iPad rumours – a critical overview

Apple is staying true to it’s business plan and will release a revision of the iPad this year. Just like with other hardware lines, it will most likely come in the first half of the year and just like the iPhone, it will be a much needed upgrade that will make a few of the opponents by the device.
There have been a lot of rumours floating around the Iterweb but most are absolutely mental. So here is my logical and a bit pessimistic overview of what has been said. However, if all you care about is if you should splurge for an iPad now or wait for the revision here is the skinny on the subject. If you get gadget envy (and most of us do) them wait. iPad 2 will bring some much needed updates that make the device a much better personal computing device. If however, you are thinking of buying an iPad as a business tool then there is no reason for you to wait. Yes there will be an updated hardware and yes the next version will be faster but you don’t need the camera or any of the other incremental upgrades.
So here are the top rumours:

4x faster multicore GPU:
Yes, there will be a faster GPU and it will probably have 2 cores. Will it be 4x faster in real life, probably not. Will it have more that 2 cores? Absolutely not. 2 cores are already pushing the power envelope quite a bit and considering that adding 2 more will double the power requirements don’t hold your breath for it. But the good news here is that while 2 cores might not seem impressive the new GPU to be used in iPad 2 is a considerable upgrade to the current one. If my life depended on it, I would actually guess that Apple will include the lowest option for the GPU which probably means a single core with the new architecture. This will reduce the power drain and make your device have an over 10 hour battery life.

A retina display – this one is a bit tricky. I wish Apple would bring a 2048 x 1536 display, however that is wishful thinking. In order for Apple to get the iPad to run at the same level of performance as the current generation they will have to increase the price by about 50%. Retina displays, which a bit different than standard high definition display still require that the developer uses a high resolution graphics in order to achieve the promised clarity. Now what this means for your graphics is that they quadruple in size (well almost due to compression). So essentially the GPU will have to load 4 times the textures and you will need a 4x faster GPU to achieve the same perceivable performance. Apple will need at least a dual core GPU of the new generation in order to provide a better performance than the original iPad. Now while this is achievable, it is also expensive. To make matters worst, Apple will need to up the storage of the device because larger graphics need more storage. Think about it this way, is Apple were to include a 2048 x 1536 display this will essentially require game developers to create games that run at that resolution on a GPU that while very powerful for a mobile device, is nothing compared to a desktop one. Now computer and console games both have very powerful CPUs and yet never play games in 2048 x 1536 resolution. Why? Because it takes a considerable processing power to push that many pixels. Even if the hardware required would be put in an iPad, the battery life would be 3 hours max under gaming conditions. That’s simply not an Apple device!

Camera Not there will definitely be a camera and we all have known that since the release of the first gen. iPad. For crying out loud, there even is a space for one in the case! There have been some rumours about a 1mp camera on iPad 2. 1mp really? I don’t think so. Apple will probably include something like a 1 mp camera on the front of the device, so that you can use video calls (facetime/skype). If I were a betting man (and I am) I would say that there would be a 2nd camera on the back and that would probably be a 3mp one. Why not 5? Because the 5mp camera that Apple uses is too thick and too hard to fit in. But that’s alright because you are never going to really use the camera for photography. Actually the only reason why Apple would include a camera on the back side, is so that they can let you share what you see without flipping the device over.

New body Yes there will be a new body. Will it be plastic, probably not. Apple invested millions in aluminium machining technology and they would be mad to take it out of the iPad.

SD card reader In what world does that make sense? Apple will probably never include an SD card reader. A removable storage solution will require a rethink of the iPad as a business idea. iOS let’s you buy media from a strictly controlled store, etc. etc. etc. The point is, that you do not have a standalone device. You can do quite a few things on it, but essentially you need a computer and while moving data to an iOS device is a strange process, it is an established one. Including a removable storage would require a rethink of that model. So sorry but no SD card or any other removable storage for that matter.

Improved speaker Probably yes. I think you might see a dual speaker solution this time around. iPad case is large enough and 2 speakers will make a difference especially when watching videos.

2nd dock connector would be nice but would mess up the device aesthetics so no way.

The rest would stay about the same. You will get better specs for the CPU, GPU, speaker. Improved design for the case, will get an adapter for micro USB chargers (required in the EU). What Apple will say is that you get an improved screen with better multi touch display. And it will be improved but not by much. The new gestures will make the device quite unique and would make Android tablets look a bit silly and very crude.

[edit] NFC – it is not essential technology for the iPad since it will be useful only if you pick the 3G version up but it is very likely to show up on the next iteration of the tablet. There are quite a few cool things that you could do with the new technology although certain types of applications already exist albeit using inferior methods of product recognition (photo of a barcode).

If you have head of any other *significant* upgrade leave a comment.

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