova, and Electronic Arts, which has already converted its iPhone version of Need for Speed: Shift for full iPad resolution. Apple has been heavily promoting the iPhone and iPad as gaming platforms, saying they offer a far larger game library than the DS or PSP.

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