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Apple's New iPad is a 3.1-Megapixel Party
The newest tablet from Cupertino doesn't look much different, but comes with 4G LTE and a super high-res screen. The upshot: We think Apple wants to make the iPad a true competitor to the sharpness of the printed page.
LTE will be a big deal, and it makes sense that Apple would debut the standard on the iPad rather than the iPhone, because the iPad has beefier batteries. In fact, the slight increase in size and weight is almost surely due to the requirements of LTE (although, curiously, the Wi-Fi-only version is just as thick and still weighs 1.44 pounds). There was no official word on plan pricing from Verizon and AT&T—the two carriers that support LTE and sell the iPad—but presumably, they will be similar to other 4G plans.
The real leapfrog innovation on the third-gen iPad is the Retina screen, which represents more than just a mere bump up in resolution. The new iPad has a resolution of 2047 x 1536 pixels. That's 264 pixels per inch—more than double the pixel density of the previous iPad. That's more pixels packed into a 9.7-inch screen than my 1080p TV has on its 47-inch screen. To drive that super-hi-res screen, the new iPad has an updated version of the A5 processor, called the A5X, with quad-core graphics. Various developers showed off new games with luscious visuals that rival what console gaming sysems can do—and should bring a tear to the eye of anyone who recently placed an order for a Sony Playstation Vita.
Why push the resolution of a small display past 1080p? I believe the real answer is that Apple wants the iPad to be a true competitor to the printed page in every sense. That means text and photos must be crisp enough to rival those of the glossiest magazines. And while the video and image quality might get most of the attention, the crisper text issue may end up being even more important in the long run. Put your eye close to the screen right now, then compare the text you see to a book—you'll see how much room for improvement there really is. The iPad is a multipurpose device, but one look at its dimensions should tell you that it is primarily a portrait-mode reading device. Getting the crispest fonts on the iPad makes it a true replacement for printed media.
What remains to be seen is what this will do to app sizes. More pixels tends to mean more data, which means fewer apps can fit on the same iPad, and it also means slower download times and updates. LTE isn't going to mitigate the pain of multigigabyte app downloads. (And here's more of what the new iPad can't do. )
Apple also showed off an update to the iWork and iLife suites for the new-resolution iPads, plus a new iPhoto app that integrates gestural photo editing in ways that are both innovative and gimmicky.
Lastly, Apple has continued a trend of throwing a bone to the late adopters who may not have the cash to throw at the latest, greatest thing. The iPad 2 will remain in the lineup with a $100 discount relative to the new model. Pricing on iPad 2s start at $399 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model. The third-gen iPads start at $499 for a 16 GB Wi-Fi-only model, going up to $849 for a 64 GB, Wi-Fi model with LTE—pretty much on a par with previous pricing on iPad 2.
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