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A Sharper Screen Does Not a New iPad Model Make

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jul 7, 2011 5:00 AM PT

While iPad owners blissfully browse the Web -- in the process racking up 1 percent of all worldwide browsing traffic -- some of them seem to be looking ahead to October, when Apple might release a new version of its iPad line.

A Sharper Screen Does Not a New iPad Model Make

Dubbed "iPad 2 Plus" by FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger, it's been widely reported that he wrote a note to investors that cited requests to component suppliers for quotes for a new screen with a higher pixel density. Not a physically larger screen, just one with more pixels crammed into it, which would let the mobile juggernaut display sharper images. The current resolution on the iPad 2? A paltry 132 pixels per inch (ppi). But to my eyes, the screen is plenty gorgeous.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 4's fancy-pants "Retina" screen boasts 326 ppi. And what would the new iPad 2 screen hit? 250 to 300 ppi.

Any other new features?


The widely quoted note to investors homes in on a sharper display. Of course, that's not enough to warrant a new "iPad 3" moniker, that's for sure. We'd at least need to see a faster processor, too.

Still, while I've heard some inquiries about a higher-resolution screen for the next iPad (and rumors, which failed to appear when the iPad 2 launched), I'd have to characterize them as idle chatter at best. Sure, it would be nice to have a sharper screen that's on par with the iPhone 4, but as near as I can tell, for most iPad 2 owners, the extra sharpness would be like giving them two knives with which to slice tomatoes. After using both, they can't really tell any difference between the two. So you whip out a magnifying glass and show them how ragged the first slice was compared to the second. But damn it, most of them don't seem to pay attention because they're too busy placing slices of tomato on their sandwiches.

Building on Last Week's Rumor

Last week, DigiTimes reported that it expected a fifth-generation iPhone to appear in September along with a thinner and lighter iPad 3 -- again, based on supply chain rumors.

All of this comes on the heels of supply constraints in March, which slowed adoption of the wildly popular iPad 2. So just as Apple is finally up to speed and able to offer up iPad 2s for instant consumer gratification, would it really risk pushing touchscreen suppliers LG and Samsung to the brink (assuming Samsung isn't kicked to the Apple doghouse) to deliver what would undoubtedly be a product in wicked demand?

You bet. While I think Apple tries hard to crank out at many units as it possibly can, I don't think drooling customers who have to wait a week or two is on the company's short list of fires to put out.

A Common Theme

Generally, I don't believe that Apple pushes out new updates to successful products unless it a) the update is ready, and b) it feels a need to leap ahead of the competition again. If the company is on-track to crank out well over 40 million iPads for 2011, why would it bother with such a small update?

The best answer I can come up with is to simply ensure that it scoops up higher resolution touchscreens to keep them out of the hands of competitors -- just in case. You know, just keep both its suppliers busy and competitors scrambling. With Apple's world-class marketing team, selling an "iPad 2 Plus" with a sharper screen should be easy.

Thinner, Lighter, Faster?

Of course, if Apple did create a new "iPad 2 Plus," I would hope it would throw out some thinner, lighter, faster action, too. Maybe some carbon fiber. Then again, when I think of the Apple ecosystem that builds and sells cases and stands ... why diffuse those efforts with a new form factor? As an Apple fan, I sure like walking into a variety of retail stores and being able to find several different case options for my single form-factor devices. Fracture the form factor, and we'll likely lose shelf-space.

All in all, supply chain rumors or not, I can't claim to be optimistic or even excited about an iPad 2 Plus. I'm just getting to know my iPad 2, and it runs consistently better than I expect with already amazing apps. So I for one won't be drooling over an iPad 2 Plus -- unless it not only slices tomatoes, but makes my sandwich, too.

MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at Gmail.com.

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