iPad 2 Resolution Change: All or Nothing

Among the many new features rumored for the iPad 2 is an update to the screen.

What this entails, though, is something that the rumor mill hasn’t made clear: some say it will feature a new Retina Display screen. Some say a higher quality screen (i.e. better color gamut, viewing angles, all that technical jargon). Some say the resolution will only receive a slight update, as a true Retina Display is ridiculous (hint: it probably is). Others even more claim that the resolution will remain as it currently is, but Apple will shrink the screen down to a Galaxy Tab-esque 7 inches, therefore boosting PPI (pixels per inch).

After the break, we’ll take a look at each one of these claims, and break them down.

Retina Display on the iPad

This has been broken down in a thread within our forums already, and the short way of stating this is that it is going to be nigh on impossible for this to happen. The resolution needed to make the iPad’s a Retina Display (i.e. over 300 PPI) would have to be equivalent to that of the 27” iMac: 2560×1440.

Disregarding the exorbitant price increase that would come as a result, the hardware needed to run this resolution would (a.) kill battery life was faster than would be acceptable for a consumer tablet that is designed to be portable, and (b.) would cause some pretty major issues with heat management and dissipation. So, while the hardware might  be possible, it just doesn’t make sense for this kind of device, at this size, at this portability level, that needs to live up to the current iPad’s fantastic battery life.

Higher Quality Screen

Out of everything we’re talking about today, this is the most likely, though it will be interesting to see how Apple improves upon the already-great IPS display on the iPad. I suppose it could be made brighter, with more color. So consider this likely; Apple often improves screens between generations without making much of a fuss, just because technology evolves over the course of a year.

Resolution Receives Slight Update

Sure, if Apple is looking to break compatibility with the iPad’s extensive library of apps. It’s an all-or-nothing situation here: if Apple can’t make the display truly amazing, then why waste the developer’s time making them update graphics for a slight, insignificant resolution bump?

Apple was able to pull this with the iPhone 4 and iPod touch G4 because the new resolution offered significant improvements over the original 320×480 resolution; namely, the pixels were almost impossible to see unless you strained to find them. A small resolution bump on the iPad would really just cause more work for developers, while providing minimal improvements for the end user.

Screen Shrinks to 7,” Resolution Remains

While this would bring a bump in pixel density (131 on a 9.7” screen vs. 182 on a 7” screen) Steve Jobs has already voiced his strong opinion on this size of screen. Unless this is a prime example of the classic Apple ‘we say no, but do it later anyways’ situation, there doesn’t seem much chance of this happening.

That isn’t the only reason, though. Apple loves their UI paradigms, and shrinking the screen will mean a different experience. The iPad wasn’t thrown together in one night-it’s been suggested that the idea of the iPad has been in development since before even the iPhone-and Apple and third-party developers have fine tuned the experience to a 9.7” screen.

There are plenty of places to innovate and upgrade. We’ve already seen ‘leaks’ that feature a slightly more iPod touch G4-like design, and a larger, louder speaker. I’m not trying to be a killjoy here, but I’m just not sure if much is going to change with the screen.

But hey: iPad is magic!

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