by Anton Shilov
09/23/2011 | 12:25 PM
The Apple iPad 2 was not a revolution compared to the original iPad despite of substantially better microprocessor. But the next-generation iPad 3 promises to be a breakthrough in many terms. Analysts expect the novelty to feature brand new screen with 2048*1536 resolution, new battery and maybe even a brand new chip. Unfortunately, the novelty may be thicker and cost more than the currently-available product.
In fact, the rumors about iPad 3 started circulating rapidly shortly after iPad 2 was launched. Industry analysts predicted that Apple will most likely make an exception and launch two new iPad models in 2011 to remain a step ahead of Android and dominate the tablet market. However, according to the Apple’s past product cycles and the information gathered from the component supply chains by market research firm TrendForce, the chance that Apple launches the next-generation iPad at the end of 2011 is remains slim.
According to the surveys conducted by TrendForce’s research divisions, the upstream component suppliers have been stocking up their materials, a sign the new iPad is on the horizon and will most likely be launched in 2012. Interestingly, considering the current state of component supply, the new iPad is not designed to replace iPad 2 but to target at the consumers in the high-end market with specific needs.
As a result of such product positioning, consumers waiting to buy the next generation iPad may need to prepare more money, because the price may be higher than that of iPad/iPad 2 ($499 and above). According to the research conducted by SmartMobix, a research subsidiary of TrendForce, looking at the new iPad’s potential panel, backlight module and battery components, if mass production is unable to offset the cost increase, the retail price of new iPad is expected to rise by 10% compared to that of iPad/iPad 2.
TrendForce is almost certain that the resolution will be doubled to 2048x1536 while remaining compatible with its software. The pixels per inch (ppi) will be 264 due to the screen size (9.7”) of the new iPad, falling short of Apple’s Retina Display standard of 300 ppi. With a resolution of 2048x1536, four pixels will be used to simulate one pixel of a lower resolution, which is the same method Apple employed when it upgraded iPhone 4’s resolution to Retina display standard. Apple iOS 5 is compatible with 2048x1536 resolution, which means that the app developers will have to write applications that support four different kinds of resolutions in the future in case they want to be compatible with all iOS-based products, including outdated iPhone gadgets.
The high-resolution IPS panel for the new iPad are projected to be supplied by Japanese manufacturer Sharp and South Korea makers LG and Samsung; panel production becomes more difficult with enhanced resolution. Looking at the yield rate, at present, Apple only places a small amount of orders to package manufacturers; the speed of the new iPad’s mass production may depend on the panel supply. As the resolution is enhanced, backlight brightness has to be raised as well in order to increase transparency. Consequently, Japanese makers including Toyoda Gosei will be supplying two LED lightbars instead of one, and 84 LEDs (0.8t) instead of 42 for this new product, TrendForce claims.
The increased amount of LEDs results in higher electricity consumption: a lightbar plus 42 LEDs and a driver IC requires about 3W, which means that two lightbars require 5W – 6W. In addition, the resolution enhancement doubles the channels the driver IC controls. Although the current technology can fulfill the needs with one instead of multiple driver ICs, the electricity consumption will inevitably increase. Therefore, the battery capacity for the new iPad will increase by 50% (to over 10000mAh) compared to iPad 2 (6930mAh), and will continue to be supplied by Taiwanese battery makers Simplo and Dynapack.
TrendForce predicts that the new iPad will adopt a A6 processor produced by TSMC. So far, the specifications of the A6 processor have not been disclosed, but what is out in the open is that it will be quad-cored and manufactured by TSMC in its 28nm process, and its GPU performance is expected to be upgraded. Unfortunately, A6 processor may not be launched in time for the new iPad's production. Hence, Apple may go with the A5 processor, which adopts ARM Cortex A9 core with the speed increased to 1.2-2GHz (compared to 1GHz of iPad 2) and upgrading the memory from 512MB to 1GB.
Regardless of what Apple ends up adopting, be it A6 or enhanced A5 processor, the battery size will have to be 1.5 times bigger in order to maintain the same battery life (10 hours) of iPad 2. For this reason, the new iPad will not be as small and slim as iPad 2, according to TrendForce.
According to the aforementioned analyses on specifications, size and weight, it seems implausible that the new iPad, which is larger and heavier than iPad 2, is aiming to replace iPad 2. Even with the cost reduction boosted by manufacturing technology advancement and mass purchasing, it will still be hard to cancel out the cost increase and set the price of new iPad at $499. In conclusion, it is quite possible that the new iPad is targeting at the high-end market and is expected to hit the market in Q1 2012, according to TrendForce.