At 10AM today in San Francisco, Apple hosted an event to show off the latest in their iPad line. The mass of rumours and speculations of months past all come down to this time on this day, and this year, the iPad rumours were pretty much spot on. From the rumour-mill we heard of Retina displays, sub-Retina displays, LTE, Quad-cores, iOS 5.1, iOS 6, Apple TV integration, 5MP Cameras, 8MP cameras and much, much more! Here is a rundown of the little things in the Apple event you may not have picked up on, and how the rest of the announced features stack up against the bruit of the past.
To kick off the event on the iPad front, Apple hopped straight into the most viable feature of the new iPad - the Retina display. The rumours put this at four times the resolution of the iPad two, that’s 2048 x 1536. And once again they were spot on! The new display gives 44% greater saturation. Because the display has two times the number of pixels in each direction, developers will find it much easier to scale their apps for the new device, with full compatibility for current apps – including all of Apple’s apps.
Next, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, revealed the new A5X dual-core processor, but more importantly the quad-core GPU. This was the first hint that the Retina display rumours would play out. The new GPU makes gameplay and HD video a breeze – you can watch 1080p videos right on your iPad, with the full resolution! One interesting thing is that the new Apple TV uses the iPad 2’s A5 processor to handle 1080p content. Apple does seem to be using these graphics updates to get game developers to produce HD games – this could be interesting in the near future. So, straight off the block the rumours are looking good — nothing too strange here.
We are already half an hour into the announcements, and we hadn’t been told anything we didn’t already know! So, Apple decided to push the presentation up a notch with their new camera. Not 8 megapixels, no, but it does take the five-element lens from the iPhone 4S – and that’s impressive. The new 5MP iSight shooter can record 1080p video which makes great prospects for aspiring film-makers and with the many new video editing apps available. Talking of video editing apps, iMovie received an update, along with the rest of the iLife line. It’s also worth noting that the release notes for iOS 5.1 reveal that the camera app is getting a redesign. And the front-facing camera has just been quoted as being a Facetime Camera.
After the details of the camera, the wireless capabilities of the new iPad were revealed. Of course, it supports WiFi and 3G – in two separate models – but this update to the iPad line supports 4G LTE. This is only available in the US so we guys in the UK won’t be expecting much in the area of wireless, but I’ll get on with it anyway. LTE will be available on Verizon and AT&T, but the two versions of LTE operate on different bands requiring completely different models of iPad – no chance of changing networks then. The 4G versions support 3G for roaming and WiFi so you can always stay connected. Another update in the region of wireless is the ability to tether with the iPad as a hotspot. This can be removed by the carrier though, and it’s been available on other, more open platforms for a long time. So, the rumours of 4G LTE were surprisingly accurate. Few people believed these features would be realised despite evidence leaked from carriers. Once again, nice work on the rumours.
At this point, Tim Cook had covered most of the hardware in the new iPad — apart from one thing; the battery! With 4G and the Retina display, you’d expect the battery life to be decimated. With Apple in control, however, the battery life is not affected at all as it has been doubled in size. You will get ten hours of battery life out of the WiFi and 3G versions and 9 from the 4G LTE. Cook also announced a few other differences between the iPad 2 and the new iPad. It is 4G, “Yet it remains incredibly thin. Just 9.4mm. And light, just 1.4lbs,” he explained. That really is not much to give for the improvement in the network – and the display, and the internals. So the battery is the same – the rumours stated this would be difficult so Apple has clearly worked hard – and pretty much everything else is better. That’s not a bad start.
Now that we've covered the hardware of the new iPad, we should probably get onto the software - and some of the stuff shown off is pretty amazing! As demos, Apple invited up developers to show an awesome jet fighter game, Autodesk's Sketchbook Ink, and where would we be without Infinity Blade - this time, Dungeon edition. The gameplay was astounding, the graphics held up without flaw, making this a great gaming machine. At the start of the event, Apple did say that most gamers with Xbox 360s, PS3s and iPads preferred their tablets - that is a surprising fact. There were no rumours regarding software so all of these apps were entirely unexpected.
After showing off Pages and their other office suite apps, Cook moved on to iPhoto. This is simply incredible. iPhoto gives you smart browsing, multi-touch editing, professional-quality effects, photo beaming and photo journals and each and every inch of the app is beautiful. You start out in your shelves. This is where your collections of photos are kept. These are organised by albums, photos, events and journals. When editing much of the interface is based around four-directional sliders and little cards. The whole interface is full of brilliant effects and, dare I say, just works - or so it seems.
Remember the features of iPhoto I listed? Did you notice anything strange about them? Photo beaming - this stuck out to me like a sore thumb when keeping up to date with the various images coming out of the event. In Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google introduces a feature called Beam which allows content to be immediately sent via a connection established by NFC. It is interesting that Apple chose this term. They could have chosen anything else, or not even give the feature a name, just "Send to Friends". The only conclusion I can make is that the software was made before Google's announcement in October. Many people have predicted the new iPad was being manufactured up to five months ago. so this is possible. No harm done, but it did seem a little strange.
The final, possibly the most surprising, thing about the new iPad is simply "the new iPad". The latest of Apple's tablet range has no model name; it is simply the iPad, the new iPad. There was a very tense moment at the end of the event when everyone was waiting for a final announcement, the "And finally...", but nothing came. Tim left the stage, with hundreds of journalists and their jaws on the floor. It is certainly effective branding - not the only massive change in branding we've seen in the past few days.
Now, at this point you are probably either very excited about the new iPad or not excited at all. I personally plan to get one, if I can find the money, because it is such a huge update from the iPad 2 and an even greater update from the original iPad. I was looking to buy an iPad 2, then a new Android phone and now the new iPad. I hope to get the HTC One X and the new iPad now - that's not too much to ask, is it?