Wolverton: An iPad 2 wish list

The iPad is a great device. But I can't wait for Apple to make it even better. Because as much as I love the iPad, I've got a list of things I'd like on the "iPad 2," which Apple is expected to unveil early in the New Year.

Reports suggest that the most prominent new features will be the same ones Apple added to the iPhone in June: a forward-facing camera and FaceTime, its new video-calling software.

Rumors also suggest that Apple might give the iPad a technical upgrade, including a higher-resolution display, more memory, a faster processor and a three-axis gyroscope. And some have clamored for Apple to make a version of the iPad with a smaller screen, although CEO Steve Jobs all but dismissed that idea recently.

Other than a forward-facing camera and FaceTime, the only item on that list that excites me is the gyroscope -- a similar sensor in the new iPhone is already being used in some innovative new games. But there are some other potential changes I'm more enthusiastic about. Here is my personal wish list. You may not see any of them on the next-generation iPad, but I think you will see them eventually.

Cut the cord. The genius of the iPad is its simplicity. It's a computer designed for everyone who was either intimidated by traditional PCs or flustered by maintaining them. As such, it has the potential to replace a laptop for most consumers.

But I'm reluctant to recommend the iPad as a replacement computer because right now it can't work without a traditional PC. To set up an iPad or update it, you have to tether it to a laptop or desktop running Apple's iTunes software. You have to do the same if you want to upload music, movies or photos stored on your PC.

It doesn't have to be this way. Tablets and smartphones running Google's Android software can be set up and updated independent of a PC. You just connect to Google's servers wirelessly. Meanwhile, a number of companies offer consumers the option of storing their music on the Internet, where it can be accessed from anywhere.

Apple is reportedly moving in this direction, too. The company is setting up a huge data center in North Carolina, which pundits have speculated will be used to deliver cloud-based services such as over-the-air operating system updates. And last year it bought Lala, whose cloud-based music service could potentially be used in place of syncing with iTunes.

Make it social. Facebook and Twitter are becoming central to many consumers' online lives. While you can find good apps to access those social networks and others on the iPad, they are kept within their application boxes, rather than made a key component of the device.

You can't post a picture to Facebook directly from the iPad's gallery, for example. And the iPad doesn't automatically add your Facebook friends to its Contacts list.

Such features are becoming standard fare on Android and Windows Phone 7 smartphones, and presumably will be on tablets based on those operating systems as well. Late to social networking, Apple this year launched the music-themed Ping on iTunes and the GameCenter gaming network for iOS devices such as the iPad. Here's hoping the company takes additional steps in that direction with the iPad 2.

Trim the fat. The iPad is wonderfully portable and a lot more fun to carry around in a backpack or briefcase than a laptop. But at a pound and a half, it's heavy to hold in your hands for long periods of time -- when, say, you were making a video call.

Samsung's rival Galaxy Tab weighs about 45 percent less than the iPad, making it much more comfortable to hold. The iPad, of course, has a screen that's 3-inches bigger on the diagonal than the Galaxy Tab's -- and that's something I wouldn't change. But Apple has shown a knack for whittling down the size and weight of its products over successive iterations, and I hope it can do that with the iPad. Some reports suggest that the iPad 2 will be slimmer than its predecessor, which could also help Apple cut down its weight. It would be great if Apple could get it down to about a pound.

Slash the price. The technorati were stunned that Apple was able to introduce the iPad at a price of $500 for the low-end model. Rumors at the time suggested it might carry an entry price of as much as a $1,000.

That was a good start, but these are tough economic times. I'd love to see Apple cut the price by $100 or even more to make it more accessible to the masses.

While few reports have touched on the price of the iPad 2, Apple has been known to slash the prices of its products dramatically, especially in the first years after it introduces them. The iPhone, for instance, debuted at $600, which Apple cut to $400 within months. Now you can get an iPhone for as little as $100 and the top-of-the-line model for $300.

So a price cut, like my other wishes, are within the realm of the possible. But whether we'll see them is a question that won't be answered till after the holiday season.


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