Where there's iPad 3 heat, there is no fire

The iPad 3 is just a bit hotter than the iPad 2 under intense conditions. This says more about the tech press than the device.

Remember that kid in high school? The one who scored straight A’s, was in the local news every other month for their charity project, and who, from the looks of them, woke up every morning in tandem with a team of hairdressers and fashion consultants? Think of how awfully great it would have been to be walking out to the parking lot one day to find them locked out of their car, in the rain, with a mustard stain on the white letter on their varsity jacket.

That’s the kind of feeling that seemed to be floating around the web after the release of “The New iPad,” known in most circles as the “iPad 3” or “third-generation iPad.” It arrived with almost exactly what people expected: 4G/LTE capabilities, a brilliantly high-resolution Retina display, and a market hungry to upgrade their perfectly fine earlier models for this new thing. If your job was to write about new and interesting developments in personal technology, what could you really say: “Highly anticipated Apple device delivers on expectations for Apple fans?”

So when niggling complaints about “excessive heat” arose shortly after the third iPad’s debut, it was just too schadenfreudelicious not to become a trending topic. It’s similar to “Antennagate”, the thumb-in-the-wrong-place reception issue that similarly stole the hearts of headline writers. And there’s a similar teapot tempest brewing over supposedly frequent outages of the Siri voice assistant on the iPhone 4S. Apple, a company that seems to make software and hardware design, marketing, product announcements, media sales, retail stores, and cellular provider manipulation seems so effortless--they’re always one minor mishap away from getting the Most Likely to Succeed Treatment.

That’s why anyone with an interest in selling news about Apple (and that’s most everybody these days) jumped on Consumer Reports’ post about the new iPad being hotter in its hottest spots than the iPad 2. This despite Consumer Reports’ admission that the problem only seemed to arise when playing a very demanding game with advanced graphics, with the screen set to full brightness. And the new iPad only gets 13 degrees hotter than the iPad 2, up to about 116 degrees Fahrenheit, under the same conditions. That’s not insignificant, but it’s not exactly pants-melting, call-the-doctor heat either.

If you’re me, you get the sense that the heat is something Apple knew was an outside operating condition under very heavy load, but considered it manageable enough to sign off on the new iPad’s commercial release. If you’re a consumer, it’s not much of an issue at all, really. For reference, peek at this survey of new iPad owners by ChangeWave. Heat issues show up below just about everything, except the “Battery life too short” complain that is the device equivalent of “Work is hard and doesn’t pay enough.”

ChangeWave survey results for iPad 3 dislikes

That leaves just those who see the red streak in an iPad thermal image as a wound in Apple’s defenses, a sign that the Perfect Student could maybe have something wrong with them (besides iTunes). And it’s fine to point out, perhaps, but it would, perhaps, be more worth the tech press’ effort to point out the larger issues behind the iPad’s popularity, the nature of the iTunes/App Store ecosystem, and what those higher-resolution screens mean for all kinds of digital industries. Catching the class hero with their shirt untucked won’t really help anyone get on better.

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