At WWDC this week, Steve Jobs confirmed Apple has already sold over 2 million iPads. Native iPad apps now exceed 8500 10,000 (6/12), with over 35 million downloads. Those are incredible numbers, especially considering we’re looking back just sixty days. Now, let’s look ahead. What do the new OS 4 and iPhone features mean for the iPad?
A Front-Facing Camera
This was one of the shortcomings mentioned most often upon the release of the iPad. The combined announcement of the camera and FaceTime – a simple, two-way, video chat feature – bodes well for the iPad. FaceTime is based on Internet standards and protocols, and Apple is supporting FaceTIme as an open standard. While video calling is currently limited to two participants and Wi-Fi only, these limitations should disappear as the application matures. Businesses will have easy, quick, video calling and remote viewing on the iPad’s large format, portable display. Education will benefit in similar ways. The video camera may also herald the use of gesture control. The best indication of the camera and FaceTime appearing on a future iPad may be Steve Jobs himself. Mr. Jobs was quoted saying, “Apple will ship tens of millions of FaceTime devices this year so there’s going to be a lot of people to talk to.”
The accelerometer in current iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads enables automatic adjustment of the display from landscape to portrait mode. Essentially, it determines the direction of the force of gravity. The addition of the gyroscope gives programmers the ability to include three axes of motion sensing (roll, pitch and yaw) and offers more precise control. If you’ve seen or played with a Nintendo Wii, you’ve experienced what the combination of an accelerometer, gyroscope, and motion sensing can do. Most useful for game developers. Also has potential for apps that need precise positioning. May also signal wider use of the iPhone or iPod Touch as a gaming controller for other devices, including the iPad (or perhaps a resurrected Apple TV). Think multiplayer games around a single iPad with each participant using his or her own iPhone or iPod Touch.
Higher Resolution Display
The new iPhone screen has four times as many pixels as the current model. Apple is calling this a “Retina Display” with over 300 pixels per inch (326 to be exact). iOS 4 on the iPad should lead to smoother and more detailed display of current iPhone apps scaled up to fit the larger display area of the iPad. It also shows Apple is committed to improved displays in the iPad and parity (or better) with other e-book readers. However, don’t look for anything approaching a retina display any time soon on the iPad. That would require substantial improvements in graphics processing power and video displays, too much (too expensive) for a mobile device with a screen the size of an iPad. By the way, the new iPhone did inherit something from the current iPad…In-Plane Switching, or IPS, which results in a wider viewing angle and better visibility by small groups gathered around a single screen.
Geekspeak: A noted scientist claims the retina display falls a little short of the ideal ppi, but agrees it is the best phone display available. Update 6/12: Phil Plait, Ph.D., writing for Discover, says Steve was right.
Most of the features of the new operating system were revealed back on April 8th. Here’s a quick recap of four that matter for day-to-day use and one surprise announcement from WWDC.
iOS 4 includes improved multitasking. Perhaps not true multitasking, as I mentioned in a previous post. Still, the capability for expanded background processing and application switching is a welcome addition. Answers one of the chief criticisms of the existing iPhone operating system.
The iPad was first with the iBooks app. The new OS adds note taking via digital sticky notes as well as bookmarking. You also get a single purchase good for all your devices and syncing across those devices, including marking your place, bookmarks and notes. Support for PDFs was also added, with a separate shelf in the iBooks library.
Unified Inbox and Threading for the Mail App
All your incoming messages from multiple accounts (work, home, etc.) can now show up in one, unified inbox. A set of related messages is organized visually in a hierarchy by “thread” or topic. Also addresses a common complaint about the iPhone.
The ability to organize related apps into folders and clean up those multiple screens of apps.
There is now a mobile version of the video editing application that comes as part of the iLife suite for Macs. Perhaps not a complete surprise, given the capability of the A4 processor in the iPad and coming soon in the new iPhone. If the new iPhone can run a mobile version of this program, surely the iPad can.
iOS 4.0 should be available for the iPad in the Fall. Though speculation at this point, it would make sense for Apple to release new iPad models at the same time that take full advantage of just announced items such as the front-facing camera, FaceTime, and the gyroscope.