Some Red Flags About New iPad Fear Mongering

April 4th, 2012

As you might expect, the critics are coming out of the woodwork struggling to find things wrong about Apple’s third-generation iPad. Certainly, the attempt by Consumer Reports to paint the best-selling tablet as somehow defective because of an alleged heat problem failed miserably. In the end, CR gave it a top rating, but just barely ahead of someone’s Android OS tablet. Most troubling, though, was the fact that CR’s tests results evidently didn’t match anyone else’s in terms of heat generation. They got 113 degrees (116 degrees when the unit was hooked up to a charger), whereas Macworld and others managed a mere 100 degrees. Worse, it doesn’t seem as if CR has bothered to run temperature tests of tablets from other companies.

Now since this is the first Apple product to appear since the death of Steve Jobs (the iPhone 4s was launched the day before), they had to aspire to a higher standard, the critics say, because of skepticism that Apple can continue to out-innovate the rest of the tech industry. There’s even one story suggesting that the new iPad is “chunkier,” and hence runs against the “Jobs Doctine” of making product upgrades lighter and thinner.

As a practical matter, the extra thickness is almost impossible to see unless you put the third generation iPad next to the iPad 2 and look real close. Without a scale, you probably won’t readily notice the slight weight difference. Obviously the Retina Display and the need to house a larger battery explains why Apple couldn’t make it any thinner or lighter, although that might happen with future generations as production increases, and components become thinner and lighter. The need for a larger battery also raised a red flag from that unnamed blogger, who frets over the fact that battery life didn’t improve. I don’t see the need to spend much time explaining how the new iPad’s display requires more power. More power requires a battery capable of delivering that power while still meeting Apple’s battery life requirements. Why do I have to explain this?

At the same time, it is not true that every Apple product update is necessarily lighter and thinner. As a matter of fact, Apple will often keep a design running for several generations, only making internal component changes before there’s a wholesale form factor revision. That also puts the lie to the complaints that the iPhone 4s should have looked different from the iPhone 4, and thus should have been an iPhone 5. Apple’s history doesn’t necessarily support that contention.

More to the point, it’s pretty obvious that most any new Apple product you’ll be seeing over the next couple of years was approved for production while Jobs was still alive and directing Apple’s strategy. This is a question that may have some importance in 2013 or 2014, but not today.

Another silly complaint has it that Apple should have made the processor more powerful, complaining that the A5X doesn’t deliver real performance improvements, except for games, as if that was a serious problem. As it stands, the iPad 3 is equal or better in benchmarks when pitted against competing tablets, so where’s the beef?

I suppose some might complain that Apple could have delivered better cameras. Instead of having “only” a five megapixel sensor for the rear camera, why not eight megapixels, same as the iPhone 4s. What about the lack of a front camera that supports HD for FaceTime or even for the GoToMeeting service from Citrix? Would beefier cameras have hurt Apple’s bottom line that much?

A personal complaint: The internal speaker is still mono. That’s so 1950s. Why couldn’t Apple deliver stereo speakers? Mono might make sense for a smartphone, but a tablet? Certainly Samsung has no compunction about touting “surround sound speakers” on the 10.1 inch version of the Galaxy Tab. Sure, surround sound might be overkill, but stereo? Yes, I agree the audio enhancements on such a small device might be minimal, but it would be audible. Yes, I realize you can use an earphone, or external speakers, but that means needing extra gear just to hear stereo playback. Even original PowerBooks with similar-sized screens had stereo speakers.

The crux of my argument, however, is that there are legitimate reasons to criticize the latest iPad or any other Apple product. I often wonder why certain decisions — or compromises — are made. Granted Apple is keeping a tight lid on component costs, and they may have opted to make a few sacrifices to compensate for the more expensive display and beefier battery. Yes, I suppose one with a cynical mindset might believe that some features are being held back to persuade you to buy the 2013 iPad. There has to be a reason to entice people to upgrade every year or two.

At the same time, media freak outs based on a few minor quibbles or just plain incorrect assumptions do little but drive traffic to certain sites. That’s the reason why, for example, the person who raised those nonexistent red flags won’t be getting a link from me. Sure, I realize you can just Google the source, but I hope you will spend your time reading material that tries to be fair about such matters. There are enough fake stories online as it is.

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6 Responses to “Some Red Flags About New iPad Fear Mongering”

  1. Viswakarma says:

    When elephant walks, dogs bark!!!

  2. Peter says:

    At the same time, it is not true that every Apple product update is necessarily lighter and thinner.

    I’d be curious–can you give me an example? I don’t necessarily disagree with your larger point, but I can’t think of one case where Apple’s follow-up product was heavier or thicker.

    • @Peter, I would regard the iPad 2 and third generation model as essentially equivalent in terms of size and weight. WIthout measuring gear at hand, it’s not a change of any significance. The iPhone 4s, by the way, weighs 3 grams more than the iPhone 4. It felt the same to me.

      Any questions?


  3. John says:

    Stereo might be nice, but I don’t think it is a big deal. If I’m in a public place like a plane or a coffee shop or library I have to use headphones. At home I use Bluetooth speakers (soundmatters foxL) which sound far better than any built in speakers could sound.

    I would like to see better touch screen response so that writing with a stylus would be as smooth as writing on paper.

  4. immovableobject says:

    Adding an additional speaker for stereo would force Apple to compromise on one or more of the following:

    1) Enlarge the case to accommodate another driver and acoustical chamber
    2) Use tinier speakers further sacrificing sound volume and quality
    3) Reduce the battery size (and running time) to make room for the extra speaker.

    And if they add one speaker for stereo in landscape mode, people will still gripe about lack of stereo in portrait mode.

    Everything involves a tradeoff. Depending on one’s priorities there will always something to complain about.

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