Question from today's Hardware 2.0 mailbox:
Does the hardware and form factor changes present in the recently released iPhone 5 give us any clues as to what the iPad 4 or iPad mini might have to offer?
There's no doubt that there's a symbiotic relationship between the iPhone and the iPad, with one being used as a testing ground for technology in the other -- and it's usually it's the iPhone that leads the way. With all the talk of the iPad mini landing soon, and the iPad 4 looming on the horizon, it's a good time to do a bit of prognosticating.
Let's take a tour of some of the new hardware features present in the iPhone 5 and see which might make it into the iPad 4 or the mythical iPad mini.
Lightning dock connector
One of the most disruptive changes brought to the table by the iPhone 5 is the Lightning dock connector. Gone is the old 30-pin connector that served for the iPod, iPhone and iPad for almost a decade, and in its place is the new double-sided 8-pin connector.
It made sense for Apple to finally dump the old 30-pin connector. It was a product of a different era. Big, clumsy, fiddly, and containing a number of now obsolete pins. The new Lightning connector is smaller, easier to use, and far more advanced. It gives Apple a lot more flexibility in terms of connectivity, and leaves more room inside the new iPhone and iPod touch for other more important stuff.
I have no doubt that Apple will extend this connector to the iPad 4, and that it will be present of the iPad mini -- if that ever makes an appearance.
With the iPhone 5 Apple decided that the micro-SIM -- which was first introduced on the iPhone 4 -- was too big and replaced it with the even smaller nano-SIM.
I can't come up with a single compelling reason why Apple should take this tiny SIM card and try and use it on the iPad 4 or iPad mini. While space isn't as much of a concern inside the iPad, it doesn't make sense for Apple to fragment SIM usage among device.
At the core of the iPhone 5 is the revamped A6 system-on-a-chip (SoC). It features a dual-core 1.3 GHz custom Apple-designed ARMv7 CPU, and triple-core PowerVR SGX 543MP3. The current iPad 3 uses an A5X processor -- an upgraded A5 found in the iPhone 4S but with a quad-core GPU boost.
I suspect that while the CPU in the A6 is powerful enough for the iPad 4, I would expect Apple to add at least one extra GPU core. As for the iPad mini, the A6 may be powerful enough as is to run this tablet, given that is has a smaller screen -- especially if that screen not a Retina display panel.
Another new feature present in the Phone 5 is the in-cell display. While traditional displays comprised of three different components -- the LCD itself, the touchscreen layer, and the protective glass -- in-cell technology combines the LCD and touchscreen layers into a single layer.
The main advantage of in-cell technology is that it allows the display to be thinner and lighter, two of Apple's greatest obsessions, and the reason why I expect the next slew of iPads to feature this technology.
While the iPad 3 has support for 4G LTE within the U.S., it didn't support 4G networks in other countries, such as the U.K. and Australia. This has been fixed in the iPhone 5, with the Qualcomm RTR8600 found in the iPad 3 being replaced by the much more capable Qualcomm MDM9615M LTE modem.
Again, there's no reason why Apple won't use this LTE modem -- of an update of it -- in the next iPad.
Screen aspect ratio
Prior to the iPhone 5, the every iPhone had a screen resolution of 1.5:1. With the move to the 4-inch screen, Apple shifted to a 16:9 aspect ratio which allowed it to keep the width of the iPhone the same. 16:9 is the standard aspect ratio for of HD-TV, non-HD digital television and analog widescreen television, and as such the ratio is ideal for video.
The iPad has a 4:3 aspect ratio. It is this that gives the iPad that distinctive tablet shape. But Android tablets are usually 16:9 or 16:10, so there would be a precedent for making the switch. There are even rumors suggesting that the next iPad will indeed be 16:9, although there is no hard evidence as yet to support this.
A change of aspect ratio would also give the iPad a new look, something which Apple strives for every so often.