Rumor Has It: iPad 2 Will Have USB

ipad2-usb

While many were busy stuffing their faces with turkey, and filling malls to the brim on Friday, some new, interesting rumors about the iPad 2 came to light. The rumors included some obvious claims, but one seems out of left field: a built-in USB port.

DigiTimes is reporting that the Chinese-language Economic Daily News claims the iPad 2 will definitely include five new features, including a video phone, better mobility (presumably a smaller form factor), USB port, Retina Display and 3-axis gyroscope. USB is really the only surprise on that list.

FaceTime is widely expected to make its way into the next iPad iteration, and if it doesn’t, I’ll be very surprised. A smaller physical footprint is in keeping with Apple’s general upgrade strategy. Both the iPhone and the iPod touch continue to get a little bit smaller with each new case update. The Retina Display isn’t as sure a bet, since it could be fairly pricey on the supply side to bring 336 ppi resolution to the 9.7-inch screen, but Apple does seem quite committed to the technology. A 3-axis gyroscope is an obvious choice, since one already ships in both the iPhone 4 and latest generation iPod touch.

Basically, the only rumored feature without precedent among the rest of Apple’s iOS devices is the new USB port. From a UX perspective, obviously, it’s a no brainer. You wouldn’t have to get Apple’s Camera Connection Kit to import photos from your digital camera, and in theory, you could use wired keyboards with the iPad 2, along with potentially many other hardware peripherals.

But USB on an Apple portable has always made good sense from the perspective of the consumer, yet we’ve never seen it before. That’s because Apple’s dock connector has long been the only data-compatible port on any of its iOS devices. It keeps the accessory ecosystem under control, and allows Apple greater say over how, with what, and for what purposes users can access their devices.

If Apple was going to introduce USB anywhere in its iOS lineup, the iPad 2 would be the most likely suspect. That’s because people use the Apple tablet more like they would a PC than a smartphone. A USB port that allows compatibility with more computer peripherals then makes sense, in terms of attracting more potential notebook buyers to the iPad 2 instead. Also, design-wise, there’s much more real estate on the iPad’s case edge than on the iPhone’s or iPod touch’s, so adding a port wouldn’t be as much of a compromise for Steve Jobs’ decidedly minimalist tastes.

I still think USB is a longshot, but if it makes sense anywhere in Apple’s mobile lineup, it makes sense on the iPad 2. Do you think we’ll actually see it included? Existing iPad owners, do you think it would even add that much to your experience?

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