Apple’s hyped up March 7 event has come and gone, the date of release is set to March 16th, and bloggers around the world are digesting the news of the New iPad. For once the rumor mill was completely right about a new iPad. But first lets talk about that name for a moment. The New iPad? Really? Yes, that’s it’s name and yes that’s pretty much as conceited as you can get. One can argue that the name is supposed to be simpler than numbers because..well…it’s new after all, right? But what’s simpler than iPad 3? We have the iPad 2 now, and the new one is the iPad 3. They’ve been doing it for the iPhone, why change it now? Is the iPhone 5 going to be called the New iPhone? Is the iPad 4 going to be called the Newer iPad?
It’s obvious that Apple is changing from a company that humbly announces the best hardware in the world while maintaining a 10-15% market share to a company who is acknowledging it’s hipster fanbase and the massive hype that surrounds all it’s products. But anyway, enough of my rambling. Let’s dive into the new stuff.
A 9.7” Display With a Higher Resolution Than My 23” Monitor
We might as well start with the biggest upgrade. The New iPad is coming with a massive high 2048 x 1536 resolution screen. That’s 263 pixels per inch. Steve Jobs said once that the human retina will stop seeing individual pixels once a screen is “around 300 ppi,” and while the iPhone does exceed that and the iPad does not, I doubt anyone will be complaining.
The real question is whether that high resolution is necessary. On a Windows computer or a Mac, higher resolution matters because you can fit more windows on a screen, fit more text on a page, edit photos more precisely, or simply be more productive. Since the iPad is primarily a consumption device that shows everything at full screen, there is no productivity value in a higher resolution screen. The only value is that text will look crisper, pictures will be rendered at higher definition, movies be rendered at higher definition, and games will look better. These are all valuable to a certain degree, especially since we will finally get 1080p movies on an iPad, but I would argue that text, pictures, and games (especially the casual games that appear iOS and Android) won’t look that much better on a 9.7” display no matter what resolution it is.
This is a side by side comparison showed at the event between the 1024×768 iPad 2 and 2048×1536 New iPad. Do you notice the difference? Even with the little magnifying glass, I can’t tell which one is higher definition. Granted, you may notice the difference when you see it up close, but my point stands. It’s a cool little spec increase, and I’m sure it looks great, but if you have an iPad 2, it might be worth checking out in the store before you look to replace it.
A Camera That Doesn’t Suck
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of how necessary a back camera is on a tablet, but at least Apple is putting in a good set of cameras this time. The back camera has been upgraded to a 5MP version of the same amazing camera in the iPhone 4S, so should you tote around your New iPad instead of your digital camera or iPhone for taking pictures, you’ll at least good some good quality. Included with that camera is the ability to record 1080p video as well as image stabilization and noise reduction. The front camera is likely unchanged, which is a bit annoying considering that and Facetime is really the only use legitimate use of a camera on a tablet.
Apple did manage to make that fancy new camera a bit more useful though. They have finally (seriously, why is this not out yet?) released iPhoto for iPad on the App store, which will allow you to play with and edit those pictures you took on the go. This will be nice for amateur and possibly even professional photographers, as it will allow them to do some quick cropping and editing before they upload the photo to Facebook, or Flicker, or their webpage or whatever. I would imagine more serious photographers would use a DSLR to take the pictures, then use a Camera Connector Kit to get their pics to iPhoto for quick editing.
Obviously a mobile version of iPhoto (already a simplistic program) will not even come close to Photoshop, but it does allow an impressive amount of basic editing including bezel gestures, effects, tweaking white balance, exposure and saturation, adding geotags, notes and also captions. Since it’s on iOS iPhoto for iPad will also include multi-touch editing and direct beaming.
Of course this announcement comes about a week after Adobe’s Photoshop Touch app for iPad. But while Photoshop will cost $10 in the App Store, iPhoto will be only $4.99.
Other New Apps
Apple did also announce updates to iMovie, iWork, and Garage Band. All of the updates seem to follow the upgrades made to the iPad as well. iMovie now includes HD editing, creating trailers, and some more advanced editing tools. Garage Band allows 3 iOS devices to connect together to create a Jam Session in real time. iWork fully utilizes the higher resolution display and adds 3D charts to the mix.
A5 Processor…with an X
With all these fancy new graphics intensive features, The New iPad requires a new processor right? Initially the iPad 3 was rumored to have a quad core processor, but it seems this will not be the case. The New iPad will come with a dual core A5x processor. There doesn’t seem to be much of a CPU upgrade for this machine, but the “x” does seem to stand for it’s upgraded graphics chip. The A5x comes with an unannounced “quad core” graphics chip that promises to boost graphics power 4x over the iPad 2. This upgrade is, of course, needed to power that massive display, photo editing, HD movie editing, and the games that will run on that retina display
This upgrade is smart for a number of reasons, but the chief one is that the iPad does not need an upgraded processor. iOS is a very simplistic interface, and the apps are going to be optimized for whatever hardware Apple puts in it anyway. Android needs a bit more power because it runs a more complex interface with widgets, customizable home screens and live wallpapers in addition to running on a bevvy of hardware designs. Even the original iPad still runs perfectly well. Not upgrading the CPU to a quad core not a disappointment, but understandable. The A5x likely will also keep battery life up (10 hours) and price down(starting at $499), which is great for users.
The First iOS Device With LTE
The New iPad’s Wifi/3G models will continue to live on AT&T and Verizon, but will be upgraded to 4G LTE. As of yet, it’s unknown whether this upgrade will entail a price increase on the typically no-contract plans that these two company’s offer, but I’m sure Apple will be very motivated to try to negotiate the same pricing and data rates. The inclusion of 4G is also expected to drive the iPad’s battery life down by about an hour (9 hours).
Ironically enough, the inclusion of that high resolution panel, bigger apps to support the higher resolution, 1080p movies, and HD photos and videos uploading through iCloud will probably demand a higher amount of data use. Combine that with the faster internet possible through LTE, and you could have a lot more data overages should Verizon and AT&T keep their data plans and caps at the same pricing. But hey, that’s the fault of the user, right?
Apple TV, But New
As a companion to the New iPad, a new Apple TV was announced to be released on the same March 16th date as the iPad. The name for the new device is, yes you guessed it, The New Apple TV. Geez, Apple.
Unfortunately the Apple TV Television has still not ripened into a real product. In the same vein as the New iPad, we are seeing a modestly upgraded Apple TV.
The New Apple TV has an A5 Processor which finally allows it to reach 1080p, something that every single competitive offering has had for over a year. Ahem, also included is compatibility with iTunes Match and AirPlay(which the original already had). I understand the need for a more powerful processor to support 1080p and full AirPlay support, but iTunes Match? Really? Apple TV users will not only have to pay for iTunes Match, but also will need to pay $100 to actually play their matched music on their TV? Could we have a firmware update, maybe?
A Ho Hum Upgrade
So anyway, the rumor mill can stop. I’m happy that we actually have products to shut up the rumor mongering bloggers out there, who basically released all the specs of the new iPad before it was announced.
Basically, we have a “new” iPad which has a higher resolution display of dubious usefulness, a back camera that works as long as you actually use it, a sorta upgraded processor, and LTE internet speeds for the $630 + $30/mo. folks. It is a bit fitting that Apple named it The New iPad, since it really isn’t really enough of an upgrade to warrant a iPad 3 name. iPad 2S or iPad 2HD would have been acceptable but I guess Apple decided not to do that.
Ultimately, it seems like Apple is slowing down a bit. They are realizing the limits of their simplistic and overly optimized software. The most important upgrade Apple can make to a new iOS device is to upgrade the software and add new features. The iPad 2 was perfectly fine as it was, but Apple needed to clean up some of the things that made it seem dated: the 1024×768 screen, 3G antennas, and the unusable cameras. But even then, those lower end features still allowed Apple to sell more iPads than Microsoft sold computers. Obviously, these “low end” specs are not that important to the vast majority of users. The user experience is important, and that’s driven by software.
Ultimately, if you’ve got an iPad 2, I don’t think it’s worth it to upgrade. If you have an original iPad or are looking at a tablet and want iOS, then it might be worth it to spend the money for the latest and greatest.
And on that note, the iPad 2 is also dropping $100 in price. Considering the minor perceivable difference between the two, it might be a better option for those envying an iOS experience. You just won’t be able to sit at table with all the cool kids sporting their New iPads.