The rumors have been building about Apple's new iPad for literally months and months. Here, drawn from that pool of thought, is what we think the iPad 2 will be like ... and what other things Apple may reveal tomorrow.
iPad 2 Chassis: Thinner, lighter, new materials or colors?
The consensus among Apple observers online is that the iPad 2 will be much thinner than the first edition, and will have a flat back that makes it more useful when resting on a flat surface—generally an evolution of the gen-one design that is similar to the unibody Mac shapes. It may have a slightly smaller more backpack-friendly front face, and it's likely to be made of aluminum, like the iPad 1 and pretty much every other Apple product nowadays.
There's a tiny chance Apple may make the edge of the device metal (possibly scratch-proof stainless steel) with a back made of something different—possibly plastic or carbon fiber, though this is one of the wilder rumors. Though there's evidence Apple will make a white front glass bezel in addition to a black glass one, we expect the rear face not to match.
Screen: Same size, smaller bezel, same resolution but thinner glass
For a while there was excitement that the iPad 2 would have a quadruple-resolution screen, approaching the iPhone 4's high "retina"-scale pixel density. Then the information dribbling out of Apple's Chinese manufacturer chain indicated this wasn't likely, and the consensus is the iPad 2's screen will be identical in size (9.7-inches) and pixel count (1024 by 768). But the bezel surrounding the display, which came under criticism for its size in the iPad 1, will be smaller. And advances in LCD glass display tech means the display will be thinner front-to-back which frees up Jonathan Ive's design team and makes for a better viewing experience as the pixels are closer to the glass. It could also be anti-glare and smudge-proof.
Everyone expects Apple to have upgraded its graphics chip and 1 GHz single-core ARM Cortex A8-based (used in the iPad 1, iPhone 4, Apple TV) for the new 2011 product. What we're expecting is a faster ARM Cortex A9-based unit, which allows support for multiple cores—probably only two cores in this case, for simplicity and low power consumption. It will probably be clocked faster than the iPad 1, and the speed that's generally predicted is 1.2 GHz.
The only real question is: What will Apple's team call it? After all, "A4" was a bit of a surprise. Will they go for "A8" to suggest double the speed? Or will they be kinda unsurprising and go for "A5"?
We think the iPad 2 will have two cameras—one low-res one on the front for video-conferencing, and a higher-res one on the back for general photography. The front-facing cam (which will probably be VGA-resolution) will marry with the FaceTime app and there are some hints that there'll be a Photo Booth app for the iPad too. The rear-facing cam will, people think, be around 3-megapixels and capable of recording HD video...though no one knows if this means 720p or 1020p.
Storage, Internal and External
Will Apple bump the internal storage capacity of the iPad? It's a typical Apple tradition, but it comes at the cost of also bumping up the price of the devices, thanks to the expense of flash RAM.
There were persistent rumors Apple would include an SD card slot on the new device, a development of the SD-card reader iPad accessory, that could allow removable storage expansion options. These rumors have quickly faded.
Apple, we think, will probably stick with the existing storage capacity of the iPad: 16Gb, 32GB and 64GB. After all, it did the same with the iPhone 4 last year, and if the rumors of Apple's cloud-based iTunes music service come true, then internal storage sizes are increasingly irrelevant if users can access their tunes streamed from the cloud. The only RAM that'll probably double is the working RAM used by the iPad's CPU—probably to 512MB.
Will the 30-pin iPod connector go? Unlikely--Apple's built a big ecosystem around this interface, and it's consistent across iPhone, iPod and iPad lines. There is a push for a common micro-USB charging port for portable devices, but Apple could step around this easily by including a 30-pin to micro-USB adaptor.
There's some speculation that the "new" hole on the top of the iPad, revealed in some leaked rubber case designs from China, could be for Apple's revised mini DisplayPort/data connection—the Thunderbolt connector for data and video that could make it easier to hook up your iPad to an HDTV.
The odd large port on the bottom left of the iPad is, everyone expects, a much superior speaker.
Usually when Apple reveals something really new, rather than a product bump, consumers have to wait quite some time for it to actually go on sale. New rumors suggest that Apple's got its production ducks in a row this time, and the iPad could go on sale in its initial markets (probably the U.S., U.K. and France) within a week or so.
While iOS5 probably won't arrive until after Apple reveals the iPhone 5 for the purposes of finalizing the design, it's possibly so Apple can avoid the odd situation that happened with the iPhone 4 where it's OS was more advanced than the iPad's for many months. But Apple will probably tease some features of the future OS, which may (or may not) include tweaks like enhanced voice controls throughout the OS, and probably cloud-related tweaks to MobileMe/iLife and so on.
One more thing ...
What extra little nuggets will Apple surprise its fans with, to keep the brand momentum up and the competition at bay? An appearance by Steve Jobs? A quick show-and-tell of OS X Lion, since it's been in the media so much? A funky new keyboard/case combo? Nobody knows, and if Steve doesn't show ... then there may be no "one more thing" at all.
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