The Apple event this morning took the wraps off what is now known to be the “iPad”, which is literally the name of the 3rd generation iPad hardware. Not iPad 3, not iPad HD, or iPad 2S, just “iPad”.
We’re sure the story behind that name will unfold in the coming days, but the hardware itself is close to what we expected: a near identically sized evolution of the existing hardware, with a retina screen, a more powerful processor and GPU, and more RAM.
The A5X & Retina display
While many of us expected an actual quad-core A6 processor (which may still come along in the ‘new iPhone’ this summer/fall), the weeks leading up to the event today suggested Apple was actually working on an evolution of the A5 called the A5X, which includes a quad-core GPU instead.
The main feature of the new iPad is a combination of that more powerful quad-core GPU, and the 2048×1536 resolution “retina” display, sporting the same LED-backlit IPS design as the iPad 2.
Apple says the new screen has a resolution of 264 pixels per inch, compared to 132 pixels per inch on the original iPad and iPad 2. The number is an exact doubling of pixel count in both horizontal and vertical dimensions (and therefore quadruple the total pixel count), allowing iPad applications to literally just “scale up” to fit the new screen, without blurring elements or requiring developers to do more work just to make their apps run.
1080p rear-facing camera
The new 3rd generation device also upgrades the rear facing camera with one similar to the iPhone 4S: auto-focus, auto-exposure, 5 megapixel resolution, and a backside illuminated sensor element. The new camera is capable of shooting stabilized 1080p video.
Though Apple doesn’t mention how much more RAM the new iPad will ship with, we suspected it would be 1GB and we’re still confident in that number.
Applications built to take advantage of the retina iPad display will need more memory for highly detailed game textures, 1080p video frame buffers, graphic elements and other things, so bumping to 1GB over the 512MB currently found in the iPad 2 makes sense.
Apple chose to take a bold leap this time around with the broadband connected model, adding LTE capable hardware on AT&T, Verizon, Bell, Rogers, and Telus. The U.S. carriers each get a special model for their network, but each of those are also fully capable 3G “world” coverage devices. This makes an LTE capable iPhone 5 this summer/fall very likely.
Availability and price
Pricing is essentially in line with the previous hardware models, starting at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, and $629 for the 16GB LTE-capable model. No 128GB model this time around, though.
Apple is taking preorders now, and the device will go on sale March 16th in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan, and in 100 more countries on March 23rd.
As for other expected features, such as the “new dock connector” or tactile screen feedback, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next time