NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Predicting Apple's ( AAPL) next steps for the iPad is a relative walk in the park compared to nailing the details for the iPhone 5, which I wrote about Tuesday.

There are only three major variables you need to consider in plotting what will be available in the iPad for the next 20 months:
  • 1. When will LTE be available?
  • 2. When will the screen resolution double from 768 x 1024 to 1536 x 2048?
  • 3. When will NFC (near-field communication) be available?

LTE: The only comment Apple made about LTE was in early January when Tim Cook simply said the company couldn't make LTE happen for Verizon's ( VZ) iPhone 4. That's it; no disagreement there as nobody expected Apple to be first in delivering a new radio technology.

That said, at this stage of the maturing game of smartphones and tablets, Apple probably also cannot afford to be too far behind the rest of the industry in launching a new radio technology, and that means LTE if you are introducing a new product in September for Verizon and AT&T ( T).

Conventional wisdom has it that the reason one should expect Apple to take longer to deliver on a new radio technology is battery life. As the argument goes, companies such as HTC, Samsung, LG and recently even Motorola ( MMI) are more willing to cough up Android smartphones and tablets with poor battery life, if necessary, to hit the market as quickly as possible. In contrast, Apple cares more about the battery life experience, and is therefore willing to wait longer.

There are two reasons why this argument is a moot point now:

1. Apple's iOS is very efficient compared to Google's ( GOOG) Android, especially because it polices multitasking. Compare the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2 to any Android smartphone or tablet, and you will find that Apple now beats all Android competitors in the battery life game.

2. On the iPad, the battery is already so large that the impact of a less efficient (LTE) radio will matter less as a percentage of the user experience. The impact on the iPhone may still be worth it, but it is larger as a percentage of the typical draw.

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