A few things seem to be givens, like that it will include a front camera for FaceTime video chatting. (See our mock-up illustrations.)
Will the iPad 2 be generally the same size and design as the original iPad?
This seems likely. The iPad’s 10-inch screen is a good middle ground between a smartphone and a laptop. But we assume the iPad 2 will be thinner. And the case itself may be made out of different materials.
Will the iPad 2 support Verizon (NYSE:VZ)?
Apple has already started selling the iPad at Verizon Wireless, bundled with a mi-fi wireless hotspot.Given that the companies now have an official relationship, it makes sense that the iPad 2 could ship in a Verizon-compatible edition. (Perhaps alongside a Verizon (NYSE:VZ) iPhone.)
Now the question is: Will the iPad 2 support Verizon’s and AT&T’s (NYSE:T) new 4G networks? Or only 3G for now, because of battery life, 4G network size, etc.?
And: Will Apple let carriers subsidize the price of the iPad, if someone signs a 2-year data contract?
When the iPad 2 comes out, what happens to the first iPad?
We assume the iPad 2 will cost the same $499 entry price as the iPad. (Barring any carrier subsidies.)But if Apple can, it makes sense to knock the price of the original iPad down by $100 or $150, using it to draw people into the store, the way the $99 iPhone does. (Many of those people will actually end up buying the more expensive iPad 2.)
The future of the iPad is having three or four of them sitting around the house and office. So the more affordable Apple can make them, the faster that future can be realized.
Will the iPad 2 have a retina display?
It makes sense for Apple to increase the screen resolution on the iPad, the way it has with the iPhone and iPod touch. But as many have argued, it would be challenging for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to quadruple the iPad’s resolution the way it has with its smaller devices. That would be a LOT of pixels to power.Perhaps a middle ground, that’s more pixel-dense than today’s iPad, but not as crazy as the iPhone?
Or maybe Apple will really push the limits and push out an amazingly gorgeous 10-inch retina display?
Will there be a front-facing camera for FaceTime chats?
This is one of the most obvious, definite additions to the iPad 2. We fully expect a front-facing camera on the new iPad. And it looks like there will also be a camera on the back, too, to keep consistent with the iOS lineup.
An iPad mini?
The newest tablets out there — Samsung Galaxy Tab, RIM BlackBerry PlayBook (NASDAQ:RIMM) — seem to be converging on 7-inch screen size. And it’s been rumored that Apple will also have a 7-inch iPad at some point.Perhaps the market will eventually force Apple to make something like this. And there’s no doubt that Apple has internally tested something like this. But we don’t think this is going to happen in 2011.
Steve Jobs has slammed the 7-inch screen as being too small, and said that Apple thinks the 10-inch size is the minimum to create great tablet apps.
If anything, perhaps Apple will offer a bigger iPad before it offers a smaller one.
How thin can the iPad 2 get?
The next iPad will almost certainly be thinner. The existing one feels pretty hollow, so we think Apple could save some space on the inside and make a thinner iPad. RIM promises that its BlackBerry PlayBook will be 10 mm thin, or roughly 1/3 thinner than the iPad. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is a hair thinner than the iPad, too.
Apple has a habit of making things unbelievably thin, like the original iPhone, and the iPhone 4, and the new MacBook Air. So look for Apple to really wow people here.
What about the guts?
We anticipate the iPad’s processor and video technology will get a speed boost in the next edition. But perhaps more important would be more RAM, so that you could do things like keep multiple web tabs loaded at the same time.Expect Apple to say something like, “the iPad 2 is twice as fast.”
What about the back?
Apple’s portable device lineup has a wide range of back materials. The iPad is a brushed aluminum. The iPhone 4 is glass. And the iPod touch is a shinier metal.What will the next iPad use? The current one isn’t as easy to hold on to as it could be — a little on the slippery side. So a flat glass back like the iPhone 4 might be an improvement.
But that might also add weight to the device. And the curved back of the current iPad makes it thinner at the edges, giving it an overall sleeker look and feel. So perhaps Apple will leave this alone.
Less likely, plastic, like the iPhone 3G used. This would probably feel too cheap.
Also: How about colors?
What about the software?
The iPad finally has iOS 4.2.But what’s in store for the next iPad and iOS 4.3 or 5? Maybe the newsstand that Apple is reportedly developing with publishers? FaceTime is an obvious inclusion.
Maybe a huge upgrade to Apple’s Ping service, which makes it more of a social network — with its own app — for sharing everything, including apps and photos?
BONUS: iAds for iPad?
With some impressive media apps in the App Store — ranging from Wired to Flipboard — it seems inevitable that Apple will create an iPad-specific program for its iAds advertising business.This may take a bit longer — iAds are still slowly rolling out for the iPhone — but it’s possible it could be available by the iPad 2 in 2011.
So, when’s it going to launch?
If Apple goes for the usual 1-year release period, the iPad 2 could launch in April.But it’s possible that it could happen earlier. Some reports suggest the iPad 2 could ship as early as February.
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