The iPad 2’s Retina Display

John Gruber decided to put a damper on rumors that the iPad 2 will feature a Retina display:

I asked around, and according to my sources, it is too good to be true: the iPad 2 does not have a retina display. I believe the iPad 2’s display will remain at 1024 × 768. […] Maybe it uses the new manufacturing technique Apple introduced with the iPhone 4 display, which brings the LCD closer to the surface of the touchscreen glass — making it look more like pixels on glass rather than pixels under glass. But my sources are pretty sure that it’s not 2048 × 1536 or any other “super high resolution”.

John has become skeptical of Engadget’s entire report at this point. Especially since his sources also didn’t have anything to say about the purported SD card slot. There are a lot iPad cases turning up that indicate there will be some sort of extra port. But, this could be Apple’s attempt to find leaks in the company — give a number of people different specifications for the iPad 2 and see which ones leak. This might explain why some of the leaked cases (like the one above) has an additional slot along the left hand side while others don’t. On the other hand, the SD card slot may see the same fate that the third-generation iPod touch’s camera did.

John’s point is that none of his sources have told him that the iPad 2 will feature such a high-resolution display and that displays at that size with such high-resolutions would be too cost prohibitive for Apple’s current price points. And, he’s probably right. In the past when rumors would surface of a higher resolution display I passed them off as highly unlikely because I believe the only logical resolution is 2048×1536 but this resolution wouldn’t be possible at Apple’s price points.

We all became rolled up in the hype of an iPad Retina display without thinking too critically about how likely that actually is. I’m certain we all would have been a bit more skeptical if “Engadget” wasn’t in the header. Engadget is highly regarded and their sources are usually top notch, I even mentioned so when I wrote about their rumor yesterday.

Both John Gruber and Joshua Topolsky have exchanged words regarding the rumor on Twitter. Topolsky defending his sources saying they have been “consistently right” and that his report never mentioned a specific resolution. Engadget’s Nilay Patel even chimed in mentioning that Gruber wrote his piece believing that the resolution bump would be 2048×1536 or nothing but Engadget never claimed that this was the case. The iPad 2 could receive a resolution that has a scaling factor of 1.25 (1280×960) or 1.5 (1536×1152) times the current resolution. But, this is unlikely because of how difficult it would be for developers to design assets at both resolutions. And, what happens when an iPad with a Retina display is released and developers will have to support three resolutions for the same class of device? That’s a lot of additional work for developers just because Apple couldn’t wait a year or two. It’s not as if the competition is blowing Apple away with their high resolution tablets.

Another point John Gruber mentioned on Twitter is that Engadget’s source may not have been talking about the iPad 2 but instead the iPad 3. Which may be the case. But, we may have to wait for Joshua Topolsky to write a composed rebuttal before we hear whether or not that’s a possibility. A rebuttal that will be an interesting read to anyone who follows this type of news.

The fact is, either John Gruber’s or Joshua Topolsky’s sources are wrong. At least as it’s written right now. Joshua Topolsky could write that his sources were speaking of the iPad 3. Regardless of what Josh writes about this, I have a great deal of respect for both of these writers and am excited to see how this turns out.