A number of rumors and possible hardware leaks over the weekend are starting to give us a clearer picture of what the iPad 2 might look like and its possible specs. Before the weekend, we'd already heard the next-gen iPad will have a redesigned case with a flatter backside (similar to the iPod touch), and the new iPad is rumored to be shipping in early April, one year after the original's release to market. The next-gen iPad is also supposedly shipping with front- and rear-facing cameras.
Engadget scored an exclusive over the weekend with a well-placed source who confirmed the iPad 2's shipping date, cameras, and case redesign. Their source also claims the iPad 2 will have an SD slot; if true, it will almost certainly be for data transfer and not for expanding the iPad's built-in storage. The iPad 2 may also feature a dual GSM/CDMA chipset that will allow Apple to manufacture a single, unified iPad line for use with CDMA carriers (Verizon, in other words) and GSM carriers (almost everyone else in the world).
Engadget also hinted at a "super high resolution" display on the next iPad, and most of the rumors over the weekend have revolved around that display. Developers picked apart iBooks and found multiple pieces of artwork in the program that appear to be designed for an iPad with exactly double the 1024 x 768 resolution of the current model. This would put the iPad 2's screen resolution at 2048 x 1536, for a pixel density of 260 dpi. This is not quite as pixel-dense as the iPhone 4's Retina Display, which at 960 x 540 and 326 dpi is of high enough resolution that most people with average eyesight are incapable of discerning individual pixels. However, a 2048 x 1536 pixel screen also exceeds the resolution of any other Apple portable by a wide margin; the 17" MacBook Pro's 1920 x 1200 screen pales in comparison.
Such a pixel-dense screen on a relatively small form factor device like the iPad initially sounded implausible to me, but GlobalDirectParts.com has apparently obtained iPad 2 LCDs in advance of the device's launch. This is the same parts reseller which claimed to have "iPhone 5" parts earlier this month; those parts instead turned out to be almost identical to the redesigned antenna band for the Verizon iPhone. GlobalDirectParts is offering the iPad 2 LCD for US$218.19, a significant cost increase compared to the $144.99 the company charged for the original iPad's LCD in June of 2010. While parts resellers are undoubtedly charging more than Apple is paying for the same parts, it still appears the iPad 2's LCD represents a significantly more costly part than the old LCD. A doubling of the screen resolution could account for that price increase.
According to AppleInsider, driving that significantly upgraded display will be a powerful dual-core GPU from Imagination Technologies, the SGX543. This GPU represents a significant upgrade from the current iPad's graphics hardware, doubling its graphics performance; drivers for the SGX543 were discovered in the recent iOS 4.3 beta. The iPad's CPU is also supposedly going multi-core this year.
Taken together, these rumors paint a picture of a massive upgrade for the next-gen iPad. Below is a summary of the iPad 2's rumored feature set, with comparisons to the current iPad in parentheses and italics.
- Multi-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU (single-core ARM Cortex-A8)
- Dual-core SGX543 GPU (single-core SGX535)
- 2048 x 1536 display at 260 dpi (1024 x 768 at 132 dpi)
- GSM/CDMA chipset (GSM only)
- Front- and rear-facing cameras
- SD card slot
- Redesigned, flatter case
We still haven't heard anything regarding the iPad 2's RAM or onboard storage, though 512 MB of RAM seems like a bare minimum considering the other hardware upgrades (and the fact that the iPhone 4 already ships with that much RAM). As for storage, I wouldn't put it past Apple to top the line off at 64 GB again, but I'm really hoping for a capacity increase to 128 GB.