Small, but Impactful, Hardware Changes
There are many more potential improvements which might appear in the iPad 2, but which would require trade-offs among cost, weight, and complexity:
- A 3-axis gyroscopeThe iPhone 4 and iPod Touch 4G have a full 3-axis gyroscope. Expect the iPad 2 to get one as well, making the device that much better for games.
- Better soundThe iPad 2 could get a bigger, better speaker than the tiny, three-part grille found on the right underside of the current iPad.
- Locking switch for orientationThe toggle switch on the upper right edge of the iPad was redefined by November’s upgrade of the original iPad to the new iOS 4.2 version of system software. The switch went from an orientation lock to an on-off switch for sound, as on the iPhone. Apple could add another switch for orientation control.
- Retina displayThe iPhone 4 introduced the “retina display”, an ultra-high-resolution display screen that makes text and graphics look great. However, the power and processor speed requirements to drive a similar display on an iPad 2 might require a larger, heavier, and more expensive device overall. Perhaps a compromise is in the works.
- Faster processorA dual-core processor is a possibility – and a near-requirement if Apple goes to a full retina display screen, as on the iPhone 4.
- More RAMThe current iPads have six models: WiFi-only and 3G versions with 16MB, 32MB, or 64MB of RAM. Apple could double the RAM at each level, though this would add small increments of cost, size, and weight.
- Greater carrier supportApple could add additional 3G and/or 4G hardware so the iPad 3G models would not be limited to AT&T for data support.
- Better Wi-FiThere are ongoing complaints about the iPad’s ability to find, and stay connected to, Wi-Fi hotspots; look for improvements in the iPad 2.
The features issue is complicated by pricing. To general surprise, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, so much smaller than the iPad, came out slightly higher than the base model iPad in price. This seems to indicate that Apple’s iPad pricing structure, anchored by a $499 base model, is about right. Apple is unlikely to make changes that force its price levels up, or that cut its profit margins significantly at a given price.