Apple's iPad Refresh: 5 Features It Needs Now

Apple's iPad faces rising competition from RIM, Samsung and others. If it wants to blunt its rivals, Apple should consider these features for the tablet's next version.

Apple's next-generation iPad will add a front-facing camera and the ability to operate on both GSM- and CDMA-based networks, according to new reports circulating online.

Wedge Partners analyst Brian Blair wrote in a recent research note that the new iPad "is thinner than the existing model and is essentially made from one piece of metal with no pins needed," according to AllThingsD. Meanwhile, a Nov. 19 report in Taiwan-based Digitimes postulates that the second-generation iPad is "expected to be launched in the first quarter of 2011."

Apple currently holds around 95.5 percent of the worldwide tablet market, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, but faces a rising tide of competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Research In Motion's PlayBook. Whether the newest reports about the iPad turn out to be true (if the rumors surrounding the first iPad proved anything, it's that any "news" preceding Apple's actual unveiling should be taken with a dump truck worth of salt), Apple may do well to consider integrating the following features into its next-generation tablet-if only to blunt the impact of rival devices poised to flood the marketplace:

Dual Cameras

The first iPad lacked camera modules, a detail its competitors immediately seized upon to differentiate their own upcoming products. With other tablet PCs emphasizing their video-conferencing ability (along with Apple itself, via FaceTime for the iPhone 4 and latest-generation iPod Touch), Steve Jobs and company will almost certainly feel compelled to give the next-generation iPad front- and rear-facing cameras of its very own.

Thinner and Lighter

Apple digs thin and light: the newest MacBook Air, for instance, along with the ever-slimmer iPhone and iPods. The trend is thoroughly baked into Apple's design language, and its engineers are likely examining how to winnow the form factor without sacrificing its performance or the quality of the materials. To do so, Apple may have to develop a new manufacturing process, which Jobs will doubtlessly "tout" as magical at whatever future unveiling event.

Multiple USB Ports

Soon after the first iPad's release, some users complained about the lack of USB slots. Again, Apple's competitors incorporated that feature into their own tablets as a differentiator. While Apple may publicly tout the simplicity and ease of porting documents via the iPad's 3G and/or WiFi connection, it could also consider incorporating a pair of USB ports.

Retina Display

Apple has promoted the ultra-sharp Retina Display as a vital feature of the iPhone 4 and latest-generation iPod Touch. Retina Display features pixels some 78 micrometers wide, or 326 per inch, in order to make images and text look continuous. If Apple's engineers can figure out a working method, the Retina Display could very well find its way into the next version of the iPad-or if not into this version, a subsequent one.

Three-Axis Gyroscope Sensor

If Apple integrates a three-axis gyroscope sensor into the next-generation iPad-similar to the one already present in the iPhone 4-it could increase the device's appeal to developers and consumers as an apps and gaming platform.