Last year, the iPad was unveiled on Jan. 27 and debuted in mid-April. We haven’t yet had a glimpse of the iPad 2, but rumors and Apple’s yearly upgrade cycle suggest that it is, indeed, in production and on track for a spring debut. It will still have a 9.7-inch screen and some basic upgrades like a dual-core CPU, more memory, a better graphics processor, but what else? What will it look like and what features will it have? We’ve collected all the latest rumors and speculation below.
Can’t get enough recon on upcoming Apple gear? Make sure to check out everything we know about the iPhone 5.
Front and rear cameras
One of the most glaring omissions from the original iPad was the lack of a camera. This will be rectified on the iPad 2 in a big way. It won’t get just one camera; it’ll get two of them. Like most upcoming Android tablets, the iPad 2 will have front- and rear-facing cameras, and will also be compatible with Facetime, Apple’s answer to video calling (Skype). However, the rear camera probably won’t have a flash, judging by most of the leaked screenshots of the device. We also don’t know the resolution of the cameras, but we imagine the rear camera is likely 5 to 8 megapixels and the front camera somewhere between 1.3 and 2, judging by current smartphone and tablet trends.
Slimmer with a flat back
The iPad 2 has lost some weight. In a rumor that first surfaced in December on MacOtakara, a Japanese blog, we learned that the iPad 2 will be thinner than its predecessor and have a flat back. The current iPad has a rounded back, which makes it difficult to set it on a flat surface, like a table, and work without it rocking back and forth. The rounded design was one of the only problems critics noted with the original iPad, and Apple has been quick to fix the problem.
Right along with the rumor of a flat back came talk that Apple will include a wide-range speaker “covered with metal mesh” in the iPad 2. The current iPad has a speaker, but it isn’t wide-range, meaning it is not as loud and cannot attain the range of frequencies the iPad 2 speaker will be capable of. There still appears to be only one speaker, however, so for those hoping for a solid stereo experience, you might want to stick with headphones.
Smudge-proof 1024 x 768 screen
While earlier rumors hinted at a doubled resolution for the iPad 2 (2048×1546), recent claims peg the tablet at the same resolution as its predecessor, 1024 x 768. While not a “Retina” display by any means, this resolution will still be in line with new competitors like the Motorola Xoom, which has a widescreen resolution of 1280 x 800 — the iPad has an aspect ratio of 4:3, not what you’d call widescreen. The idea of a Retina displayiPad hasn’t died, however. Read up on the “iPad 3″ rumors below.
The screen may not be HD, but it will have a new smudge-proof coating. In December, it was reported that the new screen won’t get as streaky, will be better in outdoor light (less glare), and will resist fingerprints much better than the current model.
Don’t expect Apple to change the size of the 9.7-inch iPad screen either. Steve Jobs and Co. ordered 65 million 9.7-inch iPad screens late last year. This likely means that the size of the device will stay intact for at least another year.
No home button
Say goodbye to the famous iOS home button. Rumor has it that Apple will be eliminating it from the new iPad and iPhones this year. Replacing the button? Well, we aren’t sure. BGR reports that the latest iOS 4.3 beta versions have code that hints toward new forms of multitouch gesturing that could eliminate the need for a button, but this is merely speculation. Apple has filed for patents hinting at new ‘hover’ gestures for touchscreens, meaning you may not have to actually touch the screen to initiate actions.
Removing the button from the iPad is a natural evolution for the device. Google has already done away with face buttons for its Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating system, instead opting for on-screen icons that shrink in size when unused. The iPad is a device that can be used in any way and doesn’t necessarily need to have a strict top and bottom (most of the time).
Near-field communications (NFC) technology is coming to most smartphones, and Apple is rumored to be leading the charge by implementing the technology into the iPhone 5 and iPad 2, reports Bloomberg. NFC technology has a number of uses, including mobile banking. Apple may allow you to use your iPhone or iPad as an e-wallet of sorts, tapping directly into your iTunes credit card or banking information to make real-world purchases. It works a lot like the RFID wireless swiping that’s been around for a few years now, but is much more secure. To make a payment, you would hover your iPhone or iPad about four inches in front of a compatible receiver. Now you’re only worry may be if your phone dies.
Though we’ve wanted SD card support for a while, Apple has resisted SD slots and removable media because they make it easier to load non-Apple software or media into a device, lessening the control the company keeps over its platforms. Not to mention cutting into profit margins when users can opt for the least expensive models and upgrade them with cards later. Nevertheless, a new report by Engadget claims that Apple may have changed its stance on removable media. The site claims that the iPad 2 will indeed have a dedicated SD slot, perhaps in lieu of an actual USB port. How limited its use will be, we do not know.
Dual GSM/CDMA chip
Reports hint toward three separate versions of the iPad 2: a Wi-Fi only unit, a GSM unit, and a CDMA unit. This makes sense, but considering the fact that the company might produce a dual GSM/CDMA iPhone 5, it will make a lot of sense if Apple releases an iPad 2 that’s compatible with all four carriers. Apple is constantly trying to simplify its operations and product line, and a rumor back in November supports this theory. The first iPad was not built with the ability to connect to CDMA networks like Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Currently, users who buy an iPad must purchase a MiFi device to connect it to Verizon’s network. A dual-mode iPad 2 could technically run on CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint, as well as GSM carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T right out of the box.
We haven’t heard much, if any, talk about 4G support for the iPad 2. Much like the iPhone 5, it’s probably that the iPad 2 could support HSPA+ high speed connectivity (it’s an evolution of GSM), but there has been little talk of LTE, which powers Verizon’s 4G network. AT&T is building its own LTE network as well. Apple is known to wait until technology is fully ready before jumping on-board.
iPad 3 coming in September?
Already tired of the iPad 2? Well, a recent crop of rumors point toward a third iPad unveiling this September. John Gruber started the iPad 3 fire on his blog Daring Fireball. Though its entirely uncharacteristic of Apple to announce or release hardware updates twice in a year, Gruber believes that it will reveal the new device at its annual iPod event in September. It won’t be a full update to the iPad, he claims, but merely a new high-end option of sorts for those willing to shell out the big bucks. He labeled the device as an iPad 2.5, iPad Pro, or iPad HD. It may support the higher resolution Retina screen we all thought would come in the iPad 2. TechCrunch also joined the fun, reporting from a “very good source” that Apple is preparing for a “big fall surprise” that will likely be an iPad 3.
Our crazy idea: Though Steve Jobs has publicly ridiculed 7-inch tablets as “too small,” maybe the new version of the iPad will have a 7-inch screen. A rumor back in August lends credibility to this crazy notion.
Reveal coming in March?
Excited? We are. Now the big question is when Apple will actually announce the iPad 2. Though it broke its trend with the iPad, typically Apple shows off hardware only hours, days, or weeks before it hits the market. Updates usually come about once a year. New versions of the iPhone, for example, have been announced in June for the last four years. The iPad was released last April, so we expect its sequel to arrive around the same time. The rumor mill agrees.