Will The iPad 3 Foreshadow iPhone 5 Features?

Regardless of when the iPhone 5 launches in 2012, the iPad 3 is bound to debut first. Will its new features foretell what to expect from the iPhone 5, or is the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 bound to grow even farther apart?

If you scan the iPad 3 news these days, then  you’re bound to see plenty of promising reports that the third-generation Apple tablet is upon us. Bloomberg is reporting that the iPad 3 is full-on into production and will arrive by March, remaining in step with its usual Springtime release schedule. The critical selling points of the iPad 3 will be in line with what we’ve been hearing about for a long time: “[The iPad 3] will sport a high-definition screen, run a faster processor and work with next-generation wireless networks, according to three people familiar with the product.”

But the big question is, how much information about the iPhone 5 will we be able to glean from the release of the iPad 3 in March? Or, even more interesting, will we see the iPad and iPhone grow farther apart in design this year?

One metric to consider when weighing these questions is the length of time between releases: whereas the iPhone 5 will have essentially been in the making for 2+ years once it is released (or even longer, depending on how long Cupertino has really been R&D’ing it), having been stalled and fretted over by Steve Jobs himself, the iPad 3 will be released according to its now-reliable schedule. For as much as the new iPad 3 features will come as a welcome to tablet users, it would seem that, from a design and production standpoint, even the new innovations for the iPad 3 are obviously not a dramatic leap forward and reasonably implementable.

Based on these two realities, I am imagining that Apple’s two defining mobile devices are growing apart. And if I’m right, it would make sense: if Apple dreams of offering a true ecosphere of products to customers, then the iPad and iPhone need to remain far enough apart for users to see a value in owning both. My three-year-old still refers to my iPhone 4 as a “mini iPad.” While the shared iOS will undoubtedly continue to make the user interface between the two devices the same, form factor and size could most definitely change between the two this year.

We’ll have a better sense once the iPad 3 is released, since we’ll find out if the zany rumors of a sub-9.7-inch iPad come true. PC World considers this possibility in a new article outlining the prevailing iPad 3 rumors, saying, “Another persistent idea is that Apple will produce an iPad “mini” tablet with a 7.85-inch display, à la Amazon’s Kindle Fire. That last possibility seems unlikely, however, because it violates Apple’s vision of a tablet as a device for both content creation and content consumption. Though 8-inch tablets are okay for consumption, they’re not so good for creation.”

I like the thinking here: I don’t think that Apple will move the iPad design closer to the iPhone by making it smaller, but rather might feel quite comfortable in following through with some other rumors that the device might actually grow thicker, thanks to the new LED bar and increased display. In this way, I think that the iPad 3 is becoming more of a crossover between a laptop and mobile media device: almost like the intersection of a Macbook Air and the rumored Apple TV. It will also continue to develop in the business sphere as a productive business tool.

Conversely, the iPhone 5 will move even further into becoming a mobile “life hub;” a device that ties together all of the facets of a user’s life. I’ve often argued that the iPhone is a truly cyborg mobile device — it enhances our bodies and mind. Now, the iPhone 5 will deliver on giving us access to information (Siri and search), media (its high quality rear-facing camera, larger screen, and total access to purchased music and video), communication (telephone, messaging, and front-facing camera), and perhaps even commerce (NFC). And all of these aspects will be enhanced by faster processing, LTE, and (hopefully) a better battery.

So, in this way, I don’t imagine that the iPad 3 will foreshadow the iPhone 5. But I do suspect that what the iPad is not, the iPhone 5 will be.

By Michael Nace



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