The New iPad's Unsung Hero

Yes, we're all already very familiar with Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) new iPad and its nosebleed headline specs.

The new tablet carries an absurdly high-resolution Retina Display, which promises to be its biggest selling point. Cupertino cranked up the graphics-processing cores so the custom A5X chip can drive all 3.1 million of those pixels and reportedly outperform NVIDIA's (Nasdaq: NVDA  ) quad-core Tegra 3 by fourfold in graphics performance. It's the first Apple product to officially adopt 4G LTE, with its dramatically faster data speeds.

All of those feature specs are certainly worth touting, but interestingly, Apple opted not to parade another technological achievement that it stuffed into the slim device when it easily could have (and how often does Apple pass on the chance to lob hyperbolic superlatives at the media?). What is this unsung hero technology I'm talking about?

The battery.

Apple was quick to point out that it was able to maintain the iPad's famed 10-hour battery life, but didn't elaborate much beyond that. This is a pretty big accomplishment, considering how power-hungry those headline specs themselves are. You need a lot of juice to power a quad-core GPU, a screen with more pixels than your biggest HDTV, and the notoriously battery-draining LTE.

The bulk of the iPad's guts is its battery, but typically the only way to increase battery capacity is to physically increase its size, yet the new model is only negligibly thicker.

 

Source: iFixit. iPad (third generation) battery.

The new iPad carries a 42.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, up from the 25-watt-hour one before it. That's a 70% increase in capacity in roughly the same size package. To accomplish this, that means that Apple's made some big improvements in battery technology and was able to increase the density of the lithium ion cells jammed in there.

The battery industry has remained relatively sluggish as the devices that rely on it speed on past. Other OEMs are unlikely to put as much thought into this component and will have a tough time catching up. Just compare its capacity to other tablets out there:

Tablet Battery capacity (watt-hours)
Asus Transformer Prime 25 Wh
Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) Xoom 24 Wh
Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) Kindle Fire 16 Wh
Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) PlayBook 20 Wh
Apple iPad 2 25 Wh
Apple iPad (third generation) 42.5 Wh

Source: Asus.com, Motorola.com, iSuppli.com, Apple.com.

As soon as Apple (predictably) applies this same technology to its other products, most notably in all likelihood the next iPhone, expect rivals to scratch their collective heads in confusion … again.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple and Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Amazon.com. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of NVIDIA, Apple, and Amazon.com; writing puts on NVIDIA; and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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