9 Things on the iPad 2 Wish List

Let’s be clear; the iPad (s aapl) rocks. If it never changes, I’d still be happy with it. But since we’re at that point in the year when we’re offering offering predictions and hopes regarding what’s to come, here’s a list of must-have features in iPad 2.

Some things we can be fairly certain of. Storage capacities will increase while prices (particularly for the entry-level model) will decrease. Battery life will probably improve, and the iPad chassis may well get even thinner (more on that later). A new talking-heads video will also be streamed from Apple’s website, featuring an ever-increasingly-earnest Jonny Ive declaring the iPad 2 is even more elegant and magical than its elegant, magical predecessor.

Magic is nice, but all users really care about are the feature and usability upgrades, and these are the ones that would most benefit the iPad 2.

Improved Display

I don’t mean a retina display, either. The resolution on the current iPad is just fine, thank you. Brighter, higher contrast, more colors and a wider viewing angle would be just swell.

Integrated SD Card Reader

MacBooks now have them, and the iPad seems a natural next candidate for a built-in SD card reader. The SD card reader Apple sells as part of its camera connection kit always seemed like an inelegant solution. (Its boxy white plastic lines look cheap next to the iPad’s aluminum shell.) Personally, I’d prefer to be able to beam photos from my DSLR to the iPad wirelessly, but a feature like that is even less likely to appear than an integrated reader.

A USB Port

I’m putting this here not because I genuinely want it, you understand, but because, apparently, everyone else does. Seriously, I’ve never wanted to connect anything to the iPad via USB. Nothing. Ever. I can see maybe wanting to plug a camera in directly instead of using its SD card, since it saves steps, but that’s about it. Feel free to illuminate me further on why a USB port on the iPad is a good idea in the comments.

Cameras and FaceTime

I’m not a fan of shaky-cam video calling, but I am a fan of devices that offer a complete audio/visual experience. FaceTime on iPhone 4 is stunning but a little gimmicky – on iPad it would be usable enough to make me want every chat to be a Facetime chat. More importantly, it would be like living in Star Trek, which would be cool.

iLife for iOS

Making iWork touch-friendly was an incredible achievement, and the quality and functionality of Pages, Numbers and Keynote on iPad just gets better and better with each update. Imagine, then, how toe-curlingly-awesome iLife could be on the iPad! Editing and sharing photos with a few swipes and finger-taps would be child’s play, while iMovie and Garage Band feel like they’ve been designed for touch since day one.

Thinner, Lighter, Stronger

I did promise I’d get to this one, and, if I’m really honest, I think this one is the most crucial upgrade Apple can make to iPad. Don’t get me wrong; the iPad is gorgeous. The iPad is practical. But the iPad is also heavy. If you don’t have a stand or empty lap available, cradling the thing in one arm soon starts to feel like hard work. I don’t doubt that Apple explored plastic versions of iPad (and perhaps, in keeping with the evolution of the iPhone, a plastic-bodied iPad is on the way) and I don’t deny that the current aluminum chassis provides for exceptional strength and rigidity. But so, too, could carbon fibre composite, without the arm-strain.

Side-Mounted Dock Connector

Speaks for itself, this one. A side-mounted dock connector won’t just make it possible to dock, sync and charge iPad in landscape orientation, but will also increase the range of design possibilities for third-party products. The problem, of course, is that it would mean yet another cavity in the otherwise unbroken lines of the device. I’m not sure Mr Jobs would tolerate that.

3G Radio As Standard

Since the second-generation iPhone, every iPhone has featured a 3G radio. That makes sense for a phone, but it also makes sense for a portable computer that relies heavily on cloud-based data to get things done. We don’t live in a Wi-Fi everywhere world (yet), so including a 3G chip as a standard feature of every model of iPad seems perfectly reasonable. Oh, and, I’d very much like it to be free 3G, too. Surely AT&T (s t) won’t have a problem with that, will they?

User Profiles

This is something that would never make sense on a device as small and personal as a cell phone. But despite what some people might say, the iPad is far more than an overgrown cell phone. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to buy an iPad for every member of my family. Until I can, password protected user profiles would make iPad sharing far less stressful; I wouldn’t have to worry about my five-year old godson accidentally mucking-up my calendar entries, or deleting emails… while my partner could play games without wiping out my top-scores. I’m sure Apple would prefer we all just buy an iPad each, but that’s not likely to happen any day soon, unless prices come way, way down.

So there you have a few humble suggestions for iPad 2. I honestly struggled to find areas needing improvement, and consider that an indicator of the attention to detail Apple paid the first time around. I’d love to know what you think needs to improve, but as you leave your suggestions in the comments, here’s a challenge to bear in mind; avoid suggesting changes to the iOS software unless they’re game-changers for the iPad alone.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):