The iPad 3 is special in one way: it’s not often you see a follow-up product that isn’t definitely better than what it’s replacing. The iPad 3 is heavier and thicker than the iPad 2, takes way longer to charge, doesn’t last as long on a charge, and is more expensive. What’s responsible for all of that? The screen. That “revolutionary”, 3 megapixel beast they put in there because people demanded it.
The big question when you think about this trade off is what the iPad 3 would be like without that screen. Let’s assume for a second that Apple stuck with the old type of screen, but kept all the other changes – including the thickness and weight. The new 32nm chip used in the $399 iPad 2 improves battery life over last year’s model, and have been measured to last over 15 hours when playing HD video. On a 25Wh battery. Imagine that device being powered by the 42.5Wh battery in the iPad 3 instead – 20 hours of use more or less regardless of what you do should be doable, and numbers closer to 30 hours for more power efficient tasks. Add to that a quad core graphics chip that is now being used to power the screen, but imagine it being used to actually improve graphics on games and such instead. Finally, that 5 megapixel camera to finally give the iPad 2 a decent camera.
Would you buy such a device, one that trades a high resolution screen for power and battery life? I know some would, some wouldn’t. Personally I would have liked some sort of screen update, just not one that comes with so much baggage. I think a lot of people who use the iPad for business and things like that would happily make the trade though, as it would make it a true all day computing device that doesn’t care if you leave the screen on for hours at an end. On the other hand, that new screen has a lot of people spellbound, and it helps with a lot of business related tasks as well by opening up for a better reading experience on the thing. A hard choice indeed, but that’s kinda the point: when a new device makes so many sacrifices that an alternative version without its main selling point can be equally attractive, that product definitely has some serious issues.