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  • Forget the New iPad! What About the Next iPad?

    March 21st, 2012

    I think few would disagree that the iPad 3 is destined to become yet another breakout hit for Apple. With a reported three million units sold as of the first weekend, some analysts are predicting as many as 12 million will be reaching customers by the end of the quarter. That assumes, of course, that supplies and sales continue at the current fantastic rate.

    The reviews are, almost in uniform, in praise of of the latest and greatest iPad, particularly the gorgeous Retina Display. Sure, some may dispute the claim that 264 pixels per inch is sufficient to render those pixels indistinguishable at a normal 15-inch viewing distance. It’s been suggested that Apple really needed over 400 pixels per inch to earn that title, but that may be taking things a little too far. Few are complaining about such technical niceties. Besides, it’s not as if Apple’s competitors are coming up with similarly sharp displays, let alone anything better. This is an argument that really isn’t worth much further discussion.

    But there is one potential fly in the ointment. It appears that Consumer Reports is now investigating reports that the iPad 3 puts off too much heat. This comes on the heels of some reports that it’s warmer to the touch. One estimate had it running 10 degrees hotter than the iPad 2, which is still a lot cooler than most note-books. It’s not as if there are widespread reports of the thing running hot, as opposed to warm. But you have to expect that Apple had to devise a scheme to disperse lots of internal heat what with more power hungry components in operation. Apple’s position is that the new iPad is running “well within” specifications. But it appears that CR is desperate for headlines. Indeed, their initial analysis complained that the iPad 3 wouldn’t charge when under a heavy load, such as playing an action-filled game. What a silly reaction? I presume CR realizes that you normally don’t use an iPad or iPhone very much while in charging mode. Or maybe they don’t.

    Anyway, the larger question is where does Apple go from here?

    Certainly there were serious tradeoffs in keeping the new iPad relatively the same size and weight as the previous version. Yes, it’s a mite heavier and thicker, but you have to look real close to see a difference, and even then it may require hard measurements. However, the iPad and similarly sized tablets are already considered to be on the heavy side. It’s not as if one-handed use is comfortable for any length of time. So I would expect Apple is working hard to make the next generation Retina Display and accompanying components thinner and lighter. Knocking a few ounces off that box would be an amazing achievement. If it gets down to a pound or so, I expect the complaints about the iPad’s girth would vanish.

    Another issue, occasioned by the Retina Display and LTE support, is the larger battery. While that’s not a serious issue itself, it also means that it takes a lot longer to recharge. It’s more common now to keep your new iPad tethered to a charging station, or a Mac or PC, for the entire night rather than two or three hours. But this might require an upgrade to battery technology, along with ongoing power efficiencies.

    Other than a thinner and lighter form factor, just what’s left? Well, I realize Apple is going to want to continue to upgrade the processor and graphics. Today’s iPad has the same dual-core processor as the iPad 2, although graphics have been upgraded to quad-core. In the real world, that extra pixel crunching capability is required to handle the demands of the Retina Display. In real world benchmarks, it seems to run fast enough. Some early tests that include Android tablets indicate the new iPad is highly competitive, but it still comes down to the user experience. There Apple excels, which is why other tablets are going nowhere. Even the greatly hyped Amazon Kindle Fire appears to have lost its mojo since the first of the year.

    But is there something afoot that would allow Apple to make the next iPad a significant upgrade after what they did this year? Thinner? Lighter? Well, I suppose spiffier looks would account for some sales glory, and better performance and, perhaps, battery life, might be important factors in convincing the media that the next upgrade is significant. It seems far too many so-called journalists and commentators cannot seem to comprehend that a product revision might be a major upgrade even if it looks very much the same as the previous model. Of course the success of the iPad 3 and iPhone 4s put the lie to that argument.

    But it’ll be repeated next year if the next iPad looks mostly the same as the current model. Maybe they’d prefer a diamond-shaped version, or one with tiny rectangles at each edge. Oh wait, maybe someone will actually take me seriously.

    Otherwise, Apple might install a rear camera with more pixels, and make the front sensor HD, for better FaceTime performance. Having an onboard dictation feature for inserting text into emails and other documents is a good thing, but I expect some of you would have preferred to see Siri in all her glory. But Apple never puts in all the features for which customers clamor in a single year. If it’s not there in 2013, maybe it’ll happen in 2014.

    And I haven’t begun to consider iOS 6, which is expected this fall.

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