MAPH Week 18: I Promised Myself I’d Never be One of those People…

Allow this Photoshopped “iPad 2 Mini” to remind you that this is not the first time that we have asked and Apple has denied.

The iPad 3 is the worst kept secret ever…

…since the iPad 2, the iPone 4s, and, well, most every other techno-fashion trinket.  I’d love to sneer down my nose at all those fools drooling over leaked photos of the new HD iPad 3 screen and engaging in lively speculation regarding the ever-so-slightly larger rear camera orifice visible in a purported iPad 3 pre-production rear casing.  The problem is that I am right in there with them fighting over every scrap of rumor and heresay I can find floating around on the Web.

You see, I was one of those who scoffed at the improbably tablet computer with no keyboard and only Apple’s trusty 30-pin connector as an i/o port.  Surely this was nothing more than a iPod touch run through a Xerox machine at 200 percent.  But, then Oxford intervened and I found myself with a list of required books that would have necessitated a suitcase all its own and I was desperate for a digital reader that wasn’t limited to books published in the ePub format–as most academic texts still aren’t available for a Kindle or Border’s Nook.  The only solution at the time that readily dispatched .pdf files was the iPad 1 released in April of 2010 so I begrudgingly order up a wifi-only 64GB.

Fast forward approximately two years and my academic and personal life is completely tied to that improbable little tablet.  The Calender app syncs my daily activities to my laptop at home via the free iCloud service as well as keeping tabs on the classroom notes that I write in Evernote.  The program that allows the iPad to earn its keep, though, is iAnnotate PDF that allows me to load all my books and articles from scans at home or downloaded from UChicago’s CHALK site.  Best of all, all my marginalia, highlighting, and bookmarking is kept constantly backed up on the cloud as well so even if the unthinkable happens and my iPad is lost or stolen, all my academic bric-a-brac is safely squirreled away.

At my undergrad institution I could only name one other person with an iPad–a professor who even used the iPad to run his PowerPoints into the projector.  At U of C, however, the things are ubiquitous for all the reasons I’ve already highlighted.  The iPad 1 and 2 are very much capable of exiling an academic’s laptop to the gathering dust on the desk top at home.  So what if the iPad 1 and 2 are such capable machines why are all these idiots–myself included–salivating over the iPad 3?  Well, I just happen to have a list:

1) Storage capacity.  In 2010 when the iPad 1 launched the cost of flash memory above 64-gigbytes was really cost prohibitive for a reasonably affordable machine.  Two years later, a 128GB flash drive still isn’t cheap at an average retail price of around $200 dollars, but it is well within the margin of a tablet that will likely sell for about $700 in the wifi-only version.  The plain and simply reality of my 64GB iPad 2 is that I can either carry around the .pdfs that I am currently using for classes and research or my music collection, but not both.  As a result my iPad currently syncs with only a tiny, tiny fraction of my iTunes library and every new book means a few albums have to be shaved away.  For an academic who walks a mile to school the choice between tunes and readings from earlier classes in the quarter is surprisingly difficult.  I need a 128GB iPad and I’d be even happier with a 256GB–but that seems rather unlikely.

2) Retina–or near Retina–Display.  Again, in 2010, the resolution on the iPad 1 was a non-issue.  In fact part of the iPad’s unique multi-touch interface was designed particularly to deal with tiny type and make a high-res screen superfluous.  The pinch-pull zoom feature makes it simple to zoom in and read even the 4 point fonts found in penny-pinching theology reference works… and the “tap to zoom” feature made it even easier.  However, what if you want to read both the 12 point of the body text and quick skip down to the 4 point notes without having to lose you place on the page?  Retina to the rescue.  Furthermore, let’s all be honest–as much as my iPad is a Hard Core Academic Tool!–and it really is–it also browses the web, watches movies, plays games, and even occasionally doubles as a cat toy.  Imagine how amazing The Game for Cats is going to look in better-than-1080p resolution Lapis and Gracie!

3) Faster Processors and more on-board RAM.  Part of my move from my original iPad 1 to the iPad 2 was in hope that I could prevent iAnnotate from crashing when I loaded a twelve-hundred page book it had to catalog and prepare for searches.  The bump in processor speed and jump from 256mb of RAM to 512mb in the iPad 2 fixed my iAnnotate and provided a stable platform for multitasking between two resource intensive programs.  However, the cost of the Retina will be paid in the need for greater graphic’s processing power and the need for a…

4) Larger batter.  Yep, I think we can be assured that the iPad 3 is going to have a longer battery life.  But I think it is equally likely that a larger battery will not translate into more hours between charges.  The iPad 2 does an amazing job of typically avoiding the “five-percent of batter auto off” for about nine hours.  However, with the increases in Raw power under the hood in the iPad 3 I think a bigger battery will only maintain what we have come to expect.

5) Dream Features.  So far everything on this list has been either confirmed to be part of the likely iPad 3 built sheet, or at least plausible.  What would an academic really like on their iPad that Cupertino isn’t likely to provide?  Well, for starters Flash support.  There are likely good reasons both technological and political why Apple and Adobe aren’t willing to let bygones be bygones and include Flash support.  However, at least some of those technological reasons might plausibly be addressed by iPad 3’s more robust under-hood power and with the death of Steve Jobs it is at least possible that personality conflicts between Apple and Adobe might be behind both companies.  However, Apple is nothing if not practical and if they can withhold Flash and still build the best-selling tablet in the world, they aren’t likely to cave now.  Sadly, the same goes for SD card slots and access to external hard-drives through USB.  Limited storage space is probably the number one reason for my own hunger for an iPad 3 and SD or USB based storage solutions mitigate that hunger–without necessitating the jump to the higher priced trim levels.

So, there you have it, my justification for bookmarking iLounge and the MacRumors web pages.  Oh and one more… with a piece of technology as hard working and enjoyable to use as the iPad, even my wife was seduced so my iPad 2 was my wife’s delayed Valentine’s Day gift.

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