It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas? Birthday? Yom Kippur? Nope. It’s iPad announcement time!
Disclaimer: Predicting what Apple will actually announce is like hitting the lotto twice. Sure it’s happened, but you’re not going to bet your 401k on it.
So where do we start?
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
How about the name. This should be simple, right? Wrong.
With the introduction of the iPhone, Apple set off on a new naming convention. Almost everyone is familiar with this. Back in October of 2011, a cry rang out through all of geekdom when Apple released the iPhone 4S instead of an iPhone 5. Anyone paying attention may have expected this. After all, the pattern was set: iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and now iPhone 4S.
So there’s a chance Apple could announce an iPad 2S. Looking back, the S in iPhone 4S stood for Speed and Siri and there’s a good chance both are coming to the newest iPad. It’s just too early in the production life of the iPad line to know which direction Apple will go.
Typically, Apple assigns an S to a product that has been bumped up in terms of hardware but hasn’t changed much physically. Stick with us through this post and you can weigh in on what you think we’ll see.
WHAT WE KNOW
Nothing. Really. Apple is notorious for secrecy; going as far as releasing fake projects and parts to throw the media off. But there are some compelling hints floating around the internet.
The most compelling has to be an iPad backplate that turned up in China (many of these parts do since tabloids pay huge money to have parts smuggled out by workers employed by Apple’s manufacturing partners).
Not a whole lot has changed here. However, some careful examination reveals a slight difference in the sloped edges of the casing and an enlarged camera hole (more on that later). Side by side comparisons also revealed that the new case was (surprisingly) a millimeter thicker than the current iPad 2 casing. There could be good reason for this. Or it’s a fake. My decisiveness is mind boggling.
It’s safe to assume the new iPad will have upgraded cameras. While some were torn on whether the iPad 2 needed cameras in the first place, everyone agreed that the ones included were complete crap.
I still have no idea why the iPad needs a rear camera. Who is going to hold this thing up and use it as a camera? But I digress. Look for at least a 5MP camera on the new iPad with the improved optics found on the iPhone 4S. Depending on Apple’s volume ordering, this could easily be an 8MP camera but I don’t see Apple upstaging it’s flagship phone that they regularly tout as the best mobile phone camera available.
Where they should really invest is in the front facing camera. The iPad needs a FaceTime HD camera like those found in the newest MacBook Pros. Sure it’s fun to mess around with PhotoBooth for iPad but FaceTime calls in a high resolution 720p would be amazing. While this would be a big jump from the poor excuse for a camera the iPad 2 has, I’m inclined to believe they’ll make the leap. If for nothing else than to show off the next item.
THE BEST SCREEN ON ANY MOBILE DEVICE
For the last year, code buried deep into iOS has hinted at graphics that are double the resolution of the current iPad. Now, with the help of our sneaky tabloids in China, a screen capable of displaying those graphics has turned up. And it just so happens to be the same size and dimensions of the current iPad.
That’s right. Double the resolution of the original iPad. There’s a bunch of impressive sounding numbers I could throw around, but really, you don’t care about that. Just know this: at the distance most people hold an iPad away from their face, your eyes won’t be able to discern individual pixels (the tiny little jagged edge boxes you can see in digital text and images). It will be like reading a printed page. Compare this to almost all laptops on the market today and you’ll soon realize the new iPad will have better resolution than the best 17″ laptops packed into just a 9.7″ screen.
BUT CAN THIS THING REPLACE MY LAPTOP?
Yes. That’s as simple as I can put it. We have had an iPad in our house since September 2010. Since then both laptops (Dells) have sat unused in a corner until this past week when I gave one of them away to a family who didn’t have the means to purchase their own computer.
But a lot of people run programs that are very demanding on a computer’s processing and video hardware. Currently, the iPad is capable of running some very sophisticated applications. However, sacrifices and tradeoffs have to be made in order for it to run them smoothly. Could the next iPad be capable of running applications as robust as those on a laptop? That’s where things get interesting and (of course) harder to predict.
What we can tell you is that Apple has something in the works to be released sometime and at some cost (again, I don’t get paid enough (nothing) to be decisive). How do we know this? It came straight from the horses mouth, CEO of Apple, Tim Cook. With Apple’s move to lightweight super portable laptops like the MacBook Air, some had speculated that Apple might design a laptop that ran the iPad software. Cook dispelled this rumor quickly to Analyst Richard Gardner and slipped a bit in for those of us who look to the future:
Gardner cited Cook as alluding to “rapid innovation on the iOS platform” that will “significantly broaden the use case for tablets,” and stated he “walked away from this meeting with the impression that Apple feels iPad satisfies—or will soon satisfy—the needs of those who might have been interested in such a product”.
The emphasis is mine but the implications do not change. Apple has something in the works to increase the computing power of the iPad and make it more of a productivity tool. Does this mean some new-fangled chip to power a new iPad? It’s possible. Apple has patented and trademarked several intriguing items in recent months
The safest thing to predict is that we have no idea what Apple is up to in this area. Something big is coming we just don’t know when.
SIRI CAN YOU HEAR ME
Siri on the new iPad. Probably. Mostly, because they can and not because it’s needed right away. Siri will be more useful in the future as Apple fully integrates their devices (Desktops, mobile products, and TV).
PRICE POINTS AND COMPETITION
You’ve seen them around now for a couple of months. Amazon’s Kindle Fire made a splash this past Holiday season by undercutting the iPad by $300. Like we discussed in our Give in to the Gateway Drug post, Americans in particular love them some cheap electronics. As such, Amazon sold a lot of those suckers. But lets get one thing straight: the Kindle Fire is NOT an iPad. Not even close. It’s slower, smaller, cheaply made, and Amazon loses money on each one sold. If you’ve ever used an iPad you’ll immediately be turned off by the Fire. If not, well then enjoy your psuedo-tablet.
But Apple in recent years has come around to the idea of devices at multiple price points. The iPhone line in particular has had amazing success. Three models of phones at three different price points: iPhone 4S $199, iPhone 4 $99, and iPhone 3GS $0.99. Those three phones were the numbers 1, 2, and 3 selling phone in the US last year.
There’s a good chance Apple will go guns-a-blazin’ at Amazon by offering the iPad 2 at a discounted rate to lure some of the would-be-low-end-buyers into the Apple ecosystem. Look for the iPad 2 to continue to be sold by Apple after the next iPad is released and could be priced as low as $349.
THERE’S GOTTA BE MORE!
And there probably is. Apple always has something to offer that no one saw coming. There really is no way to predict any of this.
What we can safely say: just like 2010 and 2011, 2012 will be the year of the iPad 3 (or 2S). There are some really nice tablets coming to market now. But when you compare them side by side with the iPad, none of them stack up in regard to stability, usability, number of apps, or reliability. Most don’t even compare to the original iPad.
It’s safe to say, unless you have your expectations way too high, you won’t be disappointed by what Apple will announce in the near future. Tim Cook said it himself:
“You can be assured we are working as hard as ever this year to deliver an incredible year and some products that will blow your mind”