You may want to sit down, because we’re going to talk about the iPad—and sitting is really the most comfortable way to use it, isn’t it? Apple on Tuesday invited members of the media to a special event on March 7 at 10 a.m. Pacific.
“We have something you really have to see. And touch.” reads the invitation, received by Macworld, which also shows a finger tapping on the Calendar icon on an iPad screen.
The event will take place at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, which has hosted numerous Apple events in the past few years—including the unveiling of both the original iPad and the iPad 2. That, and the invitation’s image, would seem to guarantee that we’ll see an updated iPad at the event.
As for what such an updated iPad will contain, rumors are fierce, but the leading theory is that Apple’s tablet will receive a Retina display, doubling the resolution over the previous models. Additional speculation suggests that a new iPad—presumably the iPad 3—will also see updated cameras, and possibly a new processor in the form of Apple’s A6.
One thing that has been kept firmly under wraps, however, is any software improvements that might accompany a new iPad. Siri seems like a potential candidate for inclusion in the updated tablet, which would make it the first device besides the iPhone 4S to feature Apple’s virtual assistant, but the technology would also likely require improvements to the iPad’s microphones and sound-processing hardware.
Whatever Apple announces, Macworld will be on hand with live coverage of the event, so be sure and tune in next Wednesday for our full rundown on the latest developments.
We Apple fans love to speculate, whether it’s about who makes Tim Cook’s shirts or when the company will release its next hotly anticipated device. For those more interested in the latter than the former—What’s wrong, issues of haberdashery not fascinating enough for you?—a report on Thursday suggests that you put a pin in the first week of March.
According to AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski—and confirmed by The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple in his usual terse style—Apple will launch the iPad 3 at an event in March, probably at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, the same place it introduced both the iPad in 2010 and the iPad 2 in 2011. A Tuesday, if I had to guess. It’ll be a pleasant spring day with not a cloud in the sky, the birds chirping happily…
Whoops. I’m getting ahead of myself. Perhaps, you might be wondering, what evidence do I have to support this supposed event?
Well, I’m glad you asked, hypothetical reader. So far, the iPad has followed the pattern of the iPhone: The first-generation device is announced several months before shipping, while subsequent devices are announced roughly yearly from the original’s ship date—give or take a month—and shipped shortly thereafter. (Of course, the iPhone 4S ruined the iPhone’s pattern with an October launch, but given that it was the fifth model of iPhone, I don’t think the iPad’s likely to go down that path just yet.)
I’ve been thinking of the ramifications of the iPad gaining a Retina-style display. (That’s what Apple calls the screen it debuted on the iPhone 4, with a pixel density so high that the human eye can’t distinguish the individual pixels.) When you put it all together, it suggests that March 7 could be the day that Apple ramps up its support of high-definition video—if it thinks it’s worth it.
1080p for the win
The iPad 2’s () screen resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels (at 132 pixels per inch). So let’s imagine that Apple doubles the iPad’s 1024-by-768 pixel dimensions to 2048-by-1536 pixels resolution, an act that creates a device with four times as many pixels. Such a screen would be drop-dead gorgeous for looking at photos and reading crisp text, sure. But it would also allow the iPad to display every pixel of the highest-resolution home video format: 1080p (1920 by 1080) movies. 1080p is the resolution that you’ll find on Blu-ray discs and some video-on-demand services—and it’s what the video mode on the the iPhone 4S shoots in, to boot.
Right now the HD video content on iTunes is 720p (1280 by 720) resolution. Although both the iPad and iPhone can technically play H.264 1080p video, the displays on those devices aren’t big enough to display the full resolution in the proper aspect ratio. And the Apple TV (), which is designed for connecting to HDTVs, can’t play back videos with higher resolutions than 720p.
When Apple calls a press event it’s always fun to speculate about what wonders the company intends to unleash. Next week’s March 7 event is no different. The smart (and obvious) money is on the iPad 3. But much as I’m intrigued by the idea of a new iPad with possibly better performance, a higher resolution screen, and improved camera, that’s not the only potential product that piques my interest. In the Department of Other Shoes, I’m also intrigued by the idea of Apple dropping a new Apple TV.
Why Apple TV 3?
My thinking goes this way: If Apple releases an iPad with a higher screen resolution, that iPad should be able to play 1080p video. Lovely as that video would be on an iPad, it would be umpteen times more spectacular on an HDTV—one that the iPad projects to. With the correct adapter, you can certainly tether your iPad to a TV, but if that’s really Apple’s preferred solution, why bother with AirPlay, the technology that allows you to stream audio and video from an iOS device to an Apple TV?
The truth is that Apple’s putting its muscle behind AirPlay and so this is the avenue we should look to for iPad playback on an HDTV. The problem is, the current Apple TV supports only 720p video. So, put mathematically, I pose the problem this way:
Talk of the impending debut of Apple’s newest iPad, including the company’s announcement yesterday of a March 7 launch event in San Francisco, has pushed tablet trade-in volumes to record levels, buy-back companies said Wednesday.
Their reports were consistent with those from online auctioneer eBay, which Tuesday said that tablet sales— nearly 98 percent of which were iPads—were 10 times greater this month than during the same stretch in 2011 in the run-up to the debut of the iPad 2.
“People are very eager for the iPad 3,” said Anthony Scarsella, the chief gadget officer of Gazelle, attributing that enthusiasm for a 500 percent jump in quotes that his company has served compared to last month. “The jump in volume happened a lot earlier than last year for the iPad.”
Gazelle is one of several companies that purchase older devices, including smartphones and tablets, from users, then refurbish and resell them direct to consumers via eBay and Amazon.com, as well as to wholesalers.
Apple sent out invitations Tuesday to Macworld and other media outlets for the March 7 event. And based upon the invitation imagery—a hand hovering over an iPad display—the prevailing word on the street is that Apple will likely take the wraps off the iPad 3 next Wednesday. Unless it takes a page out of the iPhone’s playbook and gives us an iPad 2S instead, that is.
Should an updated iPad be on the agenda for next week, there are things we think we know about the iPad 3, features we’re less certain about, and then a few features we’re quite certain won’t make the cut.
What seems likely
Display fair: Of all the rumored features that the iPad 3 might include, none have been rumored louder than a Retina display. That’s the term Apple coined to describe the screen it initially unveiled with the iPhone 4—a screen with a pixel density so extreme that, at normal viewing angles, the average human eye literally can’t discern the individual pixels. The iPad, however, has never sported a screen of that quality, even as the iPod touch got in on the Retina display action. A Retina display on the iPad would be no small feat, especially at the iPad’s current price, but it seems likely that Apple really will implement the display on its tablet.