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BLOG: Five must-haves for the Next iPad

Melissa J. Perenson | March 7, 2012
On Wednesday Apple will pull the curtains back on its third-generation iPad with a list of new features only Apple knows for sure. With Apple's second-generation iPad, I'll be honest, I was not blown away. Aside from the iPad 2's reduction in size and weight, Apple hadn't gone far enough with updating its tablet. But on Wednesday three might be a charm for Apple's iPad. I have high hopes this time around.

The weight issue isn't simply about carrying the iPad as if it were to be compared to a lightweight notebook. The tablet needs to be light so you can use it more naturally. For example, holding the tablet single-handed while navigating with your other hand. Whether you're showing off photos or using the tablet for reading, one-handed operation is very common. And it gets very tiring when you do so with a 1.33-pound or even 1.2-pound device.

4. Mitigate glare. Tablet after tablet make me cringe when I can see the visible air gap between the cover glass overlay and LCD panel below. The air gap decreases image quality by increasing reflectivity, causing a reduction in luminance and contrast. This is because light is dispersed through the air gap.

There are ways of mitigating or eliminating the air gap entirely, and in so doing, Apple would go far to make the iPad a must-have device. The air gap is a big differentiator between Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet--which has a horribly reflective display--and Barnes & Noble's Nook Tablet, which uses optical bonding technology to eliminate the air gap entirely (see our head-to-head comparison of Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet for more on how those two tablets compare.)

5. A tablet-friendly OS. Apple's iOS has lots to like and works tremendously well on a phone. But on a tablet, it increasingly feels stilted and static, as if it's not really an organic part of a Web-connected always-on tablet. I'm hoping we'll see some feature tweaks on Wednesday.

By comparison, the connected, always-on nature is one aspect of Google's Android OS that plays really well on tablet. That goes the same for Microsoft Windows 8's live tiles approach. Sure, the iPad has notifications, but the widget-free, static iOS home screens of today could do with some livening up.

I'd like to see functionality on the iPad better tailored for the form factor. How about shortcuts to frequently used settings, similar to what is found in Android 3.x Honeycomb/4.x Ice Cream Sandwich? It shouldn't take me multiple steps through layers of settings screens to adjust brightness, or access Wi-Fi or airplane mode settings.

How about icons or widget-like modules that display dynamic information By comparison the Android OS offers live updates to weather widgets, an email widget that shows your most recent messages, another that shows your most recent books. These usability tweaks could go a long way to helping iPad become more useful, and more competitive, in the areas that Android today overshadows it.

Bonus desire: Free me from iTunes. Dream big, I always say. I want Apple to open up the iPad to direct file access, so I have the option to just drag and drop my files--be they images, videos, music, or documents--directly onto the device, and avoid the hassle that defines today's iTunes. This ability would be incredibly freeing, and today remains a big advantage in the favor of Google's Android.



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