Everyone, and I mean everyone, is going ga-ga over Apple’s latest release – The New iPad. I am sure it is a great gadget, and my teeny-tiny experience with iPad 2 was rather amazing, but what has the techno-rati crowd sighing over after all? Let’s drill down to the additions in the New iPad and how it is a better, smarter and serves more purposes than iPad 2.
Continue read for:
- Features that matter
- What hasn’t changed
- Number Crunching
- Controversially yours
Some of the new iPad’s key features include a 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel “retina display,” which has a higher resolution than a standard 1080p HDTV, and four times as many pixels and 44% greater image saturation than the iPad 2. “It has text sharper than a newspaper. Photos will look incredible. Fonts look amazing,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing. “It has the best mobile display that has ever shipped.” Weighing in at 1.4 lbs and 9.4mm thick, the LTE device will work with AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., and Bell, Telus and Rogers in Canada. It will have 10 hours of battery life and 9 hours on 4G.
An upgraded iSight camera has 5-megapixel resolution with backside illumination is another highlight of the new iPad. In addition, the camera includes a 5-element lens and a hybrid IR filter. It also includes autofocus and white balance and an edge-to-edge, auto-focus lock. In essence, Apple has taken the optics of the iPhone 4S and put them in the iPad, albeit at a slightly lower megapixel rating.
The camera records video in 1080p, up from 720p on the iPad 2. It includes built in video stabilization, which as iPhone 4S users know, works surprisingly well.
Features that Matter:
1. Retina Display
The most touted feature of the new iPad is its ultra-high-resolution “retina” display, which clocks in at 2,048 x 1,536 pixels — a million more pixels than a 1080p HDTV. Thanks to the extra pixels and the iPad’s new graphics processor, the screen has 44% better color saturation. The screen’s pixels are so small, Apple says it had to change the design of the LCD itself to elevate the pixels above the circuitry to prevent distortion. Apple calls it the best display ever made for a mobile device, and — from the specs — it’s hard to disagree.
2. A5X Processor
To drive those millions of pixels in the retina display with the same fluidity of previous iPads, the new model features an upgraded processor, called the A5X. It’s a dual-core processor, though it features quad-core graphics. Full specs aren’t known yet, but benchmarks and teardowns revealed the previous A5 chip (found in the iPhone 4S and iPad 2) was a 1GHz processor. The new one is likely somewhere between 1 and 1.5 GHz.
3. iSight Camera
Apple upgraded the iPad’s camera to capture 5-megapixel still pictures and 1080p video (at 30 frames per second), though that’s still less than the iPhone 4S’s 8MP camera. However, megapixels aren’t the most important thing about a camera. The backside-illuminated sensor, large f/2.4 aperture and automatic image stabilization will improve the quality of your photos and videos, especially in low light. However, the front-facing camera got no love, remaining at VGA resolution.
4. LTE Models
Apple now offers different models of the iPad that can connect to the 4G LTE networks of both AT&T and Verizon. Since the two carriers use different bands for LTE, the models aren’t identical, so don’t think you’ll be able to switch at will. The pricing plans vary, too, but both carriers offer it month-to-month — no contracts. Either LTE model offers connection to 3G networks when you take your iPad abroad, though — a feature previously limited to the AT&T version.
There’s no Siri on board the new iPad, but Apple added a dictation option, accessible via a dedicated button on the virtual keyboard. You can use the new dictation feature to send a text message, search the web or write a note. Apple says it’ll even work with third-party apps, letting you tweet or post to Facebook just by speaking.
6. AirPlay Video Streaming at 1080p*
Apple upgraded the iPad’s ability to use AirPlay streaming — that is, transmitting video to the Apple TV wirelessly — to 1080p. That makes complete sense, since the Apple TV just got an upgrade to 1080p. This doesn’t appear to be complete mirroring, however, since Apple specifies that “AirPlay Mirroring” is only done at 720p (as opposed to “AirPlay video streaming”). Both the iPad and the iPad 2 will mirror to the new Apple TV at 1080p resolution over a hard-wire
7. Bluetooth 4.0
Upgrading the iPad to Bluetooth 4.0 is helpful in a number of ways. Thanks to its ability to work with the newer low-power Bluetooth devices, it’ll allow accessory manufacturers to build things like keyboards that you won’t need to recharge for months or even years. Bluetooth 4.0 will also let the iPad interact with wearable devices like medical sensors, gathering data like heartbeat or blood sugar level and relaying it to medical personnel when needed.
8. Much Bigger Battery
All these great new features — especially the retina display — demand more power, yet the new iPad has the exact same battery life as the previous model. That’s because it has a brand-new battery, rated at 42.5 watt-hours, almost double the previous model’s 25 watt-hours. It appears, though, Apple hasn’t had a breakthrough in battery storage, since leaks prior to the event showed the battery is simply physically much larger.
9. Thicker Design
Because of all the new radios, layers and gizmos in the latest iPad, it’s actually bigger than before. The new iPad is 0.37 inches thick, or 0.03 inches thicker than the iPad 2, which was 0.34 inches. It’s heavier, too: 1.44 pounds to 1.33 before. The bigger design apparently doesn’t affect Smart Covers, and it’s still smaller than the first iPad, which was 0.5 inches thick and 1.5 pounds. Still, the heftier new iPad is interesting proof that Apple will compromise on design for performance — albeit only slightly.
What hasn’t changed
Home button? Check. Single speaker on the back? Check. Headphone port, volume and screen lock buttons in exactly the same place? Check.
Counting the iPhone 4S and Apple TV, this is the third Apple product launched under the tenure of Tim Cook that has not physically changed one bit. Either Apple’s legendary industrial designers are getting paid a whole lot to sit around doing nothing, or they are working on some seriously cool changes for next year’s model (the new new iPad?)
No doubt when Apple actually lets us compare the devices side by side — ie. when we buy one on launch day — we’ll really notice the 0.6 millimeters of extra thickness and 0.11 lb of extra weight. The new tablet did feel slightly heftier in my hands than I’m used to, which is a shame. The iPad 2 is already just a tad too heavy to hold in one hand for long periods of time.
- Apple has sold 172 million “post-PC devices,” which make up 76% of revenues. It’s not clear if this figure includes iPods.
- There have been 25 billion downloads from Apple’s App Store.
- There are now 100 million customers on iCloud.
- The App Store has 585,000 apps.
- There are 200,000-plus iPad apps.
- Some 15.4 million iPads were sold in Q4 2011. HP shipped 15.1 million PCs over that time; number two Lenovo shipped 13 million.
In addition to the roar of excitement, the activist watchdog group, “SumOfUs” called on Apple to release employees’ time card data from the last four months to see if workers in China were forced into grueling and illegal overtime schedules.
SumOfUs Executive Director Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman cited the New York Times’ story from January that reported employees at an Apple factory in China were awoken from slumber to work overnight shifts in order to make last-minute changes to the iPad 2. That article was the catalyst for this particular petition, she said, but SumOfUs has targeted Apple and its working conditions in China since the organization launched in late November 2011.
She says Apple’s hiring of the Fair Labor Association is a public relations move, or “whitewashing” as she called it.
“It is a PR exercise, not an actual investigation,” she said. “The head of the FLA was giving interviews one day after he arrived — he didn’t interview any workers. It’s clear anything they release will be calculated.”
This response doesn’t fix the problem, “but it’s cheap,” she said. Apple will have to spend money or change their practices in order to actually make a difference. — “Apple’s going to have to allow it’s suppliers to have a slightly bigger profit margin,” she added.
Last year, Apple’s profit margin was more than 30 percent, while Foxconn (Apple’s most notorious factory) had a 1.5 percent profit margin, Bloomberg reported. Stinebrickner-Kauffman said Foxconn’s profit margin is actually more profitable than a lot of factories in Asia, but still not enough for suppliers to follow Apple’s and the FLA’s code of conduct.
“The other thing they’ll (Apple) have to realize is they can’t make last minute changes and expect their suppliers to hold to their timeline,” she said.
Stinebrickner-Kauffman said she’s an iOS device-user herself and like many folks with Apple devices, doesn’t want to be complacent while accusations of unfair working conditions persist about Apple’s factories in China.
“Apple doesn’t like to admit it,” she said. “But there have been successful NGO campaigns against Apple.” Green My Apple, a campaign by Greenpeace was one of them, she said. It spurred Apple to change its recycling practices and restrict or ban certain toxic chemicals. Apple called the program, “A Greener Apple.”