Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) issued invitations to the media for an event in San Francisco next week where it is expected to release its next version of its popular iPad tablet.
The event will take place March 7 at 1 p.m. ET at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, where Apple has held previous product launches. The invitation only says: "We have something you really have to see. And touch." However, it has been speculated for some time that the company will introduce its latest iPad in March and that it will include an LTE modem, the first LTE product for Apple. An LTE tablet could be a presage to an LTE iPhone later this year.
AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will launch an LTE version of the iPad, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal from earlier this month. AT&T and Verizon have been the only two U.S. carriers so far to offer the iPad, though Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) started selling the iPhone last fall.
Apple has historically held off on supporting new wireless network technologies until the networks provide ample coverage, and thus a positive user experience. Currently, Verizon's LTE network covers more than 200 million POPs and AT&T's LTE network covers more than 74 million POPs. Additionally, the iPad's larger battery and customers' penchant for using the iPad on Wi-Fi networks could have made the addition of LTE more palatable to Apple--critics have noted that LTE connections quickly burn through users' smartphone batteries. According to multiple reports the device will also have a 2048×1536 Retina Display and a faster processor.
Apple sold 15.43 million iPads in the fourth quarter and 40.5 million iPads in 2011. While the iPad continues to trounce other tablets in the market--the device commanded 58 percent of the global tablet market in the fourth quarter--Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android is closing the gap. Android tablets now represent 39 percent of the global tablet market, up from 29 percent a year earlier, according to Strategy Analytics.
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