Like most of you, I have been discussing thenew iPad with my technophile friends, ripping apart the news and taking a look at what the big deal is. During the course of our conversations, the overarching question that we are working to answer is “What will Google do to counter this new device with Android OS?” The largest reason for us looking for answers to that question is the inevitability of our group getting asked for our opinions by friends (and editors).
While there have been times where we have been pretty impressed with the technology that Apple has announced, this was different. While we agreed that the new screen resolution is going to be nice, there really isn’t anything game-changing that would make the tablet device a must-own. This is the same reason why Google and its Android team doesn’t care about this release, and aren’t scrambling to one-up Cupertino with some killer feature for the upcoming Jelly Bean update.
As a user of a number of Android devices, including a Galaxy Tab 10.1, the different features that Tim Cook and his team rattled off were underwhelming. I will totally concede the point that the Retina screen is a large step forward for mobile computing, but at the same time is a bit of a marketing ploy. It’s interesting that Apple made the effort to explain away the fact that the new iPad’s screen can have the Retina classification even though it only has a PPI of 264 compared to the 326 that the iPhone 4 packs into its screen. While the viewing distance math presented on stage is correct, it does still smack of marketing spin. Nevertheless, the resolution is pretty amazing for a portable device. However, nothing else that was announced made me envious in the least because they were largely inconsequential.
Take for example the dual-core A5X. While I won’t say that multi-core computing in mobile devices is a bad thing, it’s a bit humorous to me since the applications available right now don’t take full advantage of the power available. This fact isn’t something that I attribute to just iOS; Android has the same issue. Nvidia was so desperate to make money on the Tegra 2 that it had to create its own application in the Android Market so users could find the apps that were specifically written for the architecture. Don’t get me wrong, hardware advancement is a great thing, but multi-core means nothing to the average consumer except for marketing purposes. If they think there is a device that’s faster and more powerful than what they are currently using, they are going to buy it.
So, sure, the A5X has gotten a spec bump in the fact that it has a quad-core GPU that will give a performance boost, but it’s hardly a leap forward in technology. Neither is the addition of LTE connectivity — while it’s certainly a nice-to-have it’s not a show stopper. For Android users its almost become a standard feature for those on Verizon, despite the fact that it’s a vampire on battery life. Speaking of which, I am curious to see if the new iPad’s battery can last nine hours while on LTE. I am doubtful to say the least.
Wednesday’s announcement left me completely underwhelmed as a technophile and an Android user. Unlike other fans of the little green droid, I don’t want Apple to go anywhere. The relationship right now between Google and Apple is like that of the Red Sox and the Yankees. They hate each other in public, but secretly admire what the other is capable of. This causes intense competition that only benefits us as consumers. I was hoping for an amazing device that would force Google’s hand to actually take a hard look at the issues facing its mobile OS. Instead of a major hardware upgrade, Cupertino presented a hardware sidestep (at best) that is going to split the iPad brand and cause market confusion.
There’s a very specific reason why the company decided not to call it the iPad 3 and to keep the iPad 2 around for awhile. Apple couldn’t in good conscience call this device the next generation of its tablet line. This is to be admired… because it isn’t! If the new iPad had been called the iPad 3, it would have looked a lot like Samsung’s misstep with the Vibrant on T-Mobile. If you will remember, Sammy released the Vibrant on T-Mobile which people flocked to buy, only to release the Vibrant 4G less than a year later with specs that should have been present in the original version. By making the differentiation, Cook and his company avoided a consumer confidence fiasco. Keeping the iPad 2 around at a lower price will serve to keep sales brisk, as Cupertino knows that there isn’t enough reason to jump for the new device if you already own the second generation.
While the consumers will certainly flock to their local Apple retail stores to be among the first to own the new device, there really isn’t much reason to. With no major leaps forward besides an almost-Retina display that will still be playing high-def content on a 4×3 aspect ratio (hope you like those black bars), there is nothing to concern Google and its Android users. Both groups are looking ahead to the Tegra-3 armed tablets coming down the pipe from Asus and Samsung, which we hope will raise the technology bar to a higher level. Hopefully next year’s iPad release (the iPad 4? The newnew iPad?) will bring something awesome to the table to continue to force innovation, because this new iPad certainly didn’t.