With the recent upgrade of Apple’s line of iPods, the Mac rumor mills have been buzzing about the likelihood that we’ll see a new iPad soon.
What will the new iPad be like? What will the killer new features be? When will it be announced? At this point the answers are anyone’s guess but below I’ll give my own predictions.
It’s All About The Cameras
No matter when it finally does happen, you can bet that the iPad 2 will be all about cameras. Between FaceTime, iMovie mobile, and the new HDR photo features found in iOS4, there’s simply too much new technology there that the iPad isn’t taking advantage of as a high-end product.
Apple hardware fans will go berserk if the newest iPad doesn’t have at least a front-facing camera. In all likelihood, you can probably expect the same dual camera setup found on the iPhone and recently mimicked on the iPod Touch (though I wouldn’t be surprised to only see a front-facing camera).
It’s interesting to note that Steve Jobs slipped up at the recent iPod conference and said that the new HDR abilities will be hitting the iPad sometime soon. Did he just misspeak or was it an accidental hint of things to come?
The primary reason to expect at least a front-facing camera is of course FaceTime. Despite the fact that video-conferencing has now been quite common for years, casual video calling hasn’t really reached the ubiquity that the expert futurists who wrote for The Jetson’s foresaw. Apple wants to change this in a big way with FaceTime.
Apple has promised to (one day) release FaceTime as an open standard. Considering Apple’s closed model for music, apps, operating systems and everything else, this is a surprising move. This means that FaceTime will hopefully one day be on most major smartphones, eliminating its current iPhone-geeks-only status.
All of this evidence points to Apple wanting FaceTime to be available on as many devices as possible to be used by as many people as possible. Obviously, they’re starting with their own hardware and the only iOS device left without a camera is the iPad.
You’ll also no doubt see FaceTime integration on your Mac some time in the near future. Currently iChat does videoconferencing via the AIM network and is a logical place for FaceTime to appear as well.
Now that Apple has slapped that beautiful retina display on both the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the next logical jump is the iPad right? Though we’d all love to see such a large 326ppi screen, it may not be practical or feasible in the near future.
Just because the technology works on a 3.5″ display doesn’t mean it will scale well. Even if the technology could be made affordable, much of today’s media might actually end up looking like crap on such a large high-resolution display. This would of course defeat the purpose!
Check out Mark Trapp’s insightful article on the potential problems with an iPad retina display. To be honest though, if you would’ve told me last year that Apple was working on cramming 326 pixels per inch into an iPhone display, i would’ve said you were nuts. Anything is possible with those wizards at 1 Infinite Loop.
What You Won’t See
I put out a call on Twitter for predictions about the new iPad and a large portion of the guesses had to do with hardware that I frankly never see coming to the iPad.
The first is a physical keyboard. Forget it, Apple will no sooner stick a physical keyboard on a iOS device than they will replace Steve Jobs with Steve Ballmer. These devices are all about pushing the future of touch-screen interaction and an on-board physical keyboard would only undermine this goal. As far as Apple is concerned, anyone who wants a keyboard can use the Bluetooth keyboard dock or one of those nifty cases that manufacturers are churning out left and right.
Next up on the list of favorites is a USB port. Again, not going to happen. USB ports add bulk while iOS devices keep getting thinner and thinner (I have it on good authority that the next iPod will be completely invisible). Apple is now implementing wireless printing via iOS devices and you can expect to see nothing but wireless interaction in the future for all peripheral devices.
The final popular suggestion that you won’t see is a larger screen area. You have to consider all the infrastructure in place for the first generation iPad screen size. Changing this in only the second generation would infuriate developers who would then have to create versions of their apps that function on three different screen sizes (iPhone/iPod, iPad 1 and iPad 2). Apple no doubt did tons of research and had countless meetings to nail down the iPad screen size and I see absolutely no reason for them to change it in the near future.
The good folks who follow us on Twitter also had some solid ideas that are likely to be seen in addition to the cameras. These include a possible chip upgrade (from the A4 to?), more RAM, and a gyroscope.
The latter of these is quite likely given the recent addition of a gyroscope to the iPod Touch and the reported blank slot inside the iPad all ready for the gyro addition.
As per the aforementioned trend you might also see the device slim down a bit (is that even possible at this point?) and as one tweeter said it, no matter what Apple does with the next iPad, they are likely to describe it as “magical/revolutionary.”
This one is the toughest to call. Many are guessing a revamp before the holiday season. Apple loves Christmas and it definitely wouldn’t be the worst idea to push the new iPad out before the mothers of spoiled children everywhere start breaking out the giftwrap.
However, critics of this idea point out that Apple is rolling out the iPad slowly across other countries and will not be ready for a new version to hit until early next year. Further, if Apple were going to release the new version so soon, why not take advantage of the big audience at the recent iPod conference to announce it?
On this one, your guess is as good as mine. I would be surprised to see a new iPad before next year but I also intentionally refrained from buying the first generation model in favor of the inevitable FaceTime version so I’m selfishly hoping for Apple to release the next version as soon as possible!
What Do You Think?
Now we throw the conversation back to you. What do you think the next iPad will be like? Are the predictions above spot on or the ill-informed banter of a madman?
Leave a comment below and tell us what you think we will and won’t see in the next version and when you expect Apple to drop the bomb on the release date.