In the roll-up to the announcement of the iPad 2 earlier this year, tech pundits were rushing to be first with speculation as to what might change. A lighter, slimmer form factor seemed a given, not to mention a more powerful CPU. But then it became hazy, with some floating the possibility of a higher resolution display, an iPad equivalent to the iPhone’s Retina Display.
That’s all well and good, but then common sense considerations came to the forefront. Could Apple source tens of millions of higher resolution displays for roughly the same price they are paying now? There may be some wiggle room, if Apple could cut the price of other components to compensate, but at the end of the day, it’s clear they wanted the prices to remain unchanged.
Well, as you all know, the display of this year’s iPad is not altogether different from last year’s model. Sure, maybe some of you believe, as I do, that reading comfort would improve with sharper text, but it’s not that lots of people are complaining. Besides, would you really want to pay an extra $50 o $100 for the privilege of owning, say, a mythical iPad 2 Pro — or “Plus” as some refer to it?
Now the rumor mills are at it again, claiming that Apple is getting quotes for displays with higher pixel counts, perhaps in advance of introducing a new iPad this fall. Of course, that was the prediction this past spring, when the iPad 2 didn’t deliver on a higher resolution display, so it’s nothing new.
Even if you take those rumors at face value, that doesn’t mean a new model is perhaps two or three months away. For one thing, the production lines would have to ramp up in the next month or so to ensure a big supply of product on the day of introduction. Apple clearly doesn’t want to be caught in the midst of another endless backlog situation, one that persists to this day with the iPad 2. In fact, as of the time I’m writing this article, the waiting time at Apple’s online store is still one to two weeks, unchanged for quite a while. That doesn’t mean you can’t just go into a local store and buy one. In fact, I visited a Target store in Scottsdale, AZ this past weekend, and found a handful locked in a display case. But getting the one you want on the spot may be hit or miss, even though there are also reports that production yields continue to improve.
But here it is in early July, with Apple still fighting an iPad 2 inventory problem. It may be weeks before things settle down, assuming demand continues to hold up. So would it make sense from a marketing standpoint to just stop building the current model and introduce a newer model this fall, in time for the holiday season?
I fail to see the logic in gutting one successful product for another when it’s not even possible to keep up with demand for the existing model. Apple is known to toss designs overboard in revising products, and the iPod is a notable example, but they’ve been running on an annual upgrade calendar for that line. There seems to be no reason to refresh the iPad until 2012.
Perhaps there could be a more expensive “Pro” model, as I suggested. But in the scheme of things, Apple has, for once, actually been able to sell a product at a price that competitors continue to struggle to match. Yes, you can get cheaper tablets, but they are mostly junk that most customers, except perhaps in third world countries, don’t care about. Even for stuff that’s intended to be a straight on iPad alternative, demand is tepid. The public wants the iPad, not the wannabes from Samsung, Motorola, and RIM. And I don’t expect much action for the new HP tablet. Even the executive in charge of that division, who used to run the iPod division at Apple, concedes the current state of the tablet’s WebOS is probably equivalent to the earliest iterations of Mac OS X, thus not quite ready for prime time.
Of course, I may be all wrong about this, but I’m convinced that commentators expecting a new iPad from Apple this fall are looking at the wrong product. The one that will appear is a new iPhone, whether it’s called the iPhone 5 or iPhone 4GS, or whatever.
The sensible speculation would be what form the next iPhone will take. Some suggest a minor refresh, with revised components, such as an eight megapixel camera, the same A5 processor that’s used in the iPad 2, and other changes. Maybe there will be minor alterations to the case, especially if Apple builds a world phone that contains hardware for both GSM and CDMA. If that happens, the antenna system would have to be changed to accommodate both networks, and I suppose Apple could use the occasion to attempt to reduce the impact of that legendary “Death Grip.”
Others suggest that Apple is already shopping for components to build a thinner, lighter iPhone, perhaps with an edge-to-edge screen to better compete with smartphones that sport larger displays. This seems less likely, though you can’t predict very much when it comes to Apple.
At the end of the day, it’ll be fun to speculate about the new iPhone, and perhaps the next iPod refresh. But talking about another iPad release this year is just a waste of time.