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Next-gen iPad: Sorting out screen, battery, chip, timing rumors

Next-gen iPad rumors come fast and furious at times. But not all are equally valid.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
3 min read
iPad 2 to compete directly with current $199 Kindle Fire? Probably not.
iPad 2 to compete directly with current $199 Kindle Fire? Probably not. CNET

A wave of new iPad rumors broke Wednesday night. As usual, some are more credible than others.

First, Let's address the most credible information circulating out there centered on the screen and battery.

Screen: High probability that a QXGA, 2048x1536 display-toting iPad is coming, Richard Shim, an analyst at DisplaySearch, told CNET on Thursday, reiterating, in part, what he said earlier. "They started making the panels in November. In the first quarter, they're going to do about 8 million," he said. Suppliers include Sharp and LG Display.

Apple is also expected to tap IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) technology, courtesy of Sharp, for the next iPad instead of in-plane switching (IPS), used currently. Devices using IGZO displays can be thinner with longer battery life, among other benefits.

And an iPad with a 7.85-inch screen is still being entertained as a possibility for late in the year, Shim said.

Bigger, better Battery: This report in DigiTimes is also credible. "The battery capacity for the high-end version of Apple's new iPad...will be increased to 14,000mAH...according to industry sources," said DigiTimes. The iPad 2 has a battery rated at 6930 mAh.

"A bulked up battery would make sense," said Shim. "And certainly a more efficient device is a possibility because now you have a panel with more pixels to light up," he said.

Timing and price: Two new iPads in January 2012, according to DigiTimes. One for Apple's traditional high-end segment and one--reportedly an iPad 2--that will be kicked down to a lower price tier to compete with Amazon's Kindle Fire, according to the report.

Not likely, said Shim. At least not so low to compete directly with the $199 Kindle Fire. "Apple doesn't want to erode their margins. They don't want to create any hint of a second-class product. They have no reason. They're selling as many as they can make. And this next-generation device is going to reinforce that supply-demand dynamic," he said.

And timing for the next-gen iPad? January is "a little suspect," said Shim. "When they make them available they want to have as many as possible. And my sense is that they will wait rather than make them immediately available," he said. That would put actual shipment of the next iPad later in the first quarter.

Apple A6 processor: The status of the A6 is a bit of a mystery. We know that Samsung, most likely, will make the processor at its Austin, Texas facility--which was built to supply processors to Apple, according to a Reuters report (and according to a source who CNET has spoken to).

But it's not clear when this will debut in an Apple product. When it does, it would likely appear first in an iPad then trickle down to the iPhone, per Apple's past practices. And the A6 will likely have more processor cores. But not all cores are created equal. Apple may add specialized cores rather than simply general-purpose cores, as Nvidia has done with its Tegra 3, which has four general-purpose cores and a fifth power-saving core.