Steve Jobs shows off the white iPad 2 in San Francisco March 3, 2011. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
All indicators suggest Apple will unveil the iPad 3 during the first week of March. That’s less than a month away, and sources at The Next Web say Apple is in “crunch mode,” working hard to line up apps that show off the unique features of the next-gen tablet.
The iPad 3 is expected to feature a high-definition, 2048 x 1536 “retina display.” If the new screen does appear in Apple’s big reveal, it should provoke all the excitement of the company’s first retina display, which appeared in the iPhone 4 in 2010. According to a source who spoke with The New York Times, the next iPad’s screen will be “truly amazing.”
So which apps might Apple use to show off the brilliance of its new display hardware? We’ve identified four key app categories that would be ideal for demo’ing the HD display. We’ve also spoken to software developers about their iPad 3 aspirations. None would spill any beans concerning launch-day involvement, but we did learn more about how the developer community is anticipating the new display.
The Fotopedia Wild Friends app shares photographs of animals. Image: Fotopedia
Apps for shooting and viewing photographs would be ideal for showing off not only a high-resolution display, but also an improved camera, which is also a highly likely upgrade.
iOS 5 has a hidden panorama mode that developers haven’t yet been able to take advantage of. So, if an iOS update accompanies the iPad 3 launch, we might expect Apple to finally show off panorama mode in conjunction with an improved rear-facing camera. (The current iPad 2 camera is merely iPod touch caliber.)
And if Apple doesn’t want to show off its own panorama capabilities, apps like TourWrist and 360 Panorama would be great candidates to show off such a feature.
TourWrist CEO Charles Armstrong is so confident that Apple will be doubling the number of pixels in the height and width of its next tablet, his team is already preparing a new version of its app. “It’s four times as many pixels. That makes logical sense, and that’s what we’re anticipating.”
As for viewing images, something like Fotopedia would be a great app for Apple to showcase at the iPad 3 demo. Essentially a depository of mind-blowing photojournalism, Fotopedia won the Tablet App of the Year award at 2011′s Crunchies Awards (Silicon Valley’s version of the Oscars). The app is broken down into various themed collections (e.g., Dreams of Burma, National Parks and, most recently, Women of the World), each full of stunning full-screen images.
“We love Apple, we only build apps for iOS,” Fotopedia senior vice president Christophe Daligault told Wired. “We basically will be ready with very high-quality, high-definition content as soon as a higher-resolution iPad comes out,” he said.
Daligault added it would only take a few weeks to tweak Fotopedia for a retina display iPad. So, theoretically, if Apple asked the company to demo at the iPad 3 launch, Fotopedia would be ready. “But we havent gotten a phone call,” Daligault says.
Steve Jobs emphasized that the iPad isn’t just a tool for consumption, like other mobile devices — it’s a tool for creation. Apple has its own photo-creation tools it can debut or update as well — Photobooth for example. This app uses the iPad 2′s front-facing camera for taking self portraits with different visual effects, and it could receive an HD update.
Nonetheless, to expand its current content-creation possibilities for tablets, Apple would need to introduce new products. Most likely, we think, would be a new iPad 3 version of iPhoto for more professional-caliber photo editing on the go. Running a display resolution of 2048 x 1536 — a higher resolution than that of the screen on the 15-inch MacBook Pro — would allow photographers to dive quite deep into onscreen details. The display would also be terrific for sharing slideshows.
Apple's Randy Ubillos, chief architect of video applications, demonstrates the iMovie app on the iPad 2. Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired.com
When the iPad 2 launched, one of the major new apps Apple introduced was iMovie for iPad. iMovie lets you cut and edit video clips, use AirPlay to stream content to an Apple TV, and play video directly on the iPad itself.
If the iPad 3 is getting a spiffy new HD display, and (just as likely) an improved camera capable of recording 1080p video — you know, to match the display — then an update to iMovie seems not just likely but inevitable. Like an iPhoto port for iPad, an update to iMovie would help solidify the iPad as a tool for creative types who don’t want to be tethered to a desktop or keyboard-burdened notebook.
Other video-centric apps could focus on sports, like the MLB.com app that was singled out at the original iPad’s announcement. (Maybe we’ll see MLB at Bat 2012.) And with Apple’s AirPlay feature, we could see Apple demoing 1080p streaming video from the Apple TV to the iPad 3.
Bottom line: If the new iPad does have a retina display, you can bet that action-packed, high-quality video will be a key part of the presentation.
N.O.V.A. 2 HD is currently optimized for the iPad 2. Image: Gameloft
At the iPhone 4S launch, Apple showed off Infinity Blade II, which featured souped-up graphics to take advantage of the phone’s A5 processor and 3.5-inch retina display.
The iPad 3 is very likely to sport either a dual-core or quad-core A6 processor. Either way, A6 performance will trump that of the iPad 2′s A5 chip, and paired with a high-resolution display, an immersive, action-packed game like Infinity Blade would be just the title to show what the new tablet is capable of.
Now, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing an HD version of Infinity Blade at the iPad 3′s launch. Epic Games Representative Laura Mustard told us that the Infinity Blade team “hasn’t been talking to Apple about their plans for the future.” So what are some other possibilities?
Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. 2 HD is a graphics-intensive iPad game that integrates with Apple TV and iCloud. It originally came out in January 2011 and was updated in November.
“Gameloft is always keen to anticipate and support innovative features enabled by Apple,” representative Jessica Lewinstein told us. N.O.V.A. 2 HD already has detailed graphics that would look even better on a higher-resolution display, not to mention a tablet with improved processor performance.
At the iPad’s original launch in 2010, CEO Steve Jobs focused on a 3-D version of the game Need for Speed, as well as other apps from Electronic Arts. Considering Apple and EA have teamed up before, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an EA game onscreen in San Francisco in a month’s time. Options could be anything from Mirror’s Edge, whose sharp, high-flying action would make for an impressive spectacle, to maybe the iPad version of Battlefield 2. An iPad version of Battlefield 3 would probably be a bit too much wishful thinking, but you never know.
iBooks Author lets you create textbooks for the iPad. Image: Apple
Apple just updated iBooks and iTunes U, as well as ways to purchase and create digital textbooks, in its education-related announcement in January. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the company iterate on these products one more time to make them HD ready.
Display quality is currently an issue when reading textbooks on regular e-readers and current tablets. E-ink e-readers can’t show off bold, color graphics (or any color at all), and even the iPad 2 doesn’t have the display resolution to show off some educational content in all its glory. So being able to view and interact with images and diagrams in incredible detail on the iPad 3 would be an impressive addition to an already useful educational tool. Suddenly, processes like the Krebs Cycle wouldn’t be so dry anymore, and you could actually attend your engineering lectures without lugging half a dozen different tomes in your backpack.
Obviously, all of the app picks we mention above are purely speculative. But we would be surprised if Apple doesn’t showcase some type of app for each of the categories we’ve called out.