Dubbed the new iPad, Apple’s third-generation iPad hit the streets last week, igniting long lines at Apple stores and racking up huge sales. A few days later, though, after the dust settled critics began weighing in.
First, the good news in Cupertino: Apple claims new iPad sales topped three million units on opening weekend—a new iPad sales record—and this doesn’t include marked-down iPad 2 sales. UBS analyst Maynard Um predicts 12 million new iPad sales this quarter, if supply can keep up with demand.
But Apple’s huge iSuccess also paints a bulls-eye on the company’s back.
Whether the outrage is over working conditions at Chinese supplier Foxconn, enterprise security on the iPad, battery life on the iPhone, or the iPhone 4 “Antennagate” controversy, Apple is often held to a higher standard than other consumer electronics makers. Critics have also blasted Apple on iPhone data privacy (or lack thereof) and its mysterious App Store app approval process.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these examples:
Foxconn supplies components to other major American companies, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard. Enterprise security on the iPad is better than Android tablets by far. The iPhone 4S doesn’t use power-inefficient 4G chipsets (even though the iPhone 4S sometimes shows a 4G connection), yet no one complains about Android 4G phones draining batteries like a sieve. Antennagate? It proved to be a non-starter.
Enter the new iPad. Suddenly, critics have taken dead aim on three main issues: over-heating, bigger apps, and breakage-repairability.
Consumer Reports ran a series of tests on the new iPad and found that it runs hot, as much as 116 degrees Fahrenheit when running the graphics-intensive game, Infinity Blade. That’s a whopping 13 degrees hotter than the iPad 2. Apple countered that this falls within its thermal parameters.
But is this Apple being bad? Depends on how you look at it. The new iPad runs cooler than some laptops, points out AllThingsD. “During our tests, I held the new iPad in my hands,” writes Donna L. Tapellini of Consumer Reports in the report. “When it was at its hottest, it felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period.”
The extra heat, of course, comes from extra work needed to power the iPad’s new dual-core AX5 processor and integrated quad-core graphics. This high-resolution display doubles the number of pixels in the iPad 2 to 2048-by-1536 pixels resolution. The new iPad is slightly thicker than the iPad 2, in order to accommodate a larger battery.
The high-res screen has led to the second major criticism: apps that demand more storage. Apps tuned to take advantage of the new iPad’s screen can be twice as big as the previous version of the app. Infinity Blade 2, for instance, leaps from 318 MBs to 791 MBs.
While this might seem bad enough, it gets a lot worse. App developers aren’t allowed to create versions for different iPads. If you have an older iPad and update apps regularly (and really, who doesn’t?), then you’ll end up with the same big app tuned for the new iPad but unable to enjoy the benefits of the improved graphics.
This sounds like a serious problem—or is it? Fact is, app storage consumption pales in comparison to video and music. On my iPad 2, video and music take up 15GB of my 22.8GB used. It’s also important to note that only a handful of iPad apps are graphics hogs and will make a dent in storage usage.
What the critics miss is that Apple has brought movies to its new iCloud service. I’ve bought nine movies on iTunes for my iPad, and they were taking up a ton of space. “Star Trek” is 4.3GB. Now seven movies reside in iCloud ready for me to download and watch, freeing up massive headroom in local iPad storage. (I don’t subscribe to iTunes Match, at least not yet.)
The last criticism—lack of repairability—does have some legs.
Apple has made the iPad extremely difficult to perform repairs, says iFixit, a consumer gadget repair site that broke the story about Apple’s use of tamper-resistant Pentalobular screws. During the iPad teardown, iFixit’s skilled technicians used a heat gun on the glass to loosen the adhesive, as well as guitar picks and suction cups to lift the glass. Most people will end up breaking the glass, iFixit says.
It should be noted that the new iPad’s repair problems are exactly the same as those of iPad 2. So why the criticism now?
Earlier this year, Apple announced a major effort to bring iPads into high schools. Imagine students who are used to slinging around tough textbooks in lockers and backpacks suddenly having to properly care for a glass e-book. The iPad’s durability and repairability won’t stand up.
“This is going to be a problem, and I don’t know that schools are anticipating it,” iFixit’s Kyle Wiens told CIO.com. “Now schools will need to figure out a way to be good at fixing iPads. Or they’ll be shelling out a lot of money for service.”
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.