Technology

What the new iPad announcements didn’t tell you

March 28, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — The new iPad has been out for some weeks now and boy has it been grabbing the consumer tech headlines. Talk of its brilliant new and upgraded “Retina display,” Long Term Evolution-supported (LTE) capabilities, improved 5-megapixel front camera as well as the new A5X chip grabbed most of the limelight during the much anticipated announcement three weeks ago.

The new iPad was first launched in a dozen or so countries on March 16 while the second wave of launches is due to arrive this week in 25 more countries. There’s no sign of it coming to Malaysia still, though it’s already available down south in Singapore.

But because the world is so interconnected, it’s not surprising that diehard fans could easily get their hands on a new iPad. But should you run over across the causeway or contact that long-lost cousin of yours who’s coming into town for a visit to buy you one?  To help you decide, you’ll need to consider some factors that weren’t front and centre during the initial iPad announcements, and this might impact your decision.

Lightning surfing speeds?

Long term evolution (LTE) — a typical tech jargon that has confused the world over as to what it actually means. Some call it 4G; others, next generation 3G. In a nutshell, LTE is the next generation wireless standard that touts the ability to send data faster over the airwaves, something in the region of between 50 and 100 Mbps (megabits per second) in theory. In practice, you’re more likely to get between 20Mbps and 40Mbps.

Truthfully, the speed of LTE is usually what marketeers, including Apple, would like to boast about. What’s not so known is the fact that LTE works in a variety of different frequency bands in different parts of the world. As a matter of fact, the new iPad supports US LTE networks, which utilises the 700MHz and 2,100MHz frequency bands.

In other parts of the world, LTE frequency variants include the 800MHz, 1,800MHz, 2,300MHz or 2,600MHz frequency bands, which is what Malaysia will be using.

So what does this all mean? Put simply, the LTE on the new iPad will not work on local shores. So if you’re thinking about getting the new iPad to cash in on the claimed lightning speed of LTE networks, you’ll be disappointed. Unless and until Apple releases one that works on 2,600MHz, that is.

Your display looks great!

Another marketing spin by Apple is that the new iPad has a resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, about four times that of the iPad 2. Reviewers were going ga-ga over the brilliance of the new screen giving it an all thumbs-up. But what is little known is that when the resolution goes up, so do the app file sizes on your device.

You see, to take full advantage of the awesome retina display high definition resolution, app developers need to bump up the amount of pixels to represent higher definition images that appear on the screen. This makes perfect sense given that high definition (HD) pictures or videos look good because there is more data representing the image or video on the screen — the same reason why HDTVs today look good.

Several tech websites have reported that apps that used to sit on the iPad 2 have more than doubled their file size, and in some cases quadrupled. For example, the Cult of Mac noted that the iMovie app has gone from 82MB on the iPad 2 to 404MB on the new iPad.

So if you’ve set your eyes on the new iPad, you’ll have to realise that you don’t have the same bang for the buck when you purchase the new 16GB iPad as you would have had with the iPad 2. This also means you may not be able to store as many apps as you would have been able to with an iPad 2.

The iPad is hot stuff! (literally)

One of the post launch headlines of the new iPad is that it suffers from more heat emission than previous iterations of the device.

Initially, some suspected that the culprit was due to the new A5X chip but that was quickly dismissed. Eventually, the tech community noted that the likely suspect for this increased heat emission is the increased LED backlight used to support the high resolution screen.

Experts say that there are two times more LEDs used to light up the new iPad and that the screen is 2.5 times that of the iPad at maximum brightness levels, reports CNET tech website.

Alarm bells went off for owners of the new iPad as more people tested their new iPads, especially with demanding applications such as video streaming and high resolution games such as Infinity Blade2.

Finally, the techies at CNET did an empirical testing, and confirmed that while the new iPad runs hotter than its predecessor, it’s not something to be overly concerned about.

But do note the heat issues before you buy the new iPad.

Minor differences

While most of the specs on the new iPad are similar to the iPad 2, couple of noteworthy points that weren’t mentioned was that, firstly, the new iPad sports a much bigger battery 42.5 watt battery as opposed to a 25 watt battery, making the new iPad about 50g more heavy. The thickness has also changed marginally.

Secondly, its use of the latest Bluetooth 4.0 standard was quite significantly missed. The chief advantage of using Bluetooth 4.0 is that it purportedly uses about half the peak power compared to the older Bluetooth standard. This will be a boon for those who use Bluetooth as a day-long feature on the new iPad.

Conclusion

So should you upgrade? There is no right or wrong about this; it all depends on your requirements and budget. As I’ve always said, ask yourself, “What do you really use your tablet for?” and “How much are you willing to fork out for it?”

For instance, ask yourself is the HD really necessary for you? Do you need that increased performance over the iPad2? Or do you just wanna be ahead of everyone buying a new gadget?

A general rule of thumb is that if you’re using the first generation iPad and have cash to spare, or were going to upgrade, by all means, try the new iPad. If you’re already an owner of the iPad 2, I would say, give it a skip.

Lastly, as both an Apple and Android user myself, I must say that there are other choices out there for you to try, apart from Apple. Apple might be a great savvy marketeer but it’s certainly not the be all, and end all, of the tablet world.

If you want more comprehensive tips, try surfing to this site to help you decide.

* Edwin Yapp, a columnist with The Malaysian Insider, is also co-founder and senior editor of Digital News Asia a digital publication covering the ICT ecosystem that will go live in April. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.