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Apple exchanging customers' iPad 3 for new iPad 4?
Apple looks like it may have realised it's annoyed some users as reports emerge some stores are exchanging the old 'new' iPad for the iPad 4.
We've spoken to Apple, which is yet to confirm whether this policy is in effect worldwide, but CNET is reporting that a store in the US has waived its usual 14 day return policy and extended it to 30 days.
Twitter users highlighted the ability to exchange the product, and the manager at a San Francisco, US, Apple store confirmed this was the case – although added the caveat that it was only for that specific outlet.
One rule for us…
When pushed on whether this would be a wider scheme, she replied that she couldn't talk for other stores' policies – so if you want to take yours down to your local stockist and get a shiny new tablet, you may be out of luck.
Many TechRadar readers have expressed outrage that Apple would update a product so soon after launch, with many presumably staring at their 'new' iPad and wishing ill upon it and its family.
But it's worth noting that the update is pretty incremental: the update to the newer CPU is the main change, which is slightly galling, but otherwise it's simply a case of getting more hardware to use the new Lightning connector and make Facetime all HD-friendly.
Explained: Apple Lightning connector: what you need to know
Apple Lightning connector explained
It's significantly smaller than the outgoing Dock, but it's received a bit of a mixed reaction from people who've splashed out on Dock-connecting accessories and cables and don't fancy paying for expensive adaptors. Is it a genuine step forward?
Here's what you need to know…
The Lightning connector is very small
Where the Dock connector had 30 pins, the Lighting one has just eight signal pins - and that means it's much, much smaller, which helps Apple make super-slim devices such as the iPhone 5. It's a little bit bigger than a micro-USB connector, but only by a little bit.
The Lightning Connector has a processor in it
This is no dumb cable: the Lightning connector has a processor that can tell which way round you've plugged it in, and that processor then reroutes the electrical signals so that it works correctly whether it's upside down or the right way up.
That's a vast improvement over the Dock, which is awfully fiddly on an iPad 2 or 3, and over USB, which is wrong whichever way you plug it in.
Lightning works with both kinds of cable, Dock and USB, although that comes at a price - that processor is also an authentication device to ensure only official Lightning cables and connectors are used.
A Lightning connector isn't as fast as a Thunderbolt one
Lightning is based on USB 2.0, not the faster 3.0 or Thunderbolt cables, presumably for cost reasons. However, it wouldn't require much extra engineering to chuck USB 3.0 down there, and Apple also promises Lightning-to-HDMI and Lightning-to-VGA cables.
The Dock adapter doesn't give you video
While Lightning is capable of delivering video output, it doesn't do so when it's connected to a Dock adapter: as Apple's spec page says, the adapter supports "analog audio output, USB audio as well as syncing and charging [but] video output [is] not supported."
The Lightning adaptors are frighteningly expensive
Fancy an adaptor that enables you to connect an existing Dock cable or connector to a Lightning port? Yours for £25. A cable with a Lightning connector on one end and a 30-pin Dock on the other? £30.
A cable with a USB connector on one end and a Lightning connector on the other? £15. A Lightning to Micro USB adapter? £15.
Why so expensive? The short answer is "well, y'know: Apple", and the slightly longer answer is that until now, Apple didn't have any competition.
However, it seems that Apple's authentication chip has now been cracked and third-party connectors and cables should appear fairly soon at significantly lower prices.
To the best of our knowledge nobody has actually tested these third-party connectors yet, so buyer beware: if you buy one and it makes your iPad 4 explode, don't say we didn't warn you.
Hands-on review: iPad 4
Apple is keeping the iPad 2 around as the $399 get-em-in-the-door option, and that's a smarter move than putting the iPad 3 on sale in its place. It will be a lot easier to upsell customers from the iPad 2's non-Retina display to the new iPad, whereas the iPad 4 isn't a must-have compared to the iPad 3 - unless you have a million Lightning cables around, and who does?
- Are you wondering what the iPad rival to the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD is like? Check our hands on: iPad mini review to find out!
In our hands-on, the 9.7-inch screen looked just as bright and bold as always, because it's ... well ... the same screen.
Apple loves to tout display tech improvements, since having top-notch screens is one of the key benefits of all of Apple's gear, from the iPod touch all the way up to the Retina MacBook Pros. So it's safe to bet the new iPad 4 screen is the same on the third-gen iPad that came out in March of this year.
It's got a 2048x1536 resolution, at 264 pixels per inch, and IPS technology makes it easy to see from wide angles. You can hold this new iPad nearly flat before the display becomes hard to see.
Apple also upgraded the new iPad with a dual-core A6X system-on-a-chip with quad core graphics - it claims the iPad 4 delivers twice the performance and twice the graphics power as the A5X in the third-gen iPad.
That A5X, upon teardown, turned out to have a 1GHz clock speed and 1GB of RAM. We weren't allowed to run proper benchmarking tools on the demo unit (like Geekbench) to try to determine clock speed and RAM for the new iPad. But apps opened quickly on the new iPad, and switching between them with four-finger multi-touch swipes seemed even more responsive and effortless than the already-speedy iPad 3.
The front and rear cameras on the new iPad are the same as before, but the A6X chip has improved the image signal processing, adding support for facial recognition and image stabilization. We couldn't test this camera side-by-side against an iPad 3's, but the facial recognition worked as it should on the iPad 4, automatically finding faces as we composed our shots and keeping them in focus.
The Lightning port, if you haven't seen it on the iPhone 5 yet, is laughingly slim compared to the honking 30-pin port it replaces. A Lightning connector is tiny but feels sturdy, and can be inserted either way. So you never find yourself trying to shove it in the wrong way, and you never feel the metal-on-metal crunch of pins when connecting.
It clicks into place smoothly and is held by tiny clips, strong enough to support the new iPad's weight.
Apple also rolled out Lightning versions of the popular iPad adapters and accessories. Lightning to VGA adapter for projectors is $49, and so is the Lightning Digital AV Adapter, which has an HDMI port.
For connecting cameras, the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter and Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader are sold separately for $29 each - you used to get both in one $29 package for 30-pin iPads, the iPad Camera Connection Kit. Finally, if you want to use your old 30-pin cables to charge and sync your iPad 4, the Lightning to 30-pin adapter is $29.
The other upgrade is the wireless connectivity, and it seems minor but should make a considerable difference. All the iPads get dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, using the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for less interference for other devices without losing any range.
Plus, since the new iPad 4 can use both channels at once, you can get theoretical speeds of up to 150Mbps - faster than most Wi-Fi networks you'll encounter anyway.
Apple has previously rolled this out to the iPhone 5 and fifth generation iPod touch. In our hands-on with a Wi-Fi-only iPad 4, we noticed zippy page loads, and videos streamed on Vimeo.com played smoothly with no buffering. But we didn't get to test exact speeds.
Optional LTE networking was added in the last generation, and it's still available in this iPad, and supported by more carriers, especially outside the U.S.
The full list includes AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, Duetsche Telekom, EE, Rogers, Fido, Bell, Telus, Telstra, Koodo Mobile, SingTel, SmarTone, KT, SK Telecom, KDDI, StarHub, SoftBank, Optus, Virgin Mobile, and Hong Kong Telecom.
Since the iPad 4 didn't change size or shape - only the Lightning connector is different - it should have the same 42.5 watt-hour battery as the previous iPad, and Apple says it'll get the same 10 hours of battery life.
The fourth-gen new iPad was probably the least-popular item in the demo room - it's hard to compete with an all-new iPad mini and super-thin iMacs and MacBook Pros. If you've used an iPad, it's already totally familiar - same shape, same size, same svelte 1.44 pound weight (652 grams, or 1.46 pounds/662 grams for the cellular version).
New iPad 4 release date
Like the iPad mini, the new iPad 4 can be ordered on Oct 26 for delivery on Nov 2. And, 4G-enabled models will ship a few weeks later at the end of November.
If you just upgraded your iPad in the spring, don't worry that you're missing much with this bump in the new iPad 4. We know a lot of people will feel betrayed, having thought they were getting the best Apple has to offer for at least a year - but that shouldn't cause that much consternation.
However, if you're still using an iPad 2 or an original iPad, it's a significant step up, and still brings all the same Apple bells, whistles and whizzbangwhoosh that most have come to expect from the Cupertino's most popular tablet.