According to a new report published today by Joshua Topolsky at This is my next, Apple is gearing up to release an “iPad 2 HD” this Fall alongside a new model of the iPhone, as previous speculation has largely confirmed with different reports about an “iPhone 5” or slightly redesigned “iPhone 4S”. According to Topolsky, the contradicting reports of a major redesign for the next iPhone and a slight hardware refresh using the existing iPhone 4 design have generated from the fact that Apple has been secretly testing the iPhone 5 components inside an iPhone 4 case – thus leading to reports from several media outlets about a new iPhone that could either feature a thinner, radically different design, or something along the lines of the iPhone 4, only faster and with better cameras. This is my next had previously claimed the iPhone 5 would feature a new “tear drop” case design, as well as a 3.7-inch screen (versus the current 3.5-inch display), a different Home button and worldphone capabilities for CDMA/GSM compatibility. This last tidbit has also been hinted by Verizon’s CFO back in April. Topolsky says Apple is likely to abandon the iPhone 4’s industrial design as it’s “out of favor” with the company’s executives.
Our sources tell us that the company has been testing the new components in old iPhone cases, for obvious reasons. Some of those reports we’ve heard about a larger screen for the old design would make sense too, as a slight tweak of the size (say, to a 3.7-inch display), would be barely noticeable to the eye, but obvious in internal component design. So if you’ve been wondering why the rumors about the iPhone 4S rose to such a din, now you know.
In the same article, This is my next corroborates earlier claims of a second iPad model being released this year, indicating that Apple may announce an “iPad HD” to ship this Fall alongside the iPhone 5. Rather than an entirely new version of the iPhone, like other reports from a few months back suggested, the iPad 2 HD would be an addition to the existing iPad 2 product line, only with a higher resolution screen aimed at video professionals. Topolsky says Apple is in fact prepping versions of Aperture and Final Cut that will take advantage of the tablet’s improved resolution, likely to be around 2048 x 1536 (double the resolution of the iPad 1 and iPad 2) as several graphic files spotted in developer betas of iOS confirmed. Doubling the resolution of the existing iPad display would allow developers to rewrite their apps including “2x” assets, rather than having to deal with other resolutions like “one third higher” (which Bloomberg reported).
Our sources are saying that not only will there be a newly designed iPhone coming in the fall, but there is going to be a new entry into the iPad family as well. As hard as it might be to believe, the new tablet is said to sport a double resolution screen (2048 x 1536), and will be dubbed the “iPad HD.” The idea behind the product is apparently that it will be a “pro” device aimed at a higher end market — folks who work in video and photo production possibly — and will be introduced alongside something like an iPad version of Final Cut or Aperture. This product is specifically said to not be the iPad 3, rather a complimentary piece of the iPad 2 line. Think MacBook and MacBook Pro.
There are some obvious problems and, on the other hand, benefits with the release of an iPad HD this year. First off, even if Apple heavily remarked at the iPad 2 event in March that 2011 would be the “year of the iPad 2”, releasing an addition to the iPad 2 family, and not a new version called “iPad 3”, could fall in line with Apple’s promo material seen at the media event. Topolsky compares the iPad HD to a MacBook Pro – whereas most users would be fine with an iPad 2 or a MacBook, those who want the most out of their devices would go with a MacBook Pro or an iPad 2 HD. This is something Jim Dalrymple of The Loop also noted in February, and I tend to agree with the notion that the iPad would be better served by becoming a “family”, rather than a single product differentiated by mere storage sizes and 3G options.
The report from This is my next, however, poses a bigger problem for developers. Assuming the rumor is true and Apple wants to market the iPad 2 HD as a tool for professional, developers of existing App Store apps would still need to redesign their software to make it look great on the new display. In my opinion, Apple can’t simply release a new iPad and publicize it as “for professionals only”, and developers don’t want their apps to look pixelated on the latest version of the iPad which, pro users or not, is going to sell a lot of units especially if placed against the holiday season. Obviously, converting apps to double resolution is feasible, but developers would need time to redesign their assets to avoid a repetition of the “Why do my apps look blurry on this screen?” issue many experienced when the iPhone 4 came out. The most logical theory would see an iPad 2 HD announcement in September, with a release slated for October or November so developers would have a few weeks to update their software. With the iPad being heavily used as a reading and gaming device, I don’t know how users would react to pixelated apps on their new gadget.
A couple more points on an iPad 2 with an higher resolution screen: assuming the device is based on the existing iPad 2 hardware because it’s an addition to the iPad 2 family, the A5 chip would need to move more pixels on screen, which means an higher impact on battery life and RAM. Details are scarce at this stage of speculation, but if Apple is really targeting this at professionals with photo and video editing apps, and if the device has double the resolution of the iPad 2, it seems like a fair assumption to guess that Apple would have to put more memory and bigger batteries into the new device. That is, unless Apple is fine with an iPad 2 for pros that has less battery life and (possibly) runs slower than the “average consumer” counterpart. Perhaps Apple has been looking for new, more powerful components to put into an iPad 2 HD though, and someone close to Digitimes simply got his timeline wrong.
Last, expanding the iPad family – much like expanding the iPhone line to new market segments – would be an opportunity for Apple to face the tablet competition from the likes of HP and Motorola in new, different ways. The Android tablets that have come out until now haven’t sold exactly well, RIM keeps coming up with PlayBook issues and the HP TouchPad has been widely regarded as a disappointment because of laggy software and poor hardware. When reviewers compare these tablets to the iPad, they always mention that they can’t recommend them because the iPad itself is simply better. By turning the iPad brand into a family of devices, Apple could have an additional advantage over the competition, as most companies are struggling to match the iPad 2 features and feeling, but Apple already has a slew of Pro/HD versions out.
Questions about technical and marketing issues aside, I’m still with Jim Dalrymple when he says “the iPad has to become a product family instead of just a product”. Whether this will happen in September, or a few weeks before Thanksgiving, is still unknown at this point, but I believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and the reports about a different version of the iPad this year have been far too many to ignore them.