Scores of new tablets have appeared in the past few months, and now that we know what the third-generation Apple iPad will offer when it ships March 16, here's the verdict: Android tablet vendors, get busy. Apple's specs blow past most rivals, whether shipping, announced, or on deck. Expect competing tablet makers to rush back to the drawing board and get a plan B in order to compete.
Check our handy chart, which pits the third-generation Apple iPad against recently announced and shipping Android 10-inch class tablets. It becomes instantly clear upon scanning this chart that Apple has a big specs advantage in its resolution its quad-core graphics engine (even though the A5X system-on-chip remains a dual-core Cortex A9-based architecture, as seen in iPad 2). For all its advances, though, Apple takes a surprising step backwards in one area, leaving a gap where Android tablets may continue to try to innovate. However, the new iPad's overall specs are so dominant leaves a Herculean challenge for Android tablets.
High-Res Displays Take Center Stage
For all the talk at CES and Mobile World Congress earlier this year of high-definition tablet displays, we saw only two models -- the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and the Acer Iconia Tab A700, each offering a 1920-by-1200 pixel display -- playing in this space. Other tablet manufacturers say that high component prices continue to hold back the high-resolution, high pixel-per-inch tablet displays.
Now Apple launches an even higher resolution display, and at the same price as last year's model. Apple's Retina Display, at 2048 by 1536 pixels, and 264 pixels per inch, exceeds the resolutions announced so far by the Android tablet makers. And those announced tablets aren't even arriving until late spring or even early summer. The Androids may be the first to announce, but they'll be late to the party, and come with less resolution. That combination makes for an uphill battle for relevance, to be sure.
Meanwhile, some of the biggest players in the Android space haven't said "boo" about getting a high-resolution display. Yes, Amazon and Samsung, I'm looking straight at you. The year is still young, but Apple's announcement applies pressure in a big way. Amazon might pass on the more expensive high-res display this year, as the company is clearly competing on price and its content sales. But Samsung didn't reveal its high-resolution cards at Mobile World Congress last week, focusing its energies instead on unveiling the Galaxy Note 10.1 -- and pared-down second-gen versions of its Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 7.0 tablets.
Apple's Price Advantage
It's no surprise that Apple can get the volume production scale to introduce all of these new features at the same price as last year. With iPad pricing starting at $499 for 16GB, the 10-inch class Android tablets will be hard-pressed to make inroads on Apple's market share.
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