Here Are Six Features Apple Should Include in the iPad 2 (And They’re Not the Ones You Think)
Unlike most of my tech-journalism brethren, I’m not at the circus in Las Vegas this week. Neither is Apple—the hardware giant has traditionally skipped the International Consumer Electronics Show, rightly figuring that it can generate all the hype it needs just by inviting a few hundred people to the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco or its own auditorium in Cupertino.
So far, there are no hints about when curtain will rise on the next Steve Jobs Show. But it was around this time last year (on January 4, 2010, to be exact) that somebody at the company leaked word of a coming tablet-related product unveiling. That January 27 event turned out to be the coming-out party for the iPad. So even though Apple is avoiding Las Vegas again this year, the company is the “elephant in the convention center” at CES, as CNBC’s Julia Boorstin put it yesterday—in part because everyone assumes that Apple is working on, and will soon preview, the next version of the iPad.
There’s little doubt that the iPad 2 is coming: Apple refreshes its core products on a roughly annual schedule, and it’s the iPad’s turn next. On top of that, Apple never stops with the first iteration of a product—Version 2 is usually baking before Version 1 even ships. On this point, I’m going to haul out a quote from my January 29, 2010, column about the iPad. This is from Chuck Goldman, the founder and former CEO of Boston-based mobile app development house Apperian, who formerly ran the professional services division at Apple. With any product launch, Goldman said, “There are 400 things that Apple wants to do, but they can only do four in the time allowed, so they have got to decide what feature set is going to ship with Version 1. And they usually do a pretty good of getting a product to market with enough features for the Apple fanboys and the early adopters to want the thing. But you have to know that someone in Cupertino has got the roadmap for this product pretty much planned out. What they do is, they listen to customers, and they are really good at aggregating that customer feedback and working it into the roadmap, and that’s how they create versions 2 and 3 and 4 and 5.”
So, what might be on the roadmap for the iPad 2? If I knew, there’d probably be police knocking on my door. But if history and Moore’s Law offer any guidance at all, then the device will have more memory than the first-generation iPads, and a faster processor. It’s also a fairly good bet that the next iPad will have a front-facing camera for two-way video calling. (My guess is that AT&T saw the allegedly empty iSight slot in the first-generation iPad prototypes and freaked out—but things may have improved. At any rate, AT&T didn’t veto the recent addition of two-way video calling over 3G to Skype’s iPhone app.) Better speakers would not be an unexpected addition, nor would a dual-mode communications chip that allows the device to pull wireless data from both CDMA and GSM networks.
Somewhat less likely is the addition of a rear-facing camera for serious videography and photography. (I think Apple still sees the iPad mainly as a tool for consuming media content rather than creating it. But who knows, they could fork the product and come out with both an iPad 2 and an “iPad 2 Pro” with a rear-facing camera for $150 more.) I also think it would make sense if, as rumor has it, the iPad 2 came with a narrower bezel and borrowed a few design tweaks from the iPhone 4, such as the flat back.
But those are just the easily predictable changes. Here’s my list of suggestions for a few less obvious improvements. These are changes that would not only address shortcomings in the first-generation iPad, but give the iPad 2 some extra pizazz and help it stay ahead of the competition.
1. Haptic Feedback.
This is my second-favorite feature on the Galaxy Tab, Samsung’s 7-inch tablet device. (My first favorite is the rear-facing camera, but we already covered that.) When this option is turned on, the whole device vibrates briefly and subtly every time your finger taps a soft key, giving you a bit of confirmation. Unlike just about everyone else I know, I like to … Next Page »