Apple today launched the third generation of its Apple iPad tablet at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Apple also announced iOS 5.1, which is available today, and new iLife and iWork apps. See also: New iPad review.

The new Apple tablet is known only as 'iPad', and is available to pre-order in the UK today. We can buy it on March 16, in white or black. The iPad 2 will remain onsale, at a lower price. The new iPad has an A5X chip, and a high-resolution Retina display. It still offers 10 hours of battery life, and is thin at 9.4mm (albeit that is a little thicker than the iPad 2). It has a much improved HD camera, and Siri voice-recognition and control, like the iPhone 4S. The new iPad also has 4G LTE connectivity, and can be used by up to five devices as personal hotspot. Oh, and in a trick that only Apple can pull off, it costs the same as the iPad 2 used to (starting from £399). Which is, frankly, staggering.

The new Apple iPad, according to CEO Tim Cook: "Makes amazing improvements to the most fundamental features of the device while retaining everything that millions of people have grown to love about it."

Senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple Phil Schiller said: "We think the new iPad will really change what people believe is possible with this device."

Cook said: "With the amazing new iPad, a new affordable price for the very popular iPad 2, and amazing software like iPhoto and the rest of the iLife and iWork suites, we have redefined once again the category that Apple created just two years ago with the original iPad."

New iPad review

See also: iPad launch as it happened

New iPad: Retina display

The first new feature Apple demonstrated was its high-definition 'Retina' display: "Until you see it, you can't understand how amazing it is." The display is the highest definition ever on a mobile device, at 2048 by 1536 pixels, or over 3.1 million pixels.

Apple said that it would make graphics, text, and icons 'sharper than you can imagine'. He said that "text is going to rival anything that you've seen in print... everything that you do is just going to look stunning... surfing the web, reading emails... and photos are going to look amazing."

Existing apps will look great, according to Apple, but app developers have the option of taking advantage of the extra graphics processing power and create extra detail. Apple invited games developers to show this off, including Infinity Blade: Dungeons, which will be coming soon to the iPad.

New iPad: iWork and iLife apps

Schiller also unveiled new iterations of iWork apps. "You may recall when we launched the first iPad, we launched a few apps along with it to show how far you could go with creativity software." Well now, Schiller said, the iWork apps have been updated to take advantage of the new display. They cost the same to buy, and it is a free update.

iLife apps such as Garage Band, and iMovie have also been updated, and iPhoto added. Intriguingly, with Garage Band up to four iPads can play music together over Wi-Fi. These apps are also available now, for the same price as before but with a free update.

iPhoto is the most important app, and it's new, Schiller said. It will replace current photo apps, he said, being great for everyday, with the same photo library, but great new browsing. He said is has new ways to edit with multi-touch editing, professional-quality effects, brushes for applying those effects, and there's Photo Beaming to let you beam high resolution photos between your devices.

Photo Journals help you share photos with friends, and there are a bunch of new touch interface navigation features. Also, you can edit up to 12 megapixels of a photo, and all the photo-editing functions you would expect are present in a full feature  photo editor, all non-destructive.

New iPad: iSight camera

The new iPad  has an 'iSight camera'. On the front of their devices, they have a FaceTime camera. This is, according to Apple, capable of HD video recording at 1080p resolution, with video stabilisation. It also offers auto face detection, auto exposure lock and auto focus lock. There's also temporal noise reduction for low light photography.

New iPad: Siri, and 4G LTE

The new iPad also has Siri voice recognition input and navigation, like the iPhone 4S. Supporting British, US and Australian English, as well as French, German, and Japanese. And, as many had predicted, it is 4G capable (much good it will do us on this side of the pond - although it won't hurt in pressuring telcos to upgrade). That said, the new iPad is all-round great at wireless connectivity, as it  adds HSPA+ with a max downlink of 21 Mbps, dual carrier HSDPA with a max of 42 Mbps, and LTE with a max of 73 Mbps download, to the already impressive EV-DO with a maximum downlink of 3.1Mbps, and HSPA with a max downlink of 7.2.

Critically, you can share the cell connection with up to five devices - something that is likely to make iPad sales people (and users) jump for joy. Just the one SIM required, thanks. It's a personal hotspot.

New iPad

During the event, Cook said: "We think that the iPad is the poster child of the post-PC world." He said the company had sold 15.4 million iPads in the past quarter alone. This is, according to Cook, more than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC line worldwide.

iPad screen

"This is incredible when you remember that this device has been on the market for less than two years." 

He added that in order to succeed the iPad has to be the best device for the things you do the most often. Browsing the web, checking email. He said that Apple customers told him this was the case (but then he would say that).

Cook said that the iPad succeeded because of its screen, and because there were so many apps designed specifically for it. He then took the unusual - for Apple - move of showing a rival Samsung tablet for disparaging comparison. Apple sure hates Samsung right now.

Cook also said that movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store will now support 1080p HD, and that iCloud supports movies.

At the start of the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared on stage in an untucked, collared shirt, saying he was 'very excited' about the launch. He was joined on stage by senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, Phil Schiller.

iPad 3

Cook followed his predecessor Steve Jobs' lead by describing what the Apple founder called 'the post-PC world'. He said that the PC is no longer the centre of our computing world, and that our most important devices now needed to be 'more portable, more personal and easier to use'.

He referenced what he described as the 'three blockbuster products of the post-PC world', the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, a: "revolutionary device that redefined a whole new category".

And how! According to Cook, in 2011 alone Apple sold 172 million 'post-PC devices', accounting for 76 percent of their revenues - which explains why plain old 'Apple' is no longer 'Apple Computer'. Cook also said that Apple Stores were crucial, as they created a space where people would get to know their new devices (and - what he didn't say - spend an absolute fortune in comfort). According to Cook there are now 362 Apple retail stores around the world.

Apple said that key to the success of the iPad, iPhone and iPod is iOS: "Our customers tell us that they love it." iOS 5.1 is available today, Cook said, and Siri will be rolled out across Japan in the next few months.

Apple also said that Apple now has more than 100 million customers of its iCloud service. And that iCloud now supports movies. You can redownload movies you purchased on any of your devices. Movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store will now support 1080p HD, he said.

On stage, Apple demonstrated  Photo Stream. When he took a photo on his iPhone, it appeared on his Apple TV without having to do anything at all. Photos displayed full screen, at 1080p.

Prior to the event Apple was typically coy about it's new iPad, but it confirmed that a tablet would be released when it sent out invitations that simply stated "We have something we want you to see... and touch" with pictures of a hand touching an iPad (it's the image on the top left of this page).

You can follow the Apple iPad 3 launch live with our liveblog from the event: Live: Apple iPad launch. Rumours had been rife about the exact specifcation of the third generation iPad, as you can see if you check out PC Advisor's own: iPad 3 release date and features rumour round-up.

iPad launch