With Apple preparing to announced its second-generation tablet, here are the five features it can't leave out.
When the original iPad debuted in January 2010, many were amazed not at what it offered, but what it didn't. Apple has corrected some of those missteps with the iOS 4.2 system update, which added multitasking (nee, fast-app switching), threaded email, and other similar features. Aside from missing software features, there are hardware updates that Apple would do well to include in the next-gen iPad. Here's what we think they should be.
The original iPad was supposed to be a video chatting machine. With zero cameras on board, however, it left that void for the iPhone 4 to fill. With many Android tablets packing two cameras each, it is time for Apple to play catch up instead of the other way around.
The iPad 2 needs to include not one, but two cameras. The main camera should be at least 3 megapixels (preferably 5) and include a flash and the ability to capture video. Video capture at 720p HD would be nice, but that's probably asking too much. The secondary (and hopefully user-facing) camera should rate at least 1 megapixel.
Many of the iPad's competitors are already offering tablets with cameras that meet or exceed these minimum levels. Hopefully, Apple won't skimp and deliver a new iPad with inferior cameras.
This may be a pipe dream, but 4G networks are spreading across the U.S. (and other markets) quickly in the form of LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+. The next-gen iPad needs to jump ahead of the 3G pack and shoot straight for 4G. Whether it is WiMax, HSPA+, or LTE, Apple should be looking ahead at the next year and making sure its tablet can handle all (or any) of the major 4G networks.
Critically thinking, a penta-band (850/900/1700/1900/2100MHz) HSPA+ iPad at 21Mbps would be the safest bet for Apple to make, as it would give it speedy access on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks in the U.S., and an array of network operators overseas. LTE would be better, but considering Apple COO Tim Cook's comments regarding LTE at the Verizon iPhone launch, I find LTE to be doubtful feature to expect this year.
The newer Bluetooth specs have been approved by the Bluetooth SIG and are impatiently waiting to find their way into new hardware. Samsung has tossed Bluetooth 3.0+HS into a handful of its devices, but neither Bluetooth 3.0 nor 4.0 is widely available. These improved Bluetooth specs offer support for high-speed data transfers via Wi-Fi as well as low energy requirements. Essential? Nah. Good idea? Yes
Granted, the tablet form factor isn't exactly what comes to mind when you think "mobile payments," but it would be a good precedent to set.
Google has added NFC (near-field communication) support to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. While it hasn't expressed plans to offer the same functionality to its Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform, the fact that Google is standing behind NFC at all is a major win for mobile payments.
Getting the chips into mobile devices of any shape/size will help drive the NFC and mobile payment ecosystem forward. Apple would do well to include NFC in the next iPad.
Better Accessory Support
The first-gen iPad is somewhat limited when it comes to third-party accessories. Here's what I'd like to see change.
First, the 30-pin proprietary port that Apple uses for charging/syncing needs to either be moved or at least duplicated on one of the side edges of the iPad. This will help it work better with some accessories, and allow users to put it in a landscape orientation when it is docked rather than in a portrait orientation (which just doesn't feel right).
Second, a built-in SD slot would be a really nice addition. In addition to the slot, the appropriate software tools to let the iPad make good use of that port would be nice, too. In other words, let the SD slot serve as an alternative for storage, for importing photos or movies, or simply for easily off-loading content from the iPad.
You know what else wouldn't hurt: standard USB ports, microUSB ports, and, heck, HDMI out.
Frankly, I only expect to see one of these five items make it to the actual product, but it would be nice to see at least three out of five. C'mon, Apple. Surprise us.
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