Followup on my tablet predictions

Last week I posted some predictions on Apple's forthcoming tablet device. I knew that I'd get some of it wrong, but felt fairly confident that I would get some things right. Let's see how I did!

Name: I think that "iTablet" is probably the most likely name, though I'd prefer simply "Tablet". "iSlate" is a popular idea, which could also work. I also like Cabel Sasser's idea of "Canvas". I doubt it'd be called "iPad" as some have suggested, as that is too close to "iPod" and would cause confusion.

Well, I was wrong on the name. I still think "iPad" is too close to "iPod", but I'm sure people will get used to carefully enunciating the device name. I don't dislike the name, other than that issue, though.

Form factor: I would expect a rectangular slab with slightly rounded corners, much like the iPhone. It would likely have a aluminum unibody back, to provide rigidity for the screen.

Yes, it has a form factor much like the iPhone, though a larger bezel around the screen than I would have expected. I haven't seen definitive info about the case material, but it sure looks like an aluminum unibody to me.

Screen: The rumors seem pretty set on a 10" color touch-screen display, and that seems entirely reasonable. That would be a good size for watching media, reading books, browsing websites, and other activities. I would expect it to be much the same as the iPhone's, with a glass front, though that'd add quite a lot fo weight. I wouldn't want to them compromise on a plastic screen, though.

Yes, it's a glass touch screen. It's actually 9.7", which is close enough. The pixel resolution is 1024 x 768 at 132 ppi, compared to iPhone's 480 x 320 at 163 ppi. Interesting that the resolution is lower, but I guess that makes sense, since you might hold it slightly further away than a phone.

Buttons: I'd expect it to have just a Home button like the iPhone, and probably a volume control and power button on the sides, again like the iPhone.

Correct: Home button, mute & volume control on the right side, and power button on top.

Connectors: A recent rumor is that the tablet will have two dock connectors (one one a short edge and one on a long edge). This makes sense, so you can dock it in either orientation. I wouldn't be surprised if it came with a more substantial dock than iPhones, to prop it up at a comfortable angle for watching movies etc, and provide support for using the device while docked. I wouldn't expect any other connectors.

Only one dock connector (unfortunately), so the iPad can only be docked in the portrait orientation. Can't believe I forgot to mention a headphone jack, though. Plus it has a built-in microphone and speakers, of course.

The dock is more substantial, plus there's a welcome addition of a dock with a built-in keyboard.

Connectivity: It'll definitely have wi-fi, and almost certainly Bluetooth connectivity. I would like an optional 3G connection as well — one device model that can be used with or without a 3G contract. I would see the tablet as most useful around the house, so I wouldn't want a mandatory 3G contract, but I can see that some people (e.g. real estate agents) would benefit from a 3G connection.

Yes, wi-fi and Bluetooth. A pleasant improvement that it supports connecting Apple's wireless keyboard via Bluetooth, too (which I think would be a better option than the keyboard dock).

The 3G connection is indeed optional, via separate models (for an extra $130). I'm very pleased about that, though the price difference seems a little high.

Sensors: The device will definitely include an accelerometer for rotation, and may include other sensors. Probably not the proximity sensor, though, since people won't be bringing the tablet to their face!

That all seems accurate. I forgot to mention the ambient light sensor, which it does still have.

It also has a digital compass, like the 3GS, though interestingly only has "assisted" GPS in the 3G model. I guess WiFi-based location would probably be accurate enough for the WiFi-only model (e.g. when taking it to a coffee shop with WiFi access).

Camera: I would expect a front-facing camera for chatting. Probably a higher resolution than the existing one in iPhones.

I was wrong on this one; there's no sign of a camera. I think that's a mistake, but perhaps one that will be addressed in a future model.

Keyboard: It will have a software-based keyboard. A 10" screen wouldn't fit a full-sized keyboard, but it'd be bigger than the iPhone's, so could be typed on with 10 fingers if you're so inclined. Having originally learnt to type on a ZX81 membrane keyboard that would be about the same size as the tablet's I know it's entirely possible to type just fine on such a size (and a smooth surface). One thing I'd like would be for the keyboard to be scaleable: pinch it to resize the keyboard to expose more or less of the app window. It'd also be nice if they supported a Bluetooth-connected keyboard (and hid the on-screen keyboard in such cases), though that would definitely be optional, and I think it not entirely likely.

Yes indeed, a software-based keyboard. The intro video showed people 10-finger typing on it. Looks like the keyboard might be more flexible than on the iPhone, with more customized buttons, though no sign of a scalable keyboard option.

But yes, they do support a Bluetooth keyboard. I'm confident that the OS will be smart enough to hide the on-screen keyboard when a Bluetooth or dock keyboard is in use.

Storage: I'd expect it to come in a couple of storage capacity sizes, probably 32 GB and 64 GB. Still built-in flash memory like the iPhone.

Yes, 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB models.

Operating system: I expect the tablet to use a variation of the iPhone OS. I wouldn't be surprised if it uses iPhone OS 4.0, i.e. so the iPhone and tablet share the same OS (with device-specific features, just like between the iPhone and iPod touch). If so, I'd expect Apple to rename it as "Touch OS" or similar... which they should have done with the intro of the iPod touch anyway.

There were a lot of people expecting a full Mac OS, or a new OS X-based OS. But as I predicted, it's just the next generation of the iPhone OS. Looks like they're sticking with that name, though. Apple seems to get overly attached to names, even when they're increasing inaccurate — look at iTunes for example. Hardly all about music anymore!

Multitasking: With the larger screen and no doubt faster processor and more RAM, I'd expect the OS to support multitasking — allowing it to run multiple apps at the same time. There might be an easy way to switch running apps (e.g. press the Home button to flip through them), or it might be more transparent, simply not quitting apps when you go Home.

No sign of multitasking, unfortunately. (Though I haven't seen the SDK yet.) The OS does seem to use multiple windows within an app now, though, based on what I saw during the intro.

iPhone apps: Existing iPhone apps will probably be supported, launching into a window the same size as the iPhone screen for compatibility, perhaps with the ability to resize the window.

Very happy to be right about this one. I like the little "1x" / "2x" buttons to scale iPhone apps up to (mostly) fill the screen.

Other apps: No doubt Apple will bundle the device with new and updated apps written to leverage the larger screen. For example, the iPod and YouTube apps would play videos full-screen. There have been rumors of iWork for the tablet, which seems possible (and certainly welcome), though maybe not entirely likely.

iWork was indeed a correct rumor, and looks very nice. I'm pretty comfortable with the $9.99 price for each app, too; better than giving them away, and setting a more reasonable price than the average "ringtone" app on the App Store. I would hope that app developers will treat the more work for iPad apps as an opportunity to set more realistic prices. But we'll see.

Price: I've heard various prices suggested, as high as $1,000, but most people seem to think that $700 is the maximum it could go for. I'd hope for something around that range, or less if they can swing it. Like the iPhone, I'd expect the initial release to be priced fairly high, and for the price to drop later.

The prices did turn out to be around that range. Six models, from $499 for the base 16 GB WiFi-only model, up to $829 for the 64 GB WiFI + 3G model.

Availability: I expect Apple to announce it on Wednesday, and perhaps make a beta release of the developer SDK available at that time. It might be available for pre-order at that time, too. The tablet release will probably be around April, I would guess. Some people say March, but I don't think that would give developers enough time to update their apps or write new apps for the tablet. I wouldn't be surprised by a June release date, along with a new iPhone model and OS update for existing devices.

The developer SDK is indeed available today (I haven't had a look at it yet, but will do so shortly). The iPad isn't available for pre-order yet, but there's a form on Apple's site that implies it will be before long. The release date appears to be late March for the WiFi-only models, and April for the WiFI + 3G models.

How'd I do? Not too bad; more of my predictions were correct than incorrect. Better than a lot of people's wild notions, anyway. :)

So will I buy an iPad? Without a doubt. Which one? Probably the 64 GB WiFi-only model ($699). As I said, I don't see much use for 3G coverage for my needs, so the extra cost of a 3G model, plus the ongoing monthly costs, don't really make sense for me. But I'm glad Apple has the option for those who need it.

I can't wait to get my hands on one!