Rumored iPad 2 Hardware Features

DigiTimes is reporting that the Economic Daily News has cited “industry sources” who claim that the unannounced iPad 2 will feature the following five new features:

  • FaceTime
  • Smaller size panels featuring thinner glass
  • 3-axis gyroscope
  • A USB port
  • Retina Display

Let’s tackle these one at a time.

FaceTime is practically a guarantee at this point. Apple has added it to the iPod touch and Mac OS X, so the next logical step is to add it to the iPad. But then comes the question of whether the iPad will have one or two cameras. I think the folks at Apple are smart enough to realize that a camera on the rear of the iPad is just silly. I just can’t imagine anyone holding their iPad up in the air to take a picture or record a video. If you want to do that, an iPhone or iPod touch is the best device for the job.

In regards to the smaller size panels featuring thinner glass, I just don’t buy it. This smaller panel would likely be 7-inches and Steve Jobs has already killed that rumor.

Steve Jobs during Apple’s conference call last month (as transcribed by Macworld):

If you take an iPad and hold it upright in portrait view, and draw an imaginary horizontal line halfway down the screen, the screens on these seven-inch tablets are a bit smaller than the bottom half of the iPad’s display. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps, in our opinion.

Everyone likes to that Steve says one thing and then releases a product anyway (like the video iPod) but I don’t think that’s the case this time. I’ve spent a little bit of time with the Samsung Galaxy Tab and feels claustrophobic to me. 7-inches is too small. The iPad’s screen size strikes a perfect balance between size and portability. 7-inches on the other hand would force me to use my MacBook in situations that I would normal be comfortable using the iPad, effectively limiting the usefulness of the tablet to too few situations.

The 3-axis gyroscope is practically a lock. It’s in the iPod touch and the iPhone and it’s coming to the iPad as well. It’ll improve game controls and unify the feature across all iOS devices.

I highly doubt the iPad will be gaining a USB port. One could argue that a USB port would make the iPad more computer-like but Apple doesn’t want the iPad to feel like a computer, they want it to feel like something different. And the biggest problem with adding a USB port is that users would have an expectation that it would work with external hard drives, printers, and all sorts of other peripherals that iOS may never support.

And finally, the Retina display. A Retina display on the iPad would be absolutely stunning but the problem is that the only logical resolution is 2048×1536. And a 9.7-inch panel at that resolution wouldn’t have high enough manufacturing yields and would be too expensive to sell at Apple’s current price points. They could release the iPad 2 with a higher resolution than the current 1024×768 resolution but lower than the logical 2048×1536 but that would make very difficult for developers to build assets at both resolutions, simply because the math wouldn’t work out well.

Apple has just released iOS 4.2, the iPad’s first major update and with it came huge software changes. Because of this, I have a feeling that most of the iPad 2’s new features will be hardware-based. Whether it will gain any of the features mentioned above remains to be seen but I think the 3-axis gyroscope and FaceTime are the only safe bets at this point.

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