Analysts: Plenty Of Warm Feelings For iPad

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Reports that the latest iPad gets very warm to the touch and rapidly plows through users’ 4G data caps won’t affect sales of the tablet if history is any guide, analysts say.

Some point to the 2010 brouhaha over the iPhone 4’s cellular reception, which dropped off significantly when users touched the phone’s wrap-around antenna at a certain point. The smartphone went on to break iPhone sales records.

In its first three days of availability in the U.S. and 10 other countries, Apple said it sold 3 million units and called the launch its “strongest iPad launch yet.” The company, however, was making an apples-to-oranges comparison because for last year’s iPad 2 launch, the tablet was available only in the U.S. during its first two weeks on the market. During the first weekend of iPad 2 availability in the U.S., about 500,000 units were sold, analysts have estimated.

As for sales of the latest iPad, analysts don’t expect any hiccups from the latest reports of drawbacks.

“Over the past two years, I have played with probably a hundred tablets,” said Peter King, Strategy Analytics director of tablet and touchscreen strategies. “Some get warm, some get hot.” Online forums “are full of stories of heating problems and how to fix them, but for now at least, the problem seems manageable. Only time will tell whether this becomes a massive problem for Apple — in the interim, iPad hogs the headlines still.”

As for swift 4G connections deterring consumers from buying the 4G-equipped iPad, King said, “I would have thought that anyone who purchased a 4G LTE iPad in the first few days was more than aware of the pitfalls and advantages of LTE, or for that matter, most data plans.” Research shows that people who buy cellular- equipped iPads “would not go back to a Wi-Fionly device.” Because the vast majority of tablet usage is in the home, he continued, “common sense dictates that wherever possible, users will switch to Wi-Fi in their own home or in hotspots when away from home, thereby keeping cellular bills to a minimum.”

For his part, NPD Connected Intelligence executive director Ross Rubin pointed out that 4G tablet owners may be hitting their data caps more quickly because “the faster the cellular data speed, the better the experience is and the more likely customers are to use it, driving bandwidth consumption.” Consumers are more likely to want to stream video on the latest iPad, given its fast cellular connection, quad-core graphics processor, 2,048 by 1,536–pixel HD display with pixel density of 264 pixels per inch, he noted.

Consumers “just have to learn more about matching their needs to their plans,” Rubin said. “We’ve seen this before with other kinds of cellular-bill shock.”

Likewise, Rubin said, “it is doubtful that the Consumer Reports report will do much to hinder iPad sales, much as its antenna research did little to hinder iPhone 4 sales.”

IHS iSuppli senior principal analyst Francis Sideco also doesn’t expect either issue to hinder sales. Sideco doesn’t believe the heat buildup is greater than would be expected given the device’s increased number of LED backlights, quad-core graphics processor, high-resolution display, and larger battery to drive them. “If heat is not uncomfortable to touch, the bigger issue will be battery life” and whether the latest iPad delivers the same amount of battery life as the iPad 2 as promised, he said.

Sideco was also quick to point out that 4G is not to blame for users hitting data caps sooner than they did with 3G. A 5MB PowerPoint download consumes 5MB of a 2GB data plan whether downloaded via 3G or 4G network, though over a 4G network, the download will be faster, he said. If 4G iPad users are blowing through their plans more quickly than before, “it’s because the user behavior is changing to take advantage of faster speeds and lower latencies” to do such things as streaming more video, he said.

Rubin noted, however, that watching the same video over 4G could consume a lot more data than over 3G.


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