iPad 3 - But what about battery life?

Everyone has high expectations for the iPad 3, but what's going to power all these new features?

iPad 2 battery | Image credit: iFixit

iPad 2 battery | Image credit: iFixit

There's literally no end to the iPad 3 rumors currently making the rounds. It seems that the new magical, revolutionary device will have it all - better processor and graphics, retina display, Siri voice control, better cameras and 4G capability.

But there's one question that no one seems to be touching - how it all this technology going to be powered?

Note: For a good rumor-roundup check out Zack Whittaker's piece 'Could Apple 'do an iPhone 4S' with the next-generation iPad?'

Cramming loads of cool new features into a new device sounds like a wonderful idea, but remember that the iPad is a mobile device and as such will spend a lot of its time working off battery power, and battery power is a very finite source.

The current iPad has a working time rated at 10 hours. The first-generation iPad also had a 10 hour battery life. This is obviously what Apple considered the minimum. This means that the next generation iPad will have a minimum battery life of 10 hours. This means that if Apple is going to cram more into the iPad, Apple has to make the battery last longer, either by:

  • Fitting a bigger battery
  • Fitting more power-efficient components
  • Improving battery chemistry

It's that simple. There's no such thing as something for nothing. There's not been any huge improvements in battery technology so we're down to the other two options. It's possible that Apple will shrink the innards of the iPad 3, and this will allow it to fit a bigger battery, and some pundits are suggesting that adding an extra millimeter to the thickness of the iPad will be enough to squeeze more life out of it to power all the cool new features that they're fantasizing about. Personally I don't see Apple making the iPad 3 thicker, but instead I think that it will reduce the thickness of the display to increase the internal volume (perhaps by making use of Gorilla Glass 2).

Take a look at the history of the iPhone and the iPad and you'll notice one thing ... that progress has been evolutionary not revolutionary. Apple takes small steps and there hasn't been an iteration of either product where Apple has made a huge technological leap. Also, apart from adding a new color option (white) Apple has resisted adding any additional complexity to either product (the iPhone 4S even unifies GSM and CDMA into a single handset).

Note: It's interesting to note that what most pundits seems to be suggesting (especially in relation to the HD 'retina display') is that Apple will to a 180 and start to make things complex for the buyers and add a screen choice (standard and HD).

My guess, based on battery considerations, is that the iPad 3 will not feature an HD display (I've written earlier reasons why a 'retina display' on the iPad doesn't make sense), and I'm not expecting the iPad 3 to have 4G capability either simply because there isn't a chipset that's power-efficient enough to not compromise battery life.


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