Is Apple’s next iPad worth the upgrade? That’s the question on a lot of consumers’ lips lately, just as they mulled the step up to the iPhone 4S ahead of its fall release, and although details of Apple’s latest tablet have yet to be officially disclosed, we think there’s enough known about a few key specs to take a crack at it.
In our estimation, yes, the third-generation iPad is worth your time and money, and here are three reasons why:
The iPad 3’s ultra-high-resolution Retina display isn’t just a pretty face. It’s a game-changer.
The iPad 3 will join Apple’s Retina ranks alongside the iPhone 4 and 4S, with a resolution of 2048×1536, or twice the current iPad’s. That resolution means several things, and each makes a convincing argument for an upgrade:
- Text will be crisper and considerably more pleasant to read on the iPad 3. If you’re accustomed to reading e-ink or have been spoiled by the iPhone 4/4S’s beyond-sharp screen, this is an overdue development, and one that could see many folks ditching their e-readers.
- Apps will soon be optimized for the iPad 3’s Retina graphics, just as they are for Retina iPhones. Sure, scaled-down versions will persist, but who wants to deal with a developer’s blurry afterthought?
- Video optimized for the iPad 3’s double-resolution display will make you wonder how you ever made do with less. Think we’re exaggerating? Think back to the first time you fired up your 1080p flatscreen and drank in the difference. Night and day, right? Well, the iPad’s Retina upgrade is nearly as significant, with four times the pixels. (HDTV has fives times as many pixels as SDTV).
- With twice the resolution, the iPad 3 will cater to graphic artists and photo editors in a pinch. In fact, the higher-resolution iPad was originally thought to target those professionals.
- The next Apple TV, expected to release simultaneously with the iPad 3 or soon afterward, will welcome 1080p streams over AirPlay. At least, that’s the thinking. But there’s a catch: You’ll need a device capable of pushing that many pixels – a device like the iPad 3. Sure, the iPad 2 can mirror its 1024×768 display in 1080p, but it can’t decode 1080p H.264 videos.
- We have reason to believe Apple will put its entire lineup on the Retina bandwagon before long. Not that such trends are the greatest argument, but, well, do you want to be a straggler?
The iPad 3’s processor will be significantly faster, but more importantly, the iPad 2’s A5 will be significantly slower.
Rumors for the next iPad’s brain range from a dual-core A5X to an all-new, quad-core, ARM-based A6, but either way, the new tablet’s processing power will leave its predecessor in the dust. How can we be so sure? Because it has to. The iPad 3’s Retina screen will require a processing powerhouse to render its graphics, and the current hardware falls well short of that task.
But if you’re not convinced by a quicker CPU, consider this: developers will be. Just as they optimized apps for the A5, found in the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S, they’ll tweak future apps to take advantage of the newest processor’s capabilities, meaning holdouts will be left complaining about stuttery games and programs that weren’t designed with them in mind.
4G LTE connectivity will allow so-equipped iPad 3s to realize their portable potential.
Half the appeal of an iPad is its extreme portability. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi isn’t available everywhere, which presents a problem when most things you’d ask of your iPad require an Internet connection. iPad 2 owners have a but a single, often frustratingly slow alternative to Wi-Fi (assuming they’ve sprung for a carrier-backed model): 3G, supplied by Verizon or AT&T. iPad 3 owners, on the other hand, will be able to fall back on the much-faster 4G LTE, provided by those same carriers.
With 4G in their corner, iPad 3 users could access the Internet as if their router were in sight, and though 4G isn’t available everywhere, it’s fast becoming ubiquitous.
And for those of you who are understandably wary of blowing through any allotted data or are unimpressed by wireless speeds that are sure to be throttled, chew on this: AT&T is at work on an arrangement that will allow app developers to cover any data consumed by their users. Translation: Down the road, it’s conceivable that an iPad 3 user could watch, say, hours of Netflix from his 4G-connected tablet and not worry about anything but his battery life.