This much we know: the iPad 2 is due soon. We also are pretty sure about a few things having to do with the design, but until now the snippets of rumor we've read have come from speculation—"insiders" inside Apple's Asian supply/manufacturing chain and logical deduction based on previous Apple design moves with different devices. Now the Wall Street Journal has joined the fray, and this puts a different complexion on the matter.
Given that it's now over one year since the first iteration of the iPad, we're all expecting Apple to announce the second-generation device very soon. Now that the WSJ (which we suspect is used by Apple to officially, unofficially "leak" news to control the PR hype before a new product arrives) has acted, we suspect the iPad is finally inbound. What can we tell about the device from the leak?
iPad in production
The WSJ notes that Apple's "started manufacturing a new version of its iPad tablet computer" and cites "people familiar with the matter." In order to deliver a new device in large quantities sometime in March or, at the latest, April, Apple's supply chain would certainly have to be working their socks off right about now--tallying with the WSJ's reveal. In fact, we'd hope they've been doing this for some time in order to avoid the same kind of supply-chain issues that the iPad 1 suffered, including a hugely delayed global roll-out.
We've suspected Apple will add cameras to the iPad for a number of reasons--it was suspected to arrive in the first version, but seemed to have been removed by Apple at the last minute, and the growing number of Android tablets boast cameras of various resolutions. The best guess so far is that Apple would have a VGA resolution on the front for video conferencing, and a 1-megapixel-plus rear-facing one for imaging for augmented reality apps and productivity.
But the WSJ's article has one teasing bit: "at least one camera on the front of the device." Could Apple be planning some kind of surprising 3-D imaging trick? It's a long-shot, but you never know.
Thinner, lighter, more memory, faster processor, better graphics
These are all features we've thought Apple would add to a new device--the thinner and lighter aspects of the design would tackle some of the few criticisms aimed at the initial iPad version. More memory, better graphics and a faster processor are also natural steps to take to keep the product fresh and competitive in the tablet market--we even think Apple will adopt the ARM Cortex A9 architecture.
Big rumors surfaced a little while ago that Apple would quadruple the number of pixels on the iPad 2's screen versus the first version--a smart move since doubling the pixels horizontally and vertically would allow for easy compatibility with existing apps, which could simply be blown up onto the new screen. The trick would also give the iPad 2 near "retina display" resolution, matching the iPhone 4's impressive display.
But such a high screen resolution would require processor power that could generate too much heat, and suck too much battery power, for a tablet format. A leaked part revealed that the iPad 2's screen may have the same visible display area, but a smaller bezel and a thinner profile--bringing the display pixels closer to the surface to improve visibility--but didn't hint at higher res.
Now Apple may have leaked the news to the WSJ to quell these expectations, and it seems the new iPad will have the same pixel density as the earlier one.
Enterprising coders have taken code from the developer release of an upcoming iOS update, and shoe-horned it into an existing iPad. The result is FaceTime on an iPad 1--revealing how we imagine it'll work on the iPad 2. It's very similar to the iPhone 4's edition, and it too suggests the screen resolution will remain at the 1024 by 768 pixels of the iPad 2. Controls and features on the FaceTime app are similar to existing implementations, and it'll pop-over running apps to announce an incoming call.
One biggie missing from the WSJ's coverage is any mention of near field communications--the wireless tech Apple's expected to build into the iPhone 5 to transform the mobile payments market. This doesn't obviate it's inclusion in the iPad 2, of course, but it does cast some doubt