The surest sign that an iPad 2 launch is near is that the rumor mill surrounding the as-yet unannounced device is in overdrive. Over the weekend, at least five rumors surfaced about Apple’s next iPad, including a possible new size, support for a stylus, and a more specific release timeline.
The “Tweener” Won’t Die
Apple is on record as saying that the 7-inch form factor for tablets is a bad idea, since it falls in the middle of the 10-inch and 4-inch or so sweet spots established by the iPad and smartphone devices. But a source talking to iLounge revealed that an iPad component maker has been asked by Apple to develop a part for a 7-inch iPad model. While that’s enough to suggest Apple might not have put the smaller form factor to rest just yet, I don’t think it’ll result in a shipping 7-inch iPad 2. But, depending on how the market develops in 2011, a diminutive iPad 3 definitely isn’t outside of the realm of possibility.
Carbon Fiber Body
No, I’m not talking about an upgraded street racer. The latest scuttlebutt, which echoes earlier rumors, is that iPad 2 will have a carbon fiber case, reducing weight and improving flexibility. Though maybe not quite as good looking as aluminum, this would be a welcome change for users like me who aren’t particularly tied to using cases and who have been known, on occasion, to drop or ding their beautiful Apple hardware. Again according to iLounge’s source, Apple is already testing out carbon fiber cases with the iPad 2, but they might not make it to market, since aluminum versions are also being tested.
As many will know, the iPad currently does support a very special kind of stylus. I use a Pogo Sketch, but there are a wide variety available for use with capacitive touchscreens which use a soft, electrically conducive material about the width of a pencil to emulate a finger. It’s not a perfect solution, in the way a Wacom tablet with pressure sensitivity is, but it does the job. Patently Apple found a patent for a pen stylus with a greater degree of accuracy designed specifically for iPad-style screens. The stylus described in the patent uses a built-in accelerometer and other sensors to make it pressure sensitive, and enable motion-generated contextual commands. The patent was originally filed in 2008, however, so while iPad 2 is a convenient target for deployment of such at a tech at the moment, it’s something Apple has had in its pocket for a while now.
We’ve already seen rumors of NFC-capable iPad 2 and iPhone 5 devices, and now iLounge is reporting that those might communicate with NFC-equipped accessories. This would allow connection to happen between devices and the iPad 2 without the need for Bluetooth to be active or pairing to occur. Another possible application described by iLounge would let the iPad 2 automatically enter power-save mode when put inside a case equipped with an RFID tag telling it to do so. If the iPad 2 does get NFC (which isn’t a stretch), these kinds of accessories will no doubt surface, too.
Announcement and Release Date
According to Japanese blog Marcotakara, the iPad 2 will be announced at a event later this month that will be “relatively small” according to its sources. This likely means that it’ll be held on-campus at Apple HQ in Cupertino, but it will probably still be its own dedicated event, unlike what earlier rumors had suggested. And while the announcement is rumored for February, Marcotakara suggests March as the actual release month of the iPad 2. The blog isn’t the only one throwing around possible release dates, however. Unlikely source Elton John has been talking to various media outlets about getting an iPad 2 in April for the purposes of video chatting with his son. He also referred to it as a “Skype iPad,” which suggests that maybe he isn’t the best authority to consult regarding something like the iPad 2.
Right before the official unveil is both my favorite and least favorite time in the Apple product life cycle, since there’s so much speculation circulating to build anticipation, but you also run the risk of getting your hopes up for features that will never ship. What do you guys think? Is all the hype surrounding new products an advantage or disadvantage of being an Apple fan?
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):