As the New Year approached, iPad 3 rumors gushed like cheap bubbly, and the iOSsphere guzzled.
This past week: conflicting but equally bizarre claims on when iPad 3 will be unveiled; assault on battery limitations with new technology; Koreans show us the way to the Retina Display; and new replacement parts suggest there are big changes in store for iPad 3...unless they're actually little changes.
You read it here second.
"Unfortunately, little other information was offered, but it was claimed to be an image of the upcoming iPad 3 Display panel." -- Arnold Kim, MacRumors, on why a blurry, unsourced, unidentified, anonymously posted photograph, in Korean, qualified as an iPad 3 rumor.
iPad 3 due in January, with insanely great battery
Citing the ever-popular "sources at Apple's supply chain partners," Digitimes announced that not one but two iPad 3 versions will be unveiled at the Macworld, also referred to now as iWorld, conference which starts Jan. 26 in San Francisco.
Within hours, other sites were concluding this rumor was the rarest of all rumors - the kind of rumor one should ignore.
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Digitimes in its Dec. 29 post claimed that both iPad models will have the existing 9.7-inch screen, but with higher resolution: 2,084 x 1,536 pixels, compared to the iPad 2 resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. There will be "dual LED light bars" to make the screens brighter, according to the sources.
The two models would be aimed at the mid- and high-end market segments, with the iPad 2 re-priced to compete with less expensive rivals like the Amazon Kindle.
Within hours, long-time Apple watcher Jim Dalrymple, at The Loop, declared, "These rumors are completely false."
"I checked with a number of my sources today and an iPad 3 is not planned for release at Macworld," he wrote. "In case you're wondering, an iPad 3 won't be released at CES either."
Dalrymple noted, as Digitimes did not, that Apple pulled out of the Macworld Expo back in 2009, and most other tradeshows since then.
But even as the announcement date rumor floundered, another rumor in the Digitimes post is surging ahead. The post claims that Simplo Technology and Dynapack International Technology "have both secured orders for batteries with a capacity of as high as 14,000 milliampere-hour (mAh)" for the new iPads.
If true that's about double the capacity of the iPad 2, which is pegged at 6,500 mAh, according to several blogs or news sites that picked up on this rumor. Apple's iPad tech specs only say that iPad 2 has a 25-watt-hour battery that delivers up to 10 hours of use over Wi-Fi, and up to nine hours over 3G.
"If the new iPad had identical components (which is unlikely), it would last more than twice as long per charge than your current one," posted Dylan Love at Business Insider. "But we're expecting plenty of updates to the iPad 3 that might require a larger battery, not the least of which being a retina display."
The enthusiasm for battery + display reignited rumors, around since at least November, that iPad 3 will feature a display based on a new LCD technology announced by Sharp earlier in 2011, using an indium, gallium and zinc oxide, dubbed IGZO. The technology creates a display that uses less power than current popular alternatives, and higher resolution.
iPad 3 due in February, with or without insanely great battery
The other reason we know the Macworld iPad 3 release is wrong is because it's going to be released Feb. 24, which would have been the 57th birthday of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
That's the word from International Business Times, which claimed, but didn't link to, a rumor originating on a Taiwan news site, Economic Daily News (we gave up trying to search EDN even with Google Translate).
"The date has been chosen to honor the company's late co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer, Steve Jobs, who died on Oct. 5," IBT solemnly posted. "Jobs was born on Feb. 24."
This felicitous timing apparently hasn't yet caught up with the folks at Happy Birthday Steve Jobs, a website formed a year ago to wish Jobs a happy 56th. Our favorite: "Be like neverending dream, Steve!"
Even IBT sounded a teensy skeptical: "If a recent report from a Taiwanese newspaper is to be believed...." The website also noted that EDN relied on an "unnamed source." Though that's not actually a problem: IBT has made plentiful use of single unnamed sources for its own rumors.
And IBT liked another rumor from the same source: the Capitalist Running Dogs in charge of Hon Hai Precision Industry have decreed that its iPad assembly division will "be allowed as little as five days of leave during the Chinese New Year season" in February, in order to meet delivery targets. "This is significant because in China most industries usually take at least two weeks of leave during this season," according to IBT.
iPad 3 will have different internal design
As an example of rumor creep, it's hard to beat this recent post at The Boy Genius Report, with the super-cautious headline, "Photos of purported iPad 3 part suggests tweaked internals."
One would think that one wouldn't need photos, purported or otherwise, to conclude that Apple probably will make changes to the internal components and layout of iPad 3. Because if they didn't, we'd end up with a new iPad 2, perhaps the dreaded iPad 2S.
Yet, oddly, the new information in Todd Haselton's BGR post suggests that - with regard to the purported iPad part in question - there actually will be no changes because the photos "suggest that the tablet will continue to use Apple's 30-pin connector, as opposed to microUSB or another popular industry-wide standard port."
The accompanying close-up photograph confirms, believe it or don't, that a 30-pin plug fits into the purported 30-pin connector.
BGR picked up on the photos posted at the Japanese site Macotakara (or Macotaco as we fondly prefer), which in turn lifted them from TVC-Mall.com, the website of an Apple parts reseller that apparently spends much of its time "leaking" information about the replacement components that it's designed for unannounced Apple products.
Since the basic news is pretty basic ("iPad 3 will have the same 30-pin connector as iPad 2!"), BGR inflates the basics with essential context, by referencing another set of purported iPad parts pictures, also posted recently by TVC-Mall, for the noteworthy "microphone mic flex cable ribbon" for iPad 3. Haselton purports to believe that the MMFCR "suggests that the iPad 3 will feature a cosmetic redesign, which may include a thicker case in order to make room for a new high-resolution display."
"Cosmetic" or as the English say more colorfully "tarting up" is popularly understood as something "used or done superficially to make something look better, more attractive, or more impressive." Changes to an internal component can't make the iPad 3 "look better." But a thicker case and higher-res display would make the iPad look better, yet wouldn't be considered superficial.
The popularity of doo-hickey flex cables as a source of product insight is spilling over into the iPad 3 rumor circle from the iPhone 5 rumor circle, where for example we've been regaled by the Proximity Light Sensor Flex Cable and the Headphone/Earphone Audio Jack Flex Cable.
Koreans leak photo of iPad 3 Retina Display
And the aptly named MacRumors.com has it, with the headline "Leaked Photo of an iPad 3 Retina Display?"
As William Shakespeare's Macbeth once asked, "Is this an iPad 3 Retina Display which I see before me?"
MacRumors got a tip about a blurry photo, posted at an online Korean "iPhone & iPad user community" forum, Café Naver ("registration required" MacRumors helpfully notes with its accompanying link, though it fails to mention "along with the ability to read Korean").
"Unfortunately, little other information was offered, but it was claimed to be an image of the upcoming iPad 3 Display panel," MacRumors noted. And of course, in the iOSsphere, a claim is all you really need.
IPad rumors thrive on faith. "We believe the top image represents the current iPad 2 screen, while the bottom image is the supposed iPad 3 display. Both are 9.7" in diagonal, but the bottom screen has a different configuration for the attached cabling."
MacRumors spells out the difference in case you can't tell by comparing the two images. "As you can see there are 3 brown ribbon cables leading from the screen itself to the circuit board. The small brown cable to the far left is the power cable, while the other two wide cables are for display data."
Comparing the photo to a much better photo of the existing iPad 2 display, from iFixit, you can see that the iPad 2 has only two ribbon cables. But the supposed iPad 3 display has (insert drum roll) three ribbon cables. This suggests that the iPad 4 will have four ribbon cables.
The brown ribbon cables are for display data. "The iPad 3 is expected to carry a high resolution screen of 2048 x 1536 which is four times the number of pixels of the current iPad 2, so the need for additional data bandwidth would be understandable," MacRumors explains. It's just simple math.
"No other details are available," MacRumors notes, glossing over the fact that actually no details at all are available from an unidentified, and almost unidentifiable, and unsourced photograph posted in an untranslated language by an anonymous forum member. But MacRumors is optimistic: "the increasing number of parts leaking on the web suggests that Apple is getting closer to production."
One tweaked flex cable isn't convincing. But add up all of those third-party redesigned flex cables, unchanged 30-pin connectors, and blurry display photos and you just know that iPad 3 is getting closer.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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