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From the author of Front- and Rear-Facing Cameras

Front- and Rear-Facing Cameras

With the screen size seemingly on track to be the same, the biggest potential difference between the iPad 2 and the original iPad is the addition of one or more cameras. Speculation focuses on—no pun intended—the addition of front- and rear-facing cameras, which are found on the new iPhone 4, as well as on the competing Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s even said that there’s already space for camera hardware right in the center of the top edge of the iPad.

Let’s look at each of these potential additions separately—first the rear-facing camera, then the front-facing one. With regards to the rear-facing camera—the same type that every smartphone has nowadays—it’s a bit of a strange fit for the iPad line.

The iPad is absolutely brilliant for showing off photographs; there’s no better photo frame for sharing photos with friends, family, and even unwary strangers. But it’s strange to imagine using something as big as the iPad for taking pictures. The large preview screen would be great, of course, but the “point and shoot” process would be more like holding up a picture frame over the scene in front of you than like aiming a normal camera.

The front-facing camera— facing toward the user, that is —doesn’t necessarily make complete sense either. True, it would allow for video calls using Apple’s FaceTime software, currently available on the iPhone 4. FaceTime is currently dependent on both parties having an iPhone 4, and both being connected to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot. The iPad’s larger screen would make conference calls, as well as one-to-one calls, truly practical.

However, as with the rear-facing camera, a front-facing camera is not as natural a fit as on the iPhone 4. The iPad is not sold as a phone, and doesn’t even have phone capability built in; you can only make and receive calls using Skype or a similar iPad app. Skype phone calls are digital, VoIP (Voice over IP) calls, not analog as with current cell phones and smart phones.

So the front-facing camera would be a built-in peripheral that added a calling-based feature, video calling, to a machine that doesn’t have native support for phone calls in the first place. And the rear-facing camera would seem a kludge when added to such a large device.

These complaints and concerns, however, are a bit like those that came up around the iPad itself. The iPad, too, seemed a bit unnatural, until people had one in their hands. Then it was hard to get those selfsame people to let the device go.

Front- and rear-facing cameras are a dramatic change, yet an easy one for Apple – the camera hardware only costs a few dollars, and the iPad software already inherits camera and FaceTime support from the iPhone 4. Expect front- and rear-facing cameras to be part of the iPad 2—and expect the majority of users, at least, to love having them there.

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