iPad: Hot Sales, Harsh Spotlight
Tim Cook is spending some time in China, one of Apple's biggest suppliers of labor and potentially a huge market for its products as well. Meanwhile, the company's latest product, the new iPad, is coming under close scrutiny in regard to issues like temperature, battery life and whether it's been falsely advertised in the Australian market.
03/28/12 5:00 AM PT
Apple CEO Tim Cook has traveled to China, hoping to bolster investment in the enormous Eastern market. Emerging markets are critical for many tech companies, and Apple already has its foot in the door in China. Factories located there are vital manufacturers for the company.
The country also represents a potentially huge sales opportunity in which Apple is trying to invest deeper. Out-of-control crowds have been reported when the company launches a new product in one of its two retail stores in Beijing. Apple also has three in Shanghai and one in Hong Kong. In addition to retail outlets, the company added China Telecom as a carrier earlier this month.
"There's a big demand in China for premium products -- look at Gucci or BMW," James Lewis, director and senior fellow of the Technology and Public Policy Program at CSIS, told MacNewsWorld. "Apple can play to the sweet spot in the Chinese market, the millions of affluent who will spend on high-end products that they can't get anywhere else. Apple's a perfect fit for the high end of the Chinese market."
iPad Battery Problems?
One of the most sought-after consumer electronic products of the moment in China -- or anywhere -- is the latest Apple iPad. However, it seems not all buyers are happy with the new tablet. Last week, reports surfaced regarding heat issues. More recently, the device's battery life has come under scrutiny.
One of the new iPad's biggest changes from the previous version was its retina display, which enables the tablet to show high-quality images for watching video or playing games. To compensate for the increased graphics power necessary to run the screen, one of the changes Apple made was adding a 42.5-watt-hour battery, more intense than the 25-watt-hour Lithium-Ion battery in the iPad 2.
But even with a more powerful battery, actual performance has taken a turn for the worse, according to Ray Soneira, president of DisplayMate Technologies. He said that while testing the battery life in the new iPad, he noticed that when the tablet indicated it was fully charged at 100 percent, it wasn't, cutting down on an hour or more of running time.
"I have seen this before with other smartphones and tablets, but the effect is especially large with the new iPad," he told MacNewsWorld.
In order to make sure the battery was truly at full capacity, he said, users should leave it charging about an hour past when it says it's at 100 percent. He found that if this was done, the iPad would actually last longer than the 10 hours Apple claims.
Apple responded to the complaint on Tuesday afternoon. The company explained the battery issue by saying that once the device hits its completely charged state while it's still plugged in, it drops a bit and then goes back up to 100 percent. This allows the device to remain optimally charged, and it's always been a feature of iOS so that consumers don't have to worry about when they unplug their devices, according to Michael Tchao, an Apple VP talking to AllThingsD.
Soneira wasn't exactly impressed.
"It's not the full admission that I would have liked, but it is actually more than I expected Apple would admit to," he said.
More iPad Woes
Addressing the previous complaints from concerned users about hot-running iPads, several organizations ran tests. Consumer Reports stated it found new iPads to reach up to 116 degrees. However, Wired did not get the same results when it cross-tested the new iPad with several other tablets. The publication ran games with demanding 3-D graphics on a variety of devices for 30 minutes.
In those tests the newest iPad registered a temperature of 94 degrees Fahrenheit, significantly lower than the 116 degrees that Consumer Reports found. The ASUS Transformer Prime, Amazon's Kindle Fire and the BlackBerry Playbook all reached higher temperatures under the same conditions. The iPad 2 had a slightly lower temperature than the newest version. PCWorld also ran tests and found similar results.
There's also a complaint about the newest iPad's cellular data abilities. In Australia, the tablet doesn't connect to 4G networks. The new version features 4G compatibility on the Verizon and AT&T networks, but outside North America, the frequencies used in high-speed mobile networks aren't supported by the iPad.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges that the company's advertising is misleading and that customers should understand the tablet doesn't connect to the 4G network with a SIM card, as the promotional material indicates. However, some Australian consumers have noted that the new iPad had stickers warning consumers the 4G network wouldn't work.
Apple didn't respond to our requests for comment.