Market Overview

iPad 3's Most Significant Upgrade Will Be…

The third iPad is getting one upgrade consumers won't be able to refuse.

A battery that packs more than twice the capacity of the iPad 2.

That's according to this DigiTimes report (via Business Insider), which claims that the battery capacity for the “high-end” version of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) next iPad will be increased to 14,000mAH – more than double the capacity of the current battery, which tops out at 6,500mAH.

Not surprisingly, Dynapack and Simplo Technology (which supply batteries for Apple) would not confirm or deny this information when questioned by DigiTimes.

If you're wondering why Apple might only increase the battery capacity in the so-called high-end model of the iPad 3 (or if there will even be more than one version beyond the 3G, Wi-Fi and memory differences), DigiTimes' sources claim that Apple will unveil two separate versions of the device. One will be designed for high-end consumers (read: for those who are rich!), while another will be made for mid-range consumers (read: those who aren't rich, but must own every Apple product anyway).

“Meanwhile, the penetration rate of lithium-polymer batteries such as those used in iPad 2 is expected to reach 15% in 2012 compared to 5% in 2011, the sources estimated,” DigiTimes wrote. “Global production of lithium-polymer battery cells will top 400 million units in 2011, and the prices of the cells are expected to remain higher in 2012 after being hiked by 20% in the second quarter of 2011, the sources indicated.”

In another report this morning, DigiTimes said that “supply chain players” are seeing a drop in iPad 2 orders.

“Although Apple is reportedly set to use its iPad 2 to compete in the entry-level tablet PC market against Amazon's Kindle Fire when its next-generation iPads hit the market in March 2012, sources from Apple's supply chain have pointed out that Apple's orders for iPad 2 are dropping gradually, while orders for the new devices remain steady,” DigiTimes wrote, adding that its sources said it is too early to say whether or not this means Apple will actually phase out the iPad 2.

Historically, however, that is exactly what Apple has done: phase out the old in preparation for the new. While you can still find the original iPad on eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), the iPad 2 has replaced the old model at retail. The same is true for the iPod Touch, the latest MacBook Airs, and even the slightly upgraded MacBook Pros. Only the old-school iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G remain on the market, albeit with a lower price that Apple hopes will attract consumers who aren't quite ready for the iPhone 4S.

Would Apple really keep the iPad 2 on store shelves and lower the price – thus making it less attractive – at a time when it wishes to sell truckloads of its next tablet? That does not seem likely. If, however, the iPad 3 ends up being more than an iPad 2-style upgrade (which had improvements but was not a groundbreaking device), then it would make sense for Apple to differentiate between the two and continue selling both. Surely the new battery could help the company accomplish this goal. But if the iPad 2 receives a new price tag (ex: $300 or $400), consumers might be willing to accept a weaker battery for a lower price.

If, however, the iPad 3 were to have a new retina display (as so frequently rumored), a vastly superior processor (also frequently rumored), better graphic and gaming capabilities (rumored, but not as often as the other features), and a thinner and/or lighter body, Apple could get away with selling both the iPad 2 and the iPad 3 together.


ACTION ITEMS:

Bullish:

If Apple chooses to entirely replace the iPad 2 with a fresh tablet, that will be good news for:

  • Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), which can continue to sell the Kindle Fire with a significant price advantage. (A lower-cost iPad 2 would eliminate that advantage.)
  • The same could be said for Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS), whose Nook Tablet wouldn't look so appealing up against a $300 iPad 2.
Bearish:

Will a fresh battery turn out to be one of the iPad 3's biggest new features? If so, consider:

  • The future of traditional battery manufacturers, such as Energizer (NYSE: ENR) and Procter and Gamble (NYSE: PG), which manufactures the Duracell line of batteries. As more electronics – particularly our primary electronics, such as tablets, smartphones and global positioning systems – use built-in rechargeable batteries, the traditional one-time-use battery makers could be headed for hard times.
  • iGo (NASDAQ: IGOI) is the first company to release rechargeable alkaline batteries, but is it too little, too late? Other than flashlights, electric tooth brushes, nose hair trimmers, and a plethora of old devices, do consumers even use traditional batteries anymore? In the past, my handheld game systems and portable music players used AAs. Today, they use rechargeable batteries that are built-in. Going forward, more devices are likely to make the switch to this modern battery format, leaving behind old-school AAs, AAAs, Cs and Ds.
Neither Benzinga nor its staff recommend that you buy, sell, or hold any security. We do not offer investment advice, personalized or otherwise. Benzinga recommends that you conduct your own due diligence and consult a certified financial professional for personalized advice about your financial situation.

Follow me @LouisBedigian

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