As we are all waiting for the next announcement from Apple to redefine our perception of electronic computing devices in one shape/size or another, many are making predictions about what the new iPad 3 will include. The most consistent mention is a new display with higher resolution. Almost all industry analysts agree that the new display will indeed raise the resolution bar for the tablet segment significantly.
First tests of alleged components of the new iPad 3 confirm a higher resolution than any other tablet display so far. Many tech blogs have been commenting on this new display, www.fixit.com is now a step ahead of guessing and has taken a look at a display that seems to be part of the new iPad 3. For more information you can go to the posted video at this link (www.ifixit.com/iPad 3?). As there is no official announcement from Apple yet, all these are guesses that may or may not turn into reality at the March announcement.
Based on their analysis, they are confirming that the reviewed display has indeed a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution (compared to the 1024×768 pixels of the iPad 2), while keeping the screen size exactly the same as with the original iPad and the iPad 2. Based on a simple calculation, this gives the expected iPad 3 display a pixel density of 264 ppi compared to the 132 ppi of the iPad 2.
This is not really news for many of you, but just take a moment and think about the consequences for the display industry. We have taken a list (Source: Wikipedia.com) of existing mobile computing displays and analyzed it for size and pixel density. We don’t claim that this is complete list of all devices, but the sample is large enough to expect no surprises by adding more devices.
These displays are used in Smartphones, personal gaming devices, tablets and notebooks. In the attached chart we plotted the Screen Size in inches versus the Pixel Density in ppi.
As expected, the data show a peak of high resolution displays in the small sizes up to around three to five inches. This is clearly mostly Smartphone (and some personal gaming devices) territory and a very smooth transition to around 100 - 150 ppi for larger tablet and notebook displays. For comparison, a 37-inch 1080p TV has a pixel density of 60 ppi and the LG 4k TV (84-inch, 3840×2160) only reaches 52 ppi.
Why do we expect this behavior? This is of course stemming from the original iPhone 4 Retina display introduced in June of 2010. After their release every Smartphone manufacturer included higher resolution displays into their Smartphone devices to keep up with Apple.
Based on the information of the alleged iPad 3 display, we have marked the territory for this display on the chart. As expected this is indeed pushing the envelope of existing display technology to the limit again. This 9.7" display at 264 ppi is creating a new spot on this map. So far the closest comparisons from pixel density and size are the Samsung Note (5.3", 285 ppi) and the Sony Vaio P (8", 221 ppi).
If this is all becoming reality in March, we can expect a similar trend of high resolution displays pushing into tablets form all manufacturers very soon. Taking into account the impact of the Retina display after only one and a half years, we think that by the end of 2013 many tablets (more than 50%) will offer high resolution displays (over 200 ppi) just to stay in the game.
This is indeed a storm brewing for the display manufacturers, as they have to change their design rules and consequently manufacturing standards to new heights. This is hitting the display industry at a time where profits are almost not existent and needed investments are delayed for business reasons. Interesting times are waiting for us and it would not be a surprise if many manufacturers are looking to the CE manufacturers to fund such necessary investments. The investment of Apple into Sharp may just be the beginning.