The iPad 3 is coming next month. Or so says the endless rumors. These rumors also state the next iPad will have higher resolution screen and high-speed data connection. But I couldn’t care less. The iPad 3, if that’s really its name, sounds like a stop-gap upgrade to me.
You see, I’m perfectly happy with my iPad 2. Save the addition of an SD card slot, there isn’t a single feature I can imagine that will make me trade up to Apple’s new hotness. I guess the iPad 3 sounds great, but it also sounds boring. That’s not saying Apple won’t sell a zillion iPad 3s. It will. But it’s going to take more than a spec bump for me (and likely many others) to upgrade from the iPad 2.
Prior to most Apple events, rumors swirl, promising a revolutionary device that will change life on planet Earth forever. But then the iPhone 4S launches. A fine piece of hardware, sure, but far from spectacular. But there hasn’t been any wide-eyed iPad 3 rumors but rather just predictable leaks stating there will be a slight hardware bump.
Part of my dystopian outlook is that I’m pretty damn happy with the iPad 2. I passed on the original iPad, annoyed over the lack of external storage and USB support. I instead waited for the Android tablets but quickly discovered Honeycomb’s main fault involves trying to replicate a desktop environment rather than creating a mobile one. I have a dozen notebooks for traditional mobile computing. So I got a 16GB Verizon iPad last summer. I’ve never been so happy with a device. I’ve had it since July 2011 and still use it hours a day. Apps make up 95% of my usage — the majority of which are not available on Android. I fire up Safari just to check TechCrunch and Techmeme.
A prettier screen is not going to change or increase my usage unless Apple backsteps and includes a SD card slot — which it won’t. When the original iPad launched, I dreamed of using it as a on-location photo viewer. I imagined using the tablet in conjunction with a cloud service for iPhoto. But instead Apple released a lame Dock Connect adapter which falls short of my expectation. The current screen looks great. Have you played Infinity Blade 2 or Rage? Awesome.
It’s important to remember that Apple doesn’t need to reinvent the iPad. The company makes piles of cash by outing successful products and keeping them on the market as long as possible. The iPad 3 will likely be just a spec bump to stay competitive for 2012 and 2013. It will match (and outsell) future Android tablets, causing companies like Samsung, Asus and Motorola to quickly redesign and release an even more “powerful” tablet just to get a bit of an edge.
Apple didn’t need to release the iPhone 5 in 2011 because the iPhone 4 was still outselling most other phones. Instead, Apple released the iPhone 4S, which while packing some new innards, is mostly a stop-gap solution allowing the company to milk additional revenue from supply contracts on aging components. It worked. Apple sold 17.1 million iPhones in the last part of 2011 on its way to be the most valuable company. The iPhone 4S gives Apple even more time to refine the iPhone 5 while negating more favorable manufacturing and supply deals.
The same thing could happen to the iPad 2. Apple could release the iPad 2S. It would be faster, packing LTE data and a quad-core A6 CPU along with featuring a higher-res screen. Of course there would probably be a new camera and new software to take advantage of the quad-core CPU — the software would likely be exclusive to just the new model, though.
The WSJ reports that Apple is playing with an 8-inch iPad. But once again, Apple doesn’t need to release an 8-incher right now. Sure, the Kindle Fire is scooping up plenty of marketshare but the tablet scene is far from saturated and the Fire helps bring attention to the product type. If Apple releases a stop-gap iPad in the coming weeks, I fully expect the company to completely reinvent its mobile line before the holiday season including a smaller, cheaper iPad.
I’m sitting the next iPad out. My iPad 2 works just fine and none of the rumored iPad 3 features justify upgrading to me. Apple will likely hype a meaningless feature during the keynote, deeming it a game changer. But I’ve learned my lesson. Heads will stop spinning shortly after the event and reality will set in. Avoid the Apple spin zone. It has a tendency of sucking credit cards towards pre-order buttons.