Update, February 26:to reflect the announcement of the iPad 2 on March 2.
Weight. It's something our society tends to dwell on when it comes to physical appearance, but it's also a big factor in today's mobile products.
Like a lot of people, the first time I saw the iPad my eye was drawn to its vibrant screen and those sleek lines that are the signature of Apple products. Yet the one overwhelming thought I had when picking it up for the first time was, "Damn, this is kind of heavy."
No, at around 1.5 pounds, it's not that heavy. And it's obviously lighter than every laptop on the market, including Apple's own MacBook Air, which comes in at 2.3 pounds for the 11.6-inch model (the new $299 HP Mini 1103 Netbook weighs 2.8 pounds). But the iPad ostensibly is a handheld device, and for a lot of folks, holding up a 1.5-pound weight for extended periods is a challenge. That's why iPad owners tend to keep the device propped up in some way--whether it be on a lap or a chest (while using it in bed), or using a stand integrated into a cover or separate accessory.
While techie types like to complain that the iPad is functionally a lightweight (it just can't take the place of a laptop), the bigger gripe is its physical weight. Which brings us to the iPad 2, which will be announced on March 2. Yes, there's plenty of talk about it having a front-facing camera for video chatting and a faster CPU and GPU, but many of the rumored design changes touch upon reducing the size and weight of the device.
A few weeks ago 9to5 Mac got its hands on what it claims is the screen for the next iPad. The article referred to the possible new display--an LG model--as "lighter, and over a mm thinner than the current iPad's display with a smaller surrounding frame...a dream for a product designer like Jony Ive, who now has some more tapering options for what looks to be a significantly lighter iPad 2."
More recently, iLounge.com threw out a rumor that Apple might be designing the next iPad with new materials to further shave off a few ounces. Citing an anonymous but previously "accurate" tipster, iLounge's Editor in Chief Jeremy Horwitz, wrote:
While our source urges caution on this point, it's possible that the company will use a new material similar to carbon fiber rather than aluminum for upcoming iPads. Apple has already applied for a patent on this, and apparently second-generation iPad shells made from the new material have already been spotted. Apple has in the past worked simultaneously on more than one version of a device enclosure before making a late-stage switch to another, but it is apparently testing these new shells now in the hopes of reducing the weight of iPads.
So, the iPad's been on a diet. A very strict one. Probably from the day it was released. And the head trainer, the guy cracking the whip, was presumably Steve Jobs. What was his target number? How much weight had to come off?
I don't know--and no one at Apple is about to tell me. But for some reason, I keep hearing the 25 percent number bandied about, as in the new iPad is going to drop a quarter of its weight. If you do the math, that's around a 5.5-ounce loss.
That would put the iPad at just a shade over a pound at 16.5 ounces. Being able to say it weighed less than a pound would be even better, the Holy Grail really, but dropping 5.5 ounces would still be very impressive.
At that weight--or anywhere close to it--Apple would be looking at a serious competitive advantage over such "large" tablet hopefuls as Motorola's Android 3.0-powered Xoom, which weighs in at 26 ounces and seems like a tough sell at $800. By comparison, Blackberry's smaller PlayBook (7-inch screen) weighs .9 pounds and Samsung's Galaxy Tab tips the scales at 13.8 ounces, or .8625 pounds.
How much weight Apple really trims from the iPad is anybody's guess (for the record, Apple has been "mulling" carbon-fiber parts for a couple of years). Which is why I'm calling on readers to take a stab at predicting a weight in the comments section below. When Apple unveils the iPad 2 next week, the poster who comes closest (you can go out to hundredths of an ounce but not thousandths) will get called out and receive infinite props in an article. I also just might even send the winner a small prize (if I promise anything, I have to clutter up this post with a long legal disclaimer).
If you don't want to guess, feel free to comment about anything you want, like whether the new crop of Android tablets has a chance against a slimmed-down iPad. Or, does the size and weight of these tablets really matter that much?