Based on hints taken from beta software, a "second generation iPad case," and unnamed human tipsters, rumors are flying that Apple's forthcoming iPad 2 will be outfitted with features ranging from front- and rear-facing cameras to an ultra high resolution retina display, SD Card slot, dual-core processor, and dual-mode GSM/CDMA mobile chipset.
Out of all of these reports, the cameras seem to be the surest shot for really appearing in Apple's next generation tablet. Meanwhile, some suggest that Apple would be taking too high a risk with a retina display for the iPad 2.
Developers first uncovered Apple's camera plans while delving into Apple's just released iOS4.3 beta. Previews of desktop backgrounds in the Settings show new icons for Camera, as well as for PhotoBook and the FaceTime video-conferencing app.
MacRumors drilled down further to find PhotoBook filters in the OS beta, icons for a Thermal Camera, Mirror, Kaleidoscope, X-Ray, Light Tunnel, Squeeze, Twirl and Stretch.
The reports of an impending SD slot in the iPad 2 are surprising, but not earth-shattering. This particular slate of rumors stem from a new "second generation" iPad case now being touted by a Chinese accessory maker.
According to Apple Insider, the case features new port openings that seem to be consistent with both a new SD Card slot and a new mini DisplayPort jack.
In other forecasts being bandied about, Apple will boost memory and processing power above the 250MB of RAM and single-core chip in the initial tablet. Gizmodo and Engadget have concurred that the iPad will move to a dual-core processor, now that Android-based rivals such as the Motorola Xoom are already taking that direction.
Drawing on information from its own unidentified sources, Engadget points specifically to a dual GSM/CDMA chipset from Qualcomm, purportedly able to support GSM networks like AT&T Wireless along with CDMA networks such as Verizon Wireless.
Yet MSNBC's Wilson Rothman supposes that Apple won't start supporting LTE (Long Term Evolution) until the release of the iPad 3 in 2012, some time after AT&T's anticipated launch of 4G later this year.
The delay in 4G mobile support seems plausible, especially if Apple does opt for a dual-mode approach to cellular in the iPad 2. Yet, of course, competing tablets from makers like Motorola and Samsung will have been out there for quite a while, enjoying an early market lead over the iPad on higher-speed 4G.
Meanwhile, there's little consensus at all over the iPad 2's impending display. Rumors of a retina screen first got sparked when blogs such as MacStories came across double-resolution UI channels in the beta edition of Apple's iOS iBooks bundle.
Some bloggers, such as John Gruber of Daring Firewall, dismissed the prospect of a retina screen right away. According to Gruber, to build a retina display, Apple would need to double the resolution of the original iPad to 2048-by-1536, a measure cost prohibitive right now in terms of both the screen and supporting RAM.
That's not to say, though, that the iPad will never get a double-resolution display, or that Apple won't improve the screen in the iPad 2 in other ways, critics say. Wilson Rothman has mentioned alternatives like brightening the screen and bringing the pixels close to the front of the glass.
Apple Mongers Rumors, Too
Apple threw its own fodder into the rumor mill during a financial earnings call this week, when its top brass slipped news about a new two-year, $3.9 billion component supply deal.
For competitive reasons, Apple CEO/COO Tim Cook wouldn't specify what type of component is involved, except to equate the new agreement with Apple's earlier deals to secure iPod flash memory.
"We think that was an absolutely fantastic use of Apple's cash, and we constantly look for more of these, and so, in the past several quarters we've identified another area," Cook said.
As with the flash memory, suppliers of the mystery component are "focused in an area we think is very strategic," the CEO/COO cagily contended.
In reporting on Apple's leak, Engadget's Nilay Patel guessed that Cook might be referring to a high-density display – just the type of technology that could support a retina screen. Patel also cited rumors of deals with Toshiba and Sharp, although he acknowledged that pacts with these companies are only conjecture.
Taiwanese rumor monger the DigiTimes jumped into the fray, reporting that Apple component makers will indeed produce screens with 2048-by-1506 resolution, resulting in a pixel density as high as a whopping 528 ppi (points per inch) if Apple adheres to its current 9.7-inch screen size.
Ubergizmo got down to brass tacks, stating point blank that LG -- the supplier of the current iPad screen -- will use Apple's IPS technology to build 9.7-inch, 264 ppi screens for the iPad 2.
In case you're wondering whether the iPad 2 could handle the higher number of pixels, Ubergizmo's Hubert Nguyen thinks so. Dropping some more speculation into the mix, Nguyen mentioned rumors of a PowerVR SGX543 or PowerVR SGX543MP2 dual GPU for the iPad 2.
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