When I start getting excited about every detail that leaks through, however, is when I’ve already decided that the next one of the line is the one I’m going to buy. I can only liken it to the feeling of watching horse racing when you’ve got money on the outcome compared to when you haven’t. When every little nugget of information leaks out you start dreaming of what life could be with such a device, regardless of the likelihood of the rumour ever coming to fruition. I’m sure it’s the same for most people.
The iPad 2 (as it is commonly referred to) is one such device. After waiting out the first generation (initially for financial reasons, and then being distracted by the iPhone 4 which actually contains better hardware, for the most part), I have my eyes on the iPad 2. I have the cash set aside, I have been dreaming of life with the iPad for a couple of months (my wife has owned one almost since the launch, so it’s not that hard to imagine), hell I’ve even downloaded a handful of iPad apps in anticipation (free, of course). Much like the first unibody MacBook Pro and the iPhone 4, I’m paying close attention to any leaks out of Cupertino in increasing anticipation of what the final product could contain.
To that end, this post is a roundup of what we’ve heard so far, complete with a note on just how likely the rumour is to be true. This is part 1; I’ll post another as more information leaks (unless the iPad 2 is announced, as one rumour suggests, in two weeks, since that won’t leave me much time to throw another one together).
- High Resolution (or ‘Retina’) display
A number of rumours have floated around over the last month or so claiming that the next iPad will have a Retina-type display. Most of these have settled on a simple pixel-doubling of the resolution to a 2048×1536 screen, which also not technically a Retina Display by Apple’s 300dpi definition, it’s still more pixels than you’ll find on a 52″ HDTV, and plenty high enough to not be able to make out individual pixels at the sort of range you’ll be holding the device. Most nay-sayers have said it is simply not possible to drive such a screen with today’s mobile hardware without taking a massive hit on battery life.
Ironically, the reason why I don’t think we’ll see a Retina Display on the iPad 2 is because of supply, not because of power. There’s nowhere Apple can obtain such high-spec screens in the volume they’ll need to have even a chance of being able to keep up with demand when the iPad 2 hits the shelves.
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: LOW
- Front and Back Cameras
One rumour that’s been on the air since even before the release of the first iPad is the presence of a front facing and/or rear camera. Indeed, when the original iPad was disassembled by the gurus at iFixit they found evidence that it had a space for an iSight-style camera. There was also evidence of video calling features in the iPad-only iOS 3.2. This time round there is even more evidence; FaceTime imagery and APIs hidden within the betas of iOS 4.3 as well apparent evidence of FaceTime and PhotoBooth coming to the iPad. An iPad with a front facing camera was reportedly spotted at the recent launch of the Daily.
I think we are almost guaranteed to see both front- and back-facing cameras in the iPad 2. Apple has been pushing FaceTime way too hard for them to launch this device without a camera built in. I think we’ll see cameras more in line with the 4th gen iPod touch rather than the iPhone 4; however one rumour has given hope that the rear-facing camera in the iPad 2 will be more in line with the iPhone 3G s.
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Almost Certain
- Slimmer, lighter design
It’s also been frequently reported that the iPad 2 will be slimmer, and made out of carbon fibre rather than aluminium in order to save weight. A number of mockups were spotted at both CES and MacWorld last month that presented a smaller form factor whilst keeping the same screen size.
I can see this happening; the existing iPad is pretty heavy, a little too heavy for long-term use holding it with one hand. Making it lighter and a little more ergonomic can only help. Of course, making it slimmer means less space for battery (and the iPad, like the iPhone and MacBook Air, is basically all battery).
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Likely
- SD Card Slot
Some of the cases that have leaked onto the internet (which may or may not be genuine) have featured slots which, some claim, could be for a SD card slot. Others claim it is merely a space left for the SIM on the 3G models, as not all of the cases floating around have the slot. Given the scarce availability of the iPad camera kit last year when the iPad was first released (it was probably rarer than the iPad) it is kind of understandable that Apple might build the feature straight into the iPad this year. I think it may be a little too specific a use for them to genuinely include such a feature, but then all Macs save for the Mac Pro now feature a built in SD card reader. Me personally, I don’t care – my DSLR uses CF cards.
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: 50/50
- Dual Core Processor/GPU; more RAM
There is absolutely no doubt that the iPad is going to feature improved specs. Only a couple of months after the release of the iPad the iPhone 4 came along with double the RAM and epic battery life. What is being speculated is just how big a jump the internals of the iPad 2 will make from the first generation. The most common rumour is that the GPU of the iPad 2 will feature dual cores; second place is that its main CPU will also feature dual cores and be based on the ARM Cortex A9 (a chip which some are dubbing the Apple A5). All this technology exists; whether its currently being manufactured in enough volume to make it into the iPad is a different matter. As for RAM, a bump up to at least 512MB is a certainty; Apple may surprise us with a bigger leap, maybe even to 1GB.
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Pretty Likely
- Near Field Communications (NFC) capability
Patents for NFC technology in iPhones or iPads have been floating around for as long as there have been iPhones (maybe even longer). However in the last few months these have intensified; speculation around patent applications (which generally only show what Apple is experimenting with, not what they will actually include in shipping products) have progressed into actual rumours, and there have been signs of Apple hiring NFC experts, all pointing towards the possibility that Apple may actually include the technology in the next generations of the iPad and iPhone.
In the UK at least, this technology probably won’t be all that interesting; the only places that use it currently are coffee shops and train stations, and using something as big as the iPad to pay for coffee and muffins or touch in or out on on the tube seems a bit unwieldy to me. If it does make it in, I doubt it will be that useful to us in the UK for a while, as Apple will almost certainly devote their efforts to pushing the tech to American retailers.
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Possible
- Mini DisplayPort output
Another piece of speculation from the cases on the internet was the inclusion of a Mini DisplayPort (the video connector present in all Macs) in addition to video out via the Dock. Much like the SD card speculation, this is mainly from guesses based on images seen online with questionable authenticity and difficult to gauge scale. I can’t see Apple spending time putting an additional video out on the top of the device when the existing Dock method works well enough.
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Unlikely
- CDMA/GSM Hybrid version
Another rumour that is of very little interest to the UK is the possibility of there only being two versions of the next iPad: a WiFi version, and a GSM/CDMA version compatible with both AT&T and Verizon’s networks, as opposed to a separate GSM and CDMA version. Rumours have been around for a few years that Qualcomm (who basically invented CDMA) have been working on a single chipset that will work on both networks. Whilst this sort of tech is likely to debut sooner or later, it’s only of interest to us Brits if you plan on visiting the US and want complete freedom over which carrier you use (of course, this will also appear in the iPhone, with similar benefits to us on this side of the pond).
TRUTH LIKELIHOOD: Possible
Well, there you have it. These are the main rumours circulating that have had even a whiff of authenticity about them (or at least, their sources). Time will tell how accurate they are – how much time we don’t know. But whatever happens, I’ve no doubt we will see one hell of a great device, that takes another big leap ahead of the other tablets that are still struggling to catch up to last year’s model.