The iPad 2  rumor mill , spinning ever faster, spits out today's fresh excitement: Apple's tablet (and possibly iPhone 5 ) may lose its home button, gain the ability to understand complex gestures, and have full-powered photo apps.
BoyGeniusReport has really put the cat among the pigeons in the Apple world today, with "pretty wild information" from a source inside Apple that suggests  the iPad 2 will lack a physical home button. Rumor suggests Steve Jobs didn't want any physical controls on the original iPhone--so perhaps his company's hardware and software have now evolved to give him what he desires.
In terms of Apple design evolution, it's a completely plausible step. It represents a simplification and refinement of the iDevices, which are already noted for their simplicity in design and UI, and it's a move Apple's tried out on iPods--with the previous generation iPod Shuffle losing nearly every button for an in-wire button system, and the new iPod Nano gaining a touchscreen to replace the buttons and clickwheel.
Plus, carving the hole for the existing home button into the iPad and iPhone's home screen is a tricky process that introduces structural weaknesses, and potentially gives dust an moisture another way inside the device. Ditching this weak point is desirable.
And not to blow our own trumpet too much, but this is also something we speculated about in our graphical rendering  of the iPad 2 for 2011.
The new beta release of iOS 4.3 to developers also contains some goodies  that hint the home button is going: The iDevices may be about to gain complex multitouch gestures that go far beyond the existing ones. We're talking about four or five-finger pinches to activate the home screen, and multi-finger swipes up and down or left and right to access multitasking submenus or app switching.
These abilities would come in perfect time to support a button-free iPad 2 and iPhone 5.
We think we know the iPad 2 will have both front and rear-facing cameras, and the rear camera's pretty much a given after we've seen all those leaked case designs from China.
Now we're more certain there's a front-facing camera for FaceTime videocalling purposes too. Files hidden within iOS 4.3 reveal icons  for photo and video capturing powers, and there's also API hooks for special video effects  like "x-ray" and "tunnel of light" that sound very similar to the video effects Apple includes in its Mac-based Photo Booth app--for the Mac's front-facing webcam.
Screen Rotation Lock Returns
One final gem from the iOS 4.3 code: Apple's included a setting  that lets iPad users decide if the switch on the side mutes the device (Apple's current only option, irritating millions of users) or locks the screen rotation (a much more sensible choice.)
To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton , on Twitter.