What the New iPad Tells Us About the Next iPhone
Mar 9, 2012 5:00 AM PT
For the most part, new features for Apple's mobile products usually appear in the iPhone before they make it to the iPad, but that's not the case with this latest release of the tablet.
Support for LTE mobile phone networks and a new muscular processor, the A5X, are two features found solely in the new iPad, which is why some analysts believe they're certainly headed for the next iPhone, expected to be released this summer.
"Implementing LTE in the iPad is a strong indicator that Apple will bring LTE to the iPhone," Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group, told MacNewsWorld.
Maintaining Battery Life
Battery life may have been an issue influencing Apple's decision to introduce LTE in the iPad before it did it with the iPhone, according to Rubin.
"It allows Apple to get better battery performance out of its LTE implementation," he explained. "The iPad is a larger device so it can accommodate a larger battery, which helps with battery life."
Battery life has been a bane for LTE, according to Michael Morgan, a mobile devices analyst with ABI Research. The fact that the new iPad has a nine-hour battery life with LTE enabled bodes well for the next iPhone, he added.
"It shows you they're resolving the power drain issue with LTE," he told MacNewsWorld. That suggests the next iPhone will support LTE without any battery life tradeoffs.
Keeping a Trim Figure
While the battery in the new iPad has the chops to support LTE, it does it without significantly increasing the device's thickness, also good news for an LTE-enabled iPhone.
"It shows companies no longer have to forfeit thickness or industrial design in order to accommodate LTE," Rubin noted.
Early introduction of LTE into the Apple ecosystem through the new iPad could also be designed to showcase the technology on an optimal device.
"LTE is the best cellular network technology for the kinds of media-rich activities that consumers are more likely to do on an iPad, like watching movies and Web surfing," Rubin explained.
Apple, he added, may have also felt pressured to get into LTE sooner rather than later.
With all four major wireless carriers moving toward LTE, he reasoned, "if Apple were to hold off on LTE for another year, it might risk putting the iPhone at a competitive disadvantage."
Dialing Down the A5X
Another innovation in the new iPad that may pop up in the next iPhone is the A5X processor. However, Apple may decide to reduce the clock speed of that chip, which has two processing cores and four graphic cores, if it does move it to the next iPhone, according to Morgan.
"They might do what they did with the [iPhone] 4S," he observed. "They'll take the A5X and throttle it down so it works at 800MHz."
He explained that the new iPhone won't need all the horsepower that the tablet does. The iPad, for example, needs to power a much larger display than the iPhone and at a greater pixel density, 326 pixels per inch compared to 264 ppi.
"It will improve the battery life of the handset," he noted. "And with LTE, battery life is a serious issue."
Up to now, most new technologies like the Retina display, Siri and an improved iSight camera have been introduced in the iPhone and then brought to the iPad, so unwrapping new features like LTE support and the A5X was a bit of a departure for Apple, albeit a calculated one.
Bringing LTE to the iPad before the iPhone makes some sense, Morgan maintained. He estimated that about 30 percent of all tablets have cellular connectivity, and of those that have that connectivity, only about 30 to 40 percent actually access a cellular data network.
"That means this will be a soft opening for LTE at Apple," he reasoned. "It will be tested on a small number of devices and then go prime time on the iPhone."
Although it's not a technological change, the iPad introduction also revealed a change in Apple's naming conventions. The third generation iPad is just "the new iPad," and when the next generation iPhone arrives, it will be "the new iPhone."
"They have products like the MacBook and the iPod that don't have numbers," Sarah Rottman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research, told MacNewsWorld. "They want to get away from the expectation that it has to have a number on the end to know if it's a really big refresh or just a little refresh."