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The (Kind of) New iPad

at 2012.03.08
Apple the new iPad

Photo Courtesy of the LA Times

The new iPad is here. No, not the iPad3 or the iPad HD. The new iPad goes by the humble name of The New iPad. A fittingly boring name for a fittingly boring device. It really shouldn’t come as a shock, since the release of the iPhone4S set the stage for this release cycle being more about polishing the old and less about anything new, but on many levels it still comes as a disappointment.

So what exactly makes the New iPad new?

The Screen: Probably the biggest and most noticeable improvement is the updated screen. Apple has managed to take the great Retina display we’ve grown to love on the iPhone and make it big. With a resolution of 2048 x 1536, it looks significantly better than the iPad2. If what you’re looking for is the prettiest screen on any tablet out today, this one may well be it.

The Processors: Dispelling rumors of a Quad+1 processor, a la the Tegra 3 found in some Android devices, Apple instead went for a more traditional dual-core A5X processor, but supplemented it with a additional quad-core GPU. Why? I imagine their reasoning was that the iPad is rarely tasked with any serious processor-intensive tasks, however it is used to play games often. If they have also integrated proper load-balancing across the cores, this could make the battery life significantly longer than an all-in-one solution. On the other hand, if they didn’t it could mean that that you run out of juice shortly after turning it on. Oh, did I mention it’s supposed to be twice as powerful as the iPad2?

The Cameras: In a move that shocked no one, Apple has finally put a real camera on the back. About 3 years after everyone else. And it’s only 5 megapixels. Granted, that’s more than 5x the camera on the iPad2, but considering the size of the device I don’t see any real reason not to put a bigger camera with a dedicated image chip in. There is absolutely no excuse for the camera on a high-end tablet device to be outdone by $100 point-and-clicks. The front camera remains unchanged, though with so many video chatting services handicapping image quality for bandwidth purposes anyway, .3 megapixels is more than enough.

The Connection: 4G. And only a year or two after everyone else jumped on board. Which actually makes the New iPad a better phone device than the iPhone4s. Other than that, the only real improvement is the inclusion of Bluetooth 4.0, which should make using peripherals for gaming significantly more responsive and provide a much better experience when playing games, and I guess doing work.

What’d they miss?

A lot. I know I’m not the most Apple-friendly person in the city, but really there’s a lot missing here that should have been a no-brainer.

The Shape: It’s thicker AND heavier than the iPad2. Granted it has a bigger camera and beefier processors, but it still adds almost 2 ounces to the total weight. It’s noticeable. It’s also almost a millimeter thicker, which is a lot less noticeable, but still adds to the slightly bulkier feel.

Siri: The only big deal fro the iPhone4S is shockingly absent. This seems like a huge omission. My only guess is that they are working on making Siri play with the big screen better and will release her as an update, but nevertheless it feels sloppy.

Anything New: The internet, as always, was abuzz with rumors prior to the release. After Apple filed a patent for a carbon-fiber shell, many believed there would be new form factors or designs. We also expected something, anything, to get excited about. Even the addition of new colors would have been enough. Instead we got what is essentially the device Apple should have released last year as the iPad2.

So what does it mean for me?

If you have an iPad2? It means you’ve got another year to wait if you want to upgrade to something significantly better from Apple. If you have a first-gen iPad? It might be worth the upgrade cost to trade in for the newest model, but even then I’m on the fence. If you don’t have an iPad at all? Take a look at some of the Android options out there. They’ll give you significantly more bang for the buck. Or take advantage of the price drop on the iPad2.

As far as what this means for Apple? Based on Apple’s stock price, investors are very underwhelmed. This might be the first time in the last decade that Apples shares haven’t soared immediately after a new release was announced. Just as troubling is the lack of any real innovation in this release cycle. Technology has moved a LOT since the iPad2 came out, but the new iPad hasn’t kept pace. We saw much the same thing with iPhone4S. It’s too early to make a final call, but I’m going to speculate that Jobs played a much smaller role in the release of these two devices than he has in the past and I think it shows. With the cult of personality around Jobs dissipating in the Apple offices, I have to wonder if a lot of the employees are who had been running at 150% on fear and adrenaline are finally burning out. I guess we’ll see in a couple of months when the iPhone5 is announced.