The holiday season is the best time for gadget rumors. And the biggest rumor of them all: the iPad 2.
So, what should we expect for the next-generation iPad?
Well, first, in what I call the "duh" category is a camera -- in fact, two of them, most likely. Apple's failure to include a camera on the first iPad was a glaring omission and it's still not clear why Steve Jobs chose to hold back this key feature in the first release. Nearly every analyst, blogger and Apple watcher has long expected the second generation iPad to include one, if not two, cameras -- and it would be a major deficiency if the company failed to do so the second time around.
Cameras are the most important feature that absolutely must be -- and will be -- included in the next iPad. This feature would finally allow users to take advantage of the Facetime video calling feature on the iPad. It will also make Facetime a ubiquitous technology across Apple's mobile product line.
But if you need more proof that cameras will be installed in the iPad 2, check out the news reports from Reuters and Barron's. These point to two cameras, a front- and rear-facing, being installed on the second generation device. Barron's further reports that OmniVision will be the manufacturer of both cameras. Also, recent leaks of new iPad cases clearly show a hole on the back of the device. What else would this be for, if not a camera?
So, what type of cameras will the new iPad boast? The rear-facing camera is likely to be a five megapixel camera, and the front will probably be a VGA camera.
The second key feature the new iPad is likely to sport: high definition screen. Apple pioneered the high resolution display on mobile devices with the so-called "retina display" used on the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. The current iPad has a pixel resolution of 1024 X 768. It appears clear, from multiple sources, that the next iPad will probably have a higher resolution/pixel density display. However, whether it will truly be a high definition display is unclear.
Other possibilities for the iPad 2:
- It will come with two dock connectors, not just the current one. This is key for those users who want to add a physical keyboard to the device. Today, the iPad has only one dock connector at the bottom of the device; this means users can only attach a keyboard to the iPad in the portrait position. A second dock connector on the side would allow users to have the iPad in landscape position when using a keyboard -- obviously, much more practical.
- Extra SD card slot. Apple currently sells a camera connection kit, where you can pop in an SD card from your camera, put it into the accessory 30 bit connector on the iPad and import photos. Having that integrated would be very interesting.
- Micro-USB port. The European Union has been pushing companies like Apple to standardize power adapters. So far, Apple has been very reluctant to do so. However, it looks like there will be increasing governmental pressure within the EU to create a uniform power adapter, so it would make sense for Apple to go ahead and have a micro-USB port.
- Expandable storage. This doesn't exactly follow the Apple business model (after all, it would save consumers a ton), but it is possible that the iPad could allow for an external storage device to raise it to 32 or 64 GB. Therefore, consumers who bought a 16 GB device wouldn't have to pay a high fee to add more flash storage internally.
- A power update is also likely. The iPad currently uses an Apple A4 chip with a one gigahertz processor. It's reasonable to expect Apple to upgrade this chip to between 1.2 - 1.5 GHz; and more RAM will probably be thrown in as well. Since Apple controls the software and hardware on this device, it can optimize the software to utilize the most that its processors can do -- resulting in a faster experience for users.
The next question, of course, when talking about the iPad 2 is, when will it be released? The first iPad was released in April, so it's widely expected that the second incarnation of the device will be released at about the same time in 2011. February is likely to be when production of the device starts, stockpiling, and then a ship out in April. Expect to see an Apple press conference sometime in March announcing the new iPad 2.