updated 08:30 pm EST, Sat January 15, 2011
iBooks 1.2 points to iPad 2 getting Retina Display
A handful of discoveries on Saturday may have all but confirmed suspicions of a new iPad with a Retina Display. Both Arizona State University researcher Rafeed Chaudhury and mobile app writer Steve Troughton-Smith found images in both the current iBooks 1.2 and its 1.1 predecessor showing background and bookmark images that fit a "2X" iPad resolution that doesn't exist before. The wood tile image (below) is 1,536 pixels wide, twice the width of the iPad's screen, and by extension points to a 2048x1536 display on the future Apple tablet.
The resolution wouldn't have the same pixel density as the iPhone 4, whose 960x640 screen gives it 326 pixels per inch. At 264 pixels per inch, however, it would have four times the resolution of the existing iPad and would be almost exactly as sharp as screens like those for the Motorola Droid 2. A much sharper screen is potentially more expensive, although Apple has been willing to opt for brand new, ultra-sharp screens on the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch that haven't affected the retail prices. Its biggest concerns may be performance, but the rumored dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 chip and PowerVR SGX543 graphics could help drive the extra pixels without a hit in performance.
A higher resolution display could be a critical selling point for Apple as a wave of new Android tablets reach the market. Google is requiring a minimum 1280x720 display for Android 3.0 tablets, and some such as the Motorola Xoom will have 1280x800 or larger panels. No competitor, regardless of platform, is known to be getting as high a resolution and would leave the iPad as technically superior.
Most now expect Apple to ship the next iPad in early April and keep to its pattern of releasing new mobile products in roughly 12-month intervals.