After months of speculation and rumours, Apple finally unveiled the latest iteration of its iPad media tablet at its recent event in San Francisco.
The new iPad screen has a resolution of 2048 x 1536, and while Apple has dubbed it a “retina display”, it comes in at a lower pixel density than the screen on an iPhone 4 or 4S.
Ovum analyst, Tim Renowden, was unable to go into detail about the screen without actually going hands-on with it, but he felt that increasing the resolution was a natural step.
“The screen is the most important component of the device, so it’s not a surprise that Apple has upgraded it,” he said.
While no doubt a move by Apple to keep costs down, the company nevertheless expects that users will not have issues with the lower pixel density, as that people tend to hold the iPad about 15-inches away from their face and the smaller iPhone 10-inches, so the user is expected to get a similar effect at both distances.
Rumours that the iPad would have a quad-core processor were not entirely true, as the A5X chip that comes on the new iPad is actually dual-core, though the graphics card is quad-core.
“The extra graphics processing capability is required to process effectively four times as many pixels as the iPad 2,” Renowden said. “Because there haven’t been any fundamentally big changes to the operating system, I think the chip will be able to well and truly cope.”
As for how the hardware stacks up to competing products, Renowden expects that benchmarks will come out after the device hits the market and demonstrate how it compares with some of the competitors such as the Snapdragon S4.
“However, it is difficult to compare between iOS and Android, because the operating systems have different requirements in terms of processing power,” he said.
The new iPad will be compatible with the 4G LTE network in the US, though there has been some uncertainty about how this feature will be carried on to the Australian market.
“The LTE frequencies they have announced for the US are not compatible with Telstra’s 4G network in Australia, so there’s no point in Apple launching the LTE version in Australia unless they release a version that works on the 1800mhz spectrum,” he said.
Instead, Renowden foresees Apple only releasing the Wi-Fi version initially, as well as a 3G edition.
The new iPad comes with a five megapixel camera, thought the front-facing camera remains the same for use with Apple's FaceTime.
“It’s certainly good that it’s a better camera, but I don’t think most people use their iPad for photography,” Renowden said.
Despite all the tech related announcement surrounding the iPad, the most interesting news for Renowden was that Apple will only be keeping the 16GB iPad 2 around, both in Wi-Fi and 3G.
“This announcement is significant in that it gives Apple a mid-market product as well as a high-end product,” he said.
Having an iPad 2 on sale around the $US400 mark will mean that competitors who were aiming to come in at a slightly lower price point than the iPad will have a tougher time competing.
“I think that will have a really big impact in the market in terms of driving iPad adoption more into the mass market,” Renowden said.
Despite adding in more power and better screen, Apple has decided, at least in the US, to keep the iPad at the same price tag at the same capacities as before.
Renowden feels that the vendor has already been successful in selling the iPad 2 at that price point and there is the expectation that success will continue.
“That has proven to be a good price point for them, so why change it?” he said.
According to Renowden, the reason Apple is able to sell the new iPad at the same price point is that component prices keep coming down.
With the double whammy of the iPad 2 and “the new iPad” on the market, Ovum expects that Apple will remain the leader through 2012, especially as it will take time for Android 4.0 and Windows 8 products to enter the market.
The analyst firm has also forecast the market for tablet and other mobile internet devices will exceed 235 million units by 2016, which the majority of that attributed to the iPad.
Before people start calling the new tablet the iPad 3, the fact is that Apple referred to the new device simply as "the new" and "third-generation" iPad during the unveiling, which eschewed from its own enumeration scheme.
According to Renowden, the name of the iPad does not really matter and he feels that people are going to keeping calling it the iPad 3 for the time being.
“The naming won’t have any impact on sales or the market,” he said.
Renowden was unwilling to speculate whether the name is a temporary one and whether Apple will change it before launch.