The iPad 4 runs on a brand spanking new processor, the Apple A6X. The design is, like most phone and tablet chips, based on ARM technology but it’s a custom Apple variation.
Apple reckons the chip is twice as fast as the A5X in the iPad 3 and its graphics are four times faster. What does this mean in everyday use? Well, surprisingly little in our experience so far. There is a just about discernible difference in the time it takes for some apps to open but it’s not enough that the iPad 3 actually feels slow.
But, as the sophistication of apps continues to increase, there will be more and more occasions where the difference is appreciable. For instance, apps such as multi-track recorders or powerful image and video editors may benefit.
Moreover, games will also take advantage of the faster graphics to make them look even richer or run even smoother. Infinity Blade 2 is one title that benefits. Whereas on the iPad 3 it occasionally has a little stutter, here it’s silky smooth.
Still, if you’re an iPad 3 owner, we’d suggest there’s little compelling reason to upgrade – you could quite easily wait for the iPad 5 before software really started to leave the iPad 3 behind.
This applies double as the interface is exactly the same. The iPad 4 runs iOS 6.0 which is freely available as an update for all iPad 2 and iPad 3 owners.
Although there are a few extra features in this latest update the core interface is still classic iPad. So, the homescreens are merely grids of apps which you can arrange into folders or just leave sprawled across many pages.
Along the bottom you can also fix up to five apps for quick access, while swiping to the right or pressing the home button will take you to the search feature. Here you can quickly find apps, contacts, emails, songs and calendar entries that are on your tablet, or you can search the web or Wikipedia.
The simplicity continues when it comes to multi-tasking. Simply double tap the home button and a row of icons is shown. These are ranged in order of when you last used them and you can slide through them to find what you want. It is almost too basic an experience given the inability to preview what each app is doing but simplicity is the name of the iPad game and it doesn’t feel overly limiting.
One relatively recent addition that is a nod to other more sophisticated operating systems is a notifications area which you can pull down from the top edge of the screen. Here you can keep track of all the recent activities such as who’s sent you a message on Facebook or what new emails have come in. Plus you can post an update to Twitter or Facebook from here.
Finally, hold down the home button and you can bring up Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled assistant. This surprisingly effect helper will answer simple questions, open apps, look up directions movie times and much more. However, it still remains something of a gimmick on a device like this.
As for the core applications, such as email, the web browser, they remain excellent offering truly tablet optimised styling and layouts that make that large, high resolution screen feel worth every penny. There is one oddity, though, which is the contacts list. This takes the form of a notebook – skeuomorphism at its best – which while comfortingly familiar looking, isn’t all that practical as if doesn’t even use the full screen when viewed in portrait mode.
The contacts app also reflects the limited level of cross-communication within the Apple interface. Whereas on Android and Windows Phone 8 (or Windows 8) you can see photos and message on your contacts’ page, here it’s kept to the basic details only.