What to expect from tonight's iPad 2 announcement (Update: Leaked Images?)

(Update: iPad 2 has been launched in South Africa)
It is no secret that today Apple will announce its iPad 2 – and needless to say the rumour mill has gone into overdrive. People look at trends in the tablet market and subsequent releases from Apple since the last iPad was announced for clues. However – not every pie in the sky feature can reach the iPad, in many cases it would drive the cost up, or perhaps more likely – Steve just does not like the idea… So here goes Bandwidth Blog’s predictions for what to expect, but also what NOT to expect:
What to expect in the iPad 2:

Improved form factor: While the overall size of the iPad will not change, expect the device to be ever so slightly thinner, but more importantly, get a flat back. The current round back on the iPad makes it wobbly when placed on a surface, but also creates small scratches on the rear when it is not inside a case. A lighter weight would be great as well – a major criticism from the Kindle fans.
Double the memory: The first generation iPad has 256MB of memory, but then the iPhone 4 was launched with 512MB of memory only a few months later. iPad 2 needs to have 512MB of memory as a minimum, and hell, give it even more. Applications are becoming more complex, especially games.

Camera(s): To be honest I never really missed a camera on the iPad, until I used Facetime on the iPhone 4. With Apple’s big push with Facetime (it is now available on OS X as well), its only natural that the front facing camera will reach the iPad as well. A better question is whether a standard rear facing camera will also reach the iPad – I can really see it being useful in conferences to quickly take a snap of a presentation, or that diagram on the white board.
More speaker power: The iPad’s speaker is better than expected, but still weak sauce. With such a great screen, the iPad really needs better sound, and preferably stereo sound when placed in landscape orientation.
Dual Core processor: The iPad’s performance is adequate up until now, but with the recent stream of Android releases at CES, Apple would have to keep up with the processing power of devices like the Xoom. While one might argue that iOS does not need the same horsepower as Honeycomb, the fact of the matter is that applications and especially games would gobble all the power up very quickly. Apple A5 perhaps?
Better gaming performance: Yeah, I am repeating myself. iOS has become a formidable gaming platform, and Apple will continue to push this. Games currently run better on the iPhone 4 because of double the memory and a (slightly) lower resolution. Expect some serious graphics grunt in the next iPad.
Support for GSM and CDMA networks: While not really relevant outside the US, it would make sense that the next version of the iPad and iPhone would contain chipsets that can handle both GSM and CDMA network standards. In fact, the latest Verizon-only iPhone already contains this Qualcomm chip, but just no SIM card tray.
What not to expect:

Retina display: Oh I really hope I am wrong about this one, because a Retina display in the iPad would be brilliant. After using the iPhone 4 a person can already notice that the iPad screen is not so sharp. But I really doubt they can pull it off within the current price ranges. Its pretty simple really: in order for a 9.7-inch iPad to qualify as a Retina Display (300 DPI) the screen would need a resolution of 2560 x 1920 – which is huge. This is more than any other screen that Apple currently manufactures, including the large 27 inch Cinema display.
128GB of storage: While I believe that the lower end iPad’s 16GB of storage is perhaps too little, I do not believe the high end model to jump from 64 to 128GB. While Apple is the world’s largest user of flash memory, I just cannot see them being able to give that amount of memory at the same price as the old one. I can however see a simplification of the range – only 32 and 64 GB storage for example.
A white iPad: Come on – Apple cannot even make a white iPhone 4. And also, what part would they make white? The black bezel around the screen creates a good contrast, and rear is silver. This of course assumes that they will stick with a steel body. I really hope they do not move to a plastic body…
A smaller 7 inch iPad: After using Samsung’s Galaxy Tab I was really impressed by the size of the device, but I did notice that the larger screen of the iPad soon becomes a great thing – the keyboard becomes easier to use, apps look better and the web browsing experience is superior. With Samsung now also announcing a 10 inch version of the Galaxy, you might have to concede that maybe 10 inch displays make more sense.
Who Knows?

SD Card slot: I bought one of the iPad Camera kits with the little SD card dongle, and it works a treat. But why it is not built into the iPad has to come down to cost. There is a lot of free space inside the iPad – just look at the iFixit teardown of the iPad. Come on Apple – do the right thing.

Dual Dock connector ports: One of the criticisms of the current iPad is that the dock connector is only on side, which functions in cradles when the device is in portrait orientation. I would think that many people would prefer to have the device in landscape mode while charging or typing a document using the keyboard dock. It would not be too hard for the next device to just have a dock connector on the right hand side as well? (Image Source: PatentlyApple)

A “Smart Bezel”: Uncovered patent applications also show off a “smart bezel” which is not really explained in any detail. Could it possibly be additional touch sensitive surfaces outside the actual display area. Perhaps a way to scroll without covering a part of the screen? (Source: PatentlyApple)
What also to expect
iOS 4.3: While the featureset for iOS 4.3 is already known, it would make sense for Apple to release it within this week. The big change this time is the addition of a wifi hotspot feature which is already available on the Verizon iPhone in the US. It will basically act exactly like the current tethering feature, but you can connect up to five wifi devices to it to access 3G network data. Also, iPad would not trail iPhone on iOS releases like in the past. Expect all devices to get it on the same day.
iOS 5 Roadmap: Apple might show off what to expect from iOS 5, but they have traditionally used their WWDC conference to entice the developers. But with all the tablet competition popping up, Apple might want to brag a bit about upcoming features. Case in point – the notification system on iOS is seriously lagging compared to Android, but especially WebOS. The current “in your face” notification needs a rethink.
Expect a post tomorrow to see if I was anywhere near the truth – after all, it will be Apple’s job to try and surprise people, and not only give them what they expect…
Update: These images just leaked online – can it be real? I really hope not…