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Hack: iPad 3G

A peek inside the tablet reveals how it connects to the world.

Apple’s iPAD has revealed a huge market for tablet computers: more than two million units have sold since it went on sale in April. Before its launch, speculation was rampant that the new device would be an elaborate e-reader, but CEO Steve Jobs instead pitched the iPad as “the best browsing experience you’ve ever had.” The 3G version indeed offers impressive connectivity, yet little inside it is radically innovative. Apple hasn’t created amazing new tech so much as beautiful, well-integrated tech.

Scroll over the interactive to see the technology inside the tablet.

Wi-Fi Antennas
The iPad’s two Wi-Fi antennas are designed for a strong signal–so strong that the device was, at first, banned from Israel because the country’s ministry of communications feared it would interfere with other wireless frequencies. Testing proved that the iPad could adjust its signal without causing problems, and Israel lifted the ban.

GPS and Cellular Antennas
Unlike the iPhone, which is locked to AT&T’s network, the iPad could theoretically run on any carrier’s network. But there’s a catch: the micro SIM card that connects the device to the network is unusually small. This means that users in the United States who want to switch to another network must wait for carriers to create micro SIM cards that can be used with the iPad.

LED Display and Drivers
Apple designed the iPad screen so that a user can easily view it from a variety of angles. The device uses a technology called in-plane switching, which aligns the molecules inside the screen in a way that gives it a wider viewing angle. The iPad also has an accelerometer that helps the device sense which end is up and switch the orientation accordingly.

A4 Chip
Apple introduced its new A4 chip with the first version of the iPad. It’s a “system on a chip” that integrates the central processing unit, the graphics core, and the memory controller. The iPad can work for 10 hours on a single charge, and Apple says one reason for this is that the A4 chip is so power-efficient.

Communications Board
GPS and cellular antennas make it possible to connect to AT&T’s network, and the GPS allows for location-based applications such as turn-by-turn navigation and services that recommend local businesses.

Micro SIM Card
The board consists of a chipset that drives the device’s GPS and cellular connections, plus power amplifiers that boost the signals. Many of the chips are identical to those used in some models of the iPhone.

Photo by Christopher Harting, Flash by Alastair Halliday

A) A4 Chip
Apple introduced its new A4 chip with the first version of the iPad. It’s a “system on a chip” that integrates the central processing unit, the graphics core, and the memory controller. The iPad can work for 10 hours on a single charge, and Apple says one reason for this is that the A4 chip is so power-efficient.

B) Flash Memory Chips
These two chips provide storage for the user. According to Chipworks, a semiconductor and electronics consulting company based in Ottawa, Canada, these chips are Samsung’s first-generation flash memory, and don’t appear to represent any technology advancements.

C) Touchscreen
Similar to the architecture of the iPhone 3G, these two chips are responsible for the iPad’s touchscreen.

D) Power Management
Chipworks suspects that this chip is involved in managing power for the iPad.

E) Possible Audio Processor
This chip is branded by Apple, making it difficult for researchers to identify it. However, because it bears numbers associated with audio codecs in other brands, experts suspect that it is the audio processor for the device.

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