Report: Next iPad Could Pack A 16:9 Widescreen Display

A new report today suggests that Apple might be working on a next-generation iPad with a widescreen display, something that it would inherit from the new iPhone 5. The claim, from L.A.-based tech consumer tech industry analyst Paul Mueller talking to the Examiner, suggests that there are iPad prototypes being worked on at Apple that have 16:9 screen ratios.

Mueller says he’s spoken to “at least three” separate sources “close to Apple” who all agree that a widescreen iPad is in the works, and that this doesn’t refer to an iPad mini, but a full-sized iPad successor. He also says he’ll have more info to add in the coming weeks.

Switching to a widescreen aspect ratio would make sense given that Apple is already employing that strategy on smartphones, but there are problems with the idea, too. As Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz has pointed out, the 4:3 aspect ratio is better for most tasks since it mimics paper; video works better on 16:9, but it’s not the most common use of the iPad. But there are significant benefits, too. Like the fact that Apple is doing a lot with Airplay Mirroring, something that would work better when the aspect ratio of the iPad matches that of a user’s television.

Still, there are technical challenges to a change in aspect ratio that could affect end user experience. Sizing up the iPad is not as attractive an option as it is on the iPhone, since the device is already 10 inches and going larger is basically the opposite of what most expect the company to do. Putting out a slimmer device width-wise is more feasible now that Lightning requires less room than the 30-pin dock connector, but taking away horizontal space would mean offering less total usable screen area, something which seems like a step back in user experience design.

For its part, the Examiner says its own sources seem open to the possibility, though they can’t confirm. We haven’t heard anything like this yet, and it’s also worth noting that Mueller was wrong about an anticipated Verizon Galaxy S II launch date in the past. On the other hand, Gizmodo’s Diaz was wrong about the iPhone 5’s aspect ratio change, so Apple seems at least somewhat unconcerned with the drawbacks he pointed out about that shift. In the end, though, I’d take this one with a heavy dose of skepticism as the benefits of changing things up are less clear in this case than they were with the iPhone 5.