I don’t know why I am surprised that for all the rabid speculation that led up the the debut of the current iPad, the speculation about the second generation iPad is even more wild…mega-rabid even. Considering what a big hit the first version of the iPad has been, it stands to reason that people would want to see how Apple will try to top themselves this time. In fact there have been so many rumors, none of them really conflicting, that a casual observer may assume Apple will be releasing several new iPads in the coming months…and who knows, maybe they will.
Of course, doing that would break away from Apple’s normal product methodology, which is very careful to avoid cannibalizing itself. However, I personally would not be surprised if there are a few different variations on the iPad released ultimately, like the MacBook and the MacBook Pro. After all, Apple at this point is basically defining the tablet sector as it goes. Six months in they are STILL the only major tablet release, which is just amazing.
The initial rumors of the next iPad were all about size, with several Taiwanese sources saying 5 and 7 inch versions of the iPad were coming soon. Most people agreed at the time that the 5 inch version would be sort of silly and discarded the rumor, but the 7 inch rumor has held on. Several pundits have said a 7 inch iPad would be more easy to hold in one hand and could be targeted at the ebook reader market. Personally I feel that with the Samsung Tab and most of the leaked Android tablets coming in at 7 inches, Apple will likely avoid the size, preferring to remain larger and perhaps smaller. Considering the way the market appears to be developing, now I would say a 5 inch iPad may make more sense than a 7 inch one.
Next were rumors that the next iPad would remain at 9 inches, but be about half the thickness of the current model This makes sense as a way to lower the weight of the iPad, but could prove to be a problem in terms of fitting all the hardware in. I admit I am doubtful about this one, since the next iPad will likely need to include more components, not fewer.
For example, almost all rumors now include at least a forward facing cam for Facetime, which will take up a bit of space. Some even include a second cam on the back of the device. I feel a Facetime cam is a lock for the new iPad, considering Steve Jobs comments about spreading Facetime through Apple’s entire line. It also just makes good sense, and many people were surprised a front facing cam wasn’t included in the original iPad. However, a rear facing cam just doesn’t make any sense to me considering the size of the iPad. It just isn’t something you will want to use as a video camera, or to take snapshots with…therefore a rear facing cam would be a waste of space.
The latest rumors are based on several recently discovered patents, and include a landscape mode docking port on the side of the iPad and some kind of control on the corner of the bezel. A docking port on the side is another addition that I feel is a no-brainer. I know that one of my main frustrations with the device is that I can’t easily play games or read in landscape mode while the iPad it in its cradle. A port on the side would solve that pretty easily.
As for the bezel mounted control, I don’t buy the speculation. Looking at the patent illustration that has given birth to the rumor (via Patently Apple), I think it is far more likely it is showing the screen detail, which in the illustration appears to be slightly more raised above the frame than it is in the original iPad. I am not sure why they would opt for a thicker screen except perhaps to make it sturdier. Also, an additional button is unlikely since Apple has always stressed the one button concept as an example of the simplicity of the design.
So will there be a single new iPad, or several different design flavors? At this point, I am unwilling to bet, but we should all know sometime in the first quarter of 2011. Of course, until then we should get anohter few hundred rumors to sort through…which is where the real fun is at, anyway.