The CameraPad

The next iPad won't be announced for months yet - assuming Apple even do a significant upgrade to their mega-selling tablet PC, as they normally do with their products after a year - but the rumour mill is already churning about its features.

When things go from rumour to report, though, we get interested. China's Economic Daily News, which has provided some accurate and not-so-accurate iPad predictions in the past, is predicting three details: the next iPad will have dual cameras on the back and front, one for photos and one for FaceTime calls; it'll have a new screen with some sort of more advanced multi-touch; and, it'll have a USB port for plugging in all sorts of peripherals.

So, what are we to make of this, likeliness-wise? Well, at least one camera seems almost certain; Apple want to drive FaceTime, the iPhone and iPod Touch have front-facing cameras, and the iPad's rivals like Samsung's Galaxy Tab do too. We can see Apple deciding the iPad doesn't need another camera on the back, but it's equally feasible they'll decide one wouldn't hurt.

A new screen seems inevitable, as the iPad's 1024x768 resolution is starting to look positively antiquated (Acer just announced a 4.8-inch smartphone with a similar resolution, for heaven's sake). As to additional touchscreen functions, Engadget speculates that it could mean stylus support (which we doubt) or pressure sensitivity (which could be ten shades of awesome).

That USB port? We wish, we reckon. Adding a USB port is crucial if the iPad is going to be anyone's main computer, managing iPods, cameras etc. But Apple's strategy is clear - they see the iPad as a device to be managed by a PC through iTunes, not a PC by itself. We're willing to bet money against that one.

When will we know? Well, the final detail reported is that the next iPad is expected in the first quarter of 2011 - which would enable Apple to steal the thunder of big trade show CES. But that would mean replacing the old iPad after it had been on sale less than a year....

We'll keep you posted through the winter as things become clearer.

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