Category Archives: Gadgets

Computer notebook

Five Digital and Social Media Stories Worth Reading This Week

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Here are five stories pulled from the headlines to get you up-to-date this week on digital and social media news. I’ve done the research for you. You can thank me later.

It’s the year of the “Influencer.” IBT: In Search Of The Real Thing: Why Global Advertisers Like Coca-Cola Are Ditching Celebs For Little-Known Instagram ArtistsPULL QUOTE: It was all about selfies for Christine Adelina, until May 1, 2014. That’s when the 22-year-old student and obsessive Instagram poster from London learned her large following on the photo-sharing app could translate to some decent income. After attending a meetup for Instagram “influencers,” she switched from bedroom and bathroom selfies to artistic portrayals of the world around her, now spending at least three hours a day on the app. And brands are gawking — handing over ad dollars to Adelina and other so-called influencers, anywhere from $300 to thousands of dollars depending on the deal, to join their marketing campaigns. While some sponsorship deals simply reward users with gifts for sending out company-related Instagram posts, others are contracted. Take Nabisco’s #PuttingOnTheRitz campaign, for example. That marketing strategy to promote new Ritz Crisp and Thin crackers — to which Adelina and a handful of other contracted influencers submitted two photos for this June  — reached 7.5 million people. One post from British blogger Tanya Burr, who boasts 2 million Instagram followers, drew 110,000 likes.

It’s the latest sign that Madison Avenue and its counterparts worldwide are recognizing the pitch power of organically born social media stars like Adelina and Burr. They can be just as influential, or even moreso, as celebs like the Kardashians. Consumers, the thinking goes, may connect more readily with individuals who lead lives like their own. “For ‘Putting on the Ritz,’ we were very interested in getting people involved. The campaign seemed more real,” said Jana Soosova, social media campaign manager at London-based PHD Media.

instagram ritz

While Instagram influencer Christine Adelina’s post was not the highest traffic-driver for the #PuttingOnTheRitz campaign, Nabisco paid for and endorsed the submission as part of its marketing strategy.  – Instagram Screenshot 

Earlier this month, Instagram introduced its first ad product for businesses. The system allows companies to quickly create standard ads, target them to selected users and include direct-response buttons (like “Buy Now” as seen on Facebook, Twitter and Google). The move will spur more ads on the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app — and fuel Instagram’s predicted rise to $2.8 billion in revenue by 2017.

Marketing jobs have gone digital and they are asking for a lot from their employees! MarketingProfs: The Most In-Demand Digital Marketing SkillsPULL QUOTE: The most in-demand job titles identified by the analysis were digital marketing manager and marketing manager. Those roles may be especially hard to fill given the wide range of skills required: Companies seeking marketing managers tend to look for proficiency in several disciplines, including social media marketing, SEO, PPC, content marketing, Google Analytics, and digital marketing. Other digital marketing job titles with a high volume of listings are digital marketing specialist, marketing coordinator, SEO specialist, Web developer, account executive, and social media manager.

If you’ve paid attention today, you’ll see Kanye West trending on Facebook (kill me now). What does it take to becoming a trending topic on Facebook? IBT: In Search Of The Real Thing: Why Global Advertisers Like Coca-Cola Are Ditching Celebs For Little-Known Instagram Artists – PULL QUOTE: But how exactly does Facebook decide what to put in the Trending queue? And why is it that trends sometimes show up hours if not days after they may be trending somewhere else? Facebook shows you things in your Trending line-up the same way it shows you things in your News Feed: Algorithms. It takes into account a few personal things, like where you live and what Pages you follow. But primarily it looks for two broader signals: Topics that are being mentioned a lot and topics that receive a dramatic spike in mentions. You can’t have one without the other. For example, Kim Kardashian is mentioned often on Facebook, so the total volume of mentions is always high and isn’t a good indicator of whether or not she’s part of a trending topic. Instead, Facebook looks for a spike in mentions relative to the normal chatter around Kim and other celebrities, too. Things that trend aren’t just the most highly mentioned people or topics. They have to be tied to some kind of relevant event.

Right now I’m rocking a Misfit. I ‘m using it as a replacement to my UP24 because I can swim with the Misfit. Am I missing out on not having an Apple Watch? ReadWrite: The Wearables Market Is Exploding, And Apple Is Stealing The Show – PULL QUOTE: Second only to Fitbit, Apple Watch rules the smartwatch scene.  A new report published by IDC paints an intriguing picture of the wearables market as it looks in the middle of 2015. The market grew 223% over the course of the previous year, and Apple—new to the sector and with only one wearable to its name—was bested only by Fitbit, in terms of devices sold during the last three months. That puts reports of rather underwhelming Apple Watch sales into perspective. (Apple hasn’t released official figures of its own, of course.) While the smartwatch has yet to make an iPhone-like splash so far, with nearly 20% of the market, but it’s already threatening to dominate the nascent wearables movement.

I’ll admit it, I’m developing Snapchat campaigns and have totally forgotten about Vine. Apparently, that is not a good thingQuartz: Vine is a sleeping giant (while everyone is focused on Snapchat)PULL QUOTE: A funny thing happened to Vine, Twitter’s short-form video app, after its initial buzz wore off: It kept going. If you haven’t checked lately, Vine, launched in early 2013, is still a thing. It has evolved from a social “Instagram-for-video” built atop Twitter into a unique mobile entertainment platform with its own style, format, and celebrities. And as mobile video continues its long-awaited rise, Vine has built and maintained an impressive audience. Vine serves more than 100 million people across the web every month, according to the company, delivering more than 1.5 billion “loops”—its term for video views—per day. Meanwhile, comScore says Vine reached 34.5 million unique visitors in the US in June across desktop and mobile—roughly the same as Snapchat, which has grown rapidly over the past year and is valued by investors at $16 billion.

 

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Introducing On This Day: A New Way to Look Back at Photos and Memories on Facebook

In an effort to steal some thunder from Timehop (which by the way I’m totally addicted to) Facebook is rolling out On This Day so can look back at past posts… and ultimately, never leave the confines of Facebook.

Facebook Newsroom

By Jonathan Gheller, Product Manager

People often look back at old photos and other memories they’ve shared on Facebook, and many have told us that they enjoy products and features that make this easier.

Today we’re announcing On This Day, a new way to look back at things you have shared and posts you’ve been tagged in on Facebook. Only you can see your On This Day page.

On This Day shows content from this date in the past. For example, you might see past status updates, photos, posts from friends and other things you’ve shared or been tagged in – from one year ago, two years ago, and so on. Only you will see this content unless you decide to share it with your friends.

OTD

To see your On This Day page, you can click on the On This Day bookmark, search for “On This Day,” or visit 

View original post 75 more words

Computer notebook

Cutting The Strings: The Push To Go Wireless – My MacBook Review

Mac 

CNET reports that Apple is once again shaking things up and changing the computer game.  

“Ready or not, Apple’s new MacBook is cutting the computing industry’s cables.

The slim laptop has just a single USB port, the new tiny Type-C variety that’s slowly popping up in devices this year. It’s a multipurpose port that connects to external devices like hard drives, runs video to TVs and external monitors, and supplies the laptop with power when it’s charging time.

The new USB port is remarkably flexible, but it’s still just one port. For those who need to attach printers, Ethernet cables, external hard drives, cameras, monitors, keyboards, mice, TVs, game controllers and tablets, that might seem confining”

UPDATE: So, I got the sexy, gold MacBook. Here’s my review:

When I moved into my new workspace I bought the new iMac. Love, love, love it.  But to not be tied to my desk, I needed a light weight laptop. Now, my MacBook pro is a BEAST, but it’s heavy and not the best portable option. After a lot of research and comments from friends, I decided on a brand new MacBook. I landed on the gold one because I like to be different and it matches my iPhone.

So here’s the thing. The MacBook is small, portable, light laptop. That alone gets five stars from me. Sometimes I need a break from my office to chill on the rooftop of the office building or if I’m at home, I often like to work in my backyard. I also will work just about any place that has free WiFi. Having something lightweight is a must. Portability aside, the speed, memory and battery life on the MacBook is superb and the retina screen anti-glare is everything. But this is a portable laptop. It should not, in my opinion, be your one and only computer. If you are only going to buy one, get the MacBook Pro. I know it’s heavy, but it’s a BEAST and you cannot… simply can not… beat the speed and functionality for the price. Mine is three years old and it is still going strong. Now, it’s an old 17-inch (funny how three years is old in the lifetime of a computer) so it’s heavy as crap. That’s why I got the sexy, light, MacBook.

In regards to not having a dedicated USB port, I have to admit, I’m not in love with that concept yet. I find myself transferring files back and forth via the Mac AirDrop even though I know the intention is to get us to use the cloud services more. I’ll get there. Baby steps.

FullSizeRenderUPDATE TO MY UPDATE: I’ve had my sexy MacBook a month now. I. Love. It. The battery life is killer. It’s lightweight enough to take everywhere and while my iMac and MacBook Pro remain my work horse computers, I’m all in with this MacBook.

Sony Hacked… AGAIN!

Hackers may have stolen the personal information of 24.6 million Sony Online Entertainment users, the company said on Monday.

Amplify’d from www.wired.com

Sony Online Entertainment games like DC Universe Online were taken down Monday, after a security breach that exposed 24.6 million Sony users’ accounts and some credit card numbers.
Image courtesy Sony Online Entertainment

It’s bad news piled on top of bad news for Sony.

Hackers may have stolen the personal information of 24.6 million Sony Online Entertainment users, the company said on Monday. More than 20,000 credit card and bank account numbers were also put at risk. This is in addition to the recent leak of over 70 million accounts from Sony’s PlayStation Network and Qriocity services.

“We are today advising you that the personal information you provided us in connection with your SOE account may have been stolen in a cyberattack,” Sony wrote in a statement on its website on Monday.

Sony Online Entertainment is a division of the company that publishes online multiplayer games like the recently released DC Universe Online. Sony turned off all SOE game services Monday after it learned of the intrusion.

Sony said that the compromised personal information includes customers’ names, addresses, e-mail addresses, birth dates, gender, phone numbers, logins and hashed passwords.

Also at risk are the credit card numbers and expiration dates of 12,700 non-U.S. customers, plus 10,700 direct debit records from customers in Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Spain, containing bank-account numbers, customers’ names and addresses. This information was stored in what Sony said was an “outdated database from 2007.”

Hackers may have had this information for more than two weeks now. The intrusion occurred April 16 and 17, Sony said.

Customers first noticed that Sony’s PlayStation Network service was down April 20. After a week of downtime, the company said that hackers had attacked its services and that the personal and credit card information associated with more than 70 million accounts were at risk.

At the time, Sony said that the Online Entertainment division had not been affected by the hack and would remain in operation, telling customers that their data was safe to the best of its knowledge.

Though both Visa and American Express told Wired.com last week that they had no reason to believe their credit cards had been compromised, several dozen Ars Technica readers reported what they believed to be PSN-connected fraud.

The PlayStation Network is still offline, but Sony says it will restore some services later this week, including online multiplayer gaming for PlayStation 3 and PSP. As a goodwill gesture, Sony says it will offer all customers a selection of downloadable content and 30 free days of its premium PlayStation Plus service.

As compensation for the Sony Online Entertainment leak, Sony said that it will give all of its customers 30 days of additional subscription time, plus an extra day for each day the servers remain down.

Sony did not say when its SOE services would be back online.

Read more at www.wired.com

 

The iPhone vs. Android: What’s the Big Difference?

Look, I’m Team Apple all the way and my Droid geeky friends get sick of posting about Mac products all the time. I’m not paid by Apple and I don’t get paid to blog about gadgets (although, if you know of a gig like that opening up can you PLEASE let me know!). I’m just a power user and a Geek Diva Gadget Girl who likes her techie toys. I’m in love with my iPhone, my Mac Pro and I can hardly contain myself waiting for the new iPad 2. But, if you’re still on the fence and want a comparison between the two hottest smartphone options on the planet (sorry Blackberry, I abandoned you in 2009… RIM sucks the big one… OK, truth be told I still have a Blackberry but that’s beside the point) then this article may help you decide.

Amplify’d from manofthehouse.com
 Thesmartphone has become the Swiss Army knife of the 21st century: endlessly useful, cool, and a necessary tool that every man should carry. The difference is that smart phones carry a hefty cost, and they’re not all designed equally well.Two of the most popular smartphones are the ubiquitous Apple iPhone and its new challenger, Google’s Android platform. Here’s a look at how the two phone giants stack up.

Usability

First, we need to be clear about something. There’s no official “Android” phone, just as there’s no official “Windows” computer. Android is simply the name for Google’s mobile operating system, and as such, it’s somewhat difficult to compare the iPhone to Android without being biased. Many functions of the iPhone seem to work more intuitively than those on Android phones, but that’s mainly because the iPhone and its operating system were designed to work together, while Android was designed to be used on a variety of phones made by a variety of manufacturers.

Therefore, if you’re looking for that “wow, cool!” factor, you’re probably going to be more impressed with what the iPhone has to offer. Every function of the iPhone seems to work effortlessly, with intuitive touch-screen controls that have made it the weapon of choice for countless hipsters in coffee shops everywhere. However, most of what the iPhone offers is available on Android phones. You want the web? The Android phones can get you there. You want a touch screen? Android phones have that, too. In fact, the best Android phone currently available, the Nexus One, feels completely natural.

The big difference is that the iPhone is a single device, while Android is a software platform. That makes a straight comparison difficult but not impossible; it’s like comparing Macs to PCs, as many bloggers have noted. Apple carefully controls everything available on its iPhone. Google’s Android, on the other hand, offers its adherents something else: freedom to do whatever you’d like with your phone.

Read more at manofthehouse.com

Get More From Your iPad

Did you know that you can stream movies from your PC to the iPad, use it as a secondary monitor, connect USB speakers and keyboards? Here are some ways to get even more use out of your iPad.

Amplify’d from www.pcworld.com

Turn Your iPad into a Secondary Desktop Display

With its big, high-resolution display, it’s a shame to just park an iPad when switching to a computer. Instead, Air Display ($10) makes your iPad a second screen for your Mac, extending the desktop. The tool has just been submitted to the App Store and should be released soon; I checked out a beta.

You install a utility on the computer and connect with the Air Display System Preference. (It’s Mac-only at launch, but a Windows version is coming.) The iPad then behaves just like an extra screen. You reposition it in the Displays System Preference like a real monitor, in a portrait or landscape view. Although it lags a little when showing video, it refreshes quickly enough for most work. You can even tap on the iPad to click.

If you can’t wait for Air Display’s release, you can check out iDisplay ($5) now. But this buggy competitor needs an update to match Air Display’s ease.

Stream Movies From Your PC

Air Video--click for full-size image.Air Video can stream 720p video from your PC, and convert transcode video formats in real time.

Even if you bought the largest-capacity iPad, if it can’t fit all of your videos, it’s too small. Instead of trying to cram everything into the device, you can stream videos from a local or online PC. The process has one main caveat; if you bought movies or TV shows from the iTunes store, DRM restrictions block those files. (Podcasts and music videos should work.). But you can watch your own videos or DRM-free downloads without taking up iPad storage.

Of the many options available, I like Air Video ($3) the best. (A free version includes the same functions but limits the number of files you can browse in each folder). Similar to competitors, you run a server utility on your PC or Mac in order to route data to the iPad. In my tests, Air Video played most resolutions smoothly, including 720p video files over an 802.11n Wi-Fi network.

That resolution stutters on an 802.11g network, but if you reach a file that’s too big—or just not in an iPad-friendly QuickTime format, including AVI, WMV, ASF, MKV, DIVX, and FLV—you can have the PC remotely convert the clip. Just hit a button from the iPad interface and stream it when ready, or have a speedy PC process it and stream it live. It even supports subtitles and TV output. The iPad can send video to a TV at 1024 by 768 resolution via its $29 Dock Connector to VGA adapter; 576p and 480p with the $49 Apple Component A/V Cable, and 576i or 480i with an Apple Composite Cable (also $49).

Connect More Than a Camera

Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29) does so much more than its stated purpose. Instead of just transferring photos and videos from your camera or SD card, the adapter’s USB port attaches a range of devices.


Many USB keyboards work. The iPad presents a warning that the device isn’t supported (shown left), but if it doesn’t draw much power, you can ignore the message. Volume and media keys usually work, and you can even use desktop commands such as Command-Z. (Don’t forget that the iPad also officially supports Bluetooth keyboards and Apple’s iPad Keyboard Dock).

USB audio devices can work, too–including speakers, headsets, and microphones. If a device draws too much power and balks (as when I connected a Zoom H2 mic and Logitech V20 PC speakers), no problem: just attach the device to a powered USB hub, and connect the hub to the Camera Connection Kit adapter. You can even attach different devices—such as a keyboard and speaker set—at the same time.

Read more at www.pcworld.com

 

How an iPad can Improve Your Dining Experience

The next time you walk into your favorite restaurant you may be handed an iPad rather than a menu. Just think about the possibilities. You’ll be able to see what your dish will look like ahead of time, get the calorie count of your order, have a wine pairing picked out for you and send any modifications you may want directly to the server’s iPad.

For some restaurants, when it comes to wine orders, having the iPad act as a virtual sommelier is proving to be a great business tool. Digital wine lists have reported a significant increase in profits from wine sales. I see this as a win-win. It combines two of my favorite things… mobile technology and wine. Now, if only they could develop a scratch and smell app!

Amplify’d from www.travelandleisure.com

201102-b-ipadjpgWith the release of the iPad nearly one year ago, the device is changing the way we do business. And while it might seem an unlikely combination, even restaurants have hopped on the bandwagon. Yes, a handful are loading their menus onto iPads for customers to peruse—a costly and wasteful business practice, all in the name of flashiness, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about; there are more and more turning iPads into useful (and yes, flashy) tools that actually improve the dining experience.

What I’ve been seeing are restaurants digitizing their extensive wine offerings specifically for the iPad. Why am I inclined to value this more than a simple digital food menu? Because besides just listing out the wines, these apps, like the one implemented at Hotel Casa del Mar’s Catch Restaurant in Santa Monica, also offer a wealth of information to help you decide on the perfect wine…that is, without the assistance of an on-site sommelier. (Which, let’s be honest, you’re hard-pressed to find at most restaurants.) Catch’s iPad wine list lets diners browse wines by year, price, tasting notes, high-res images, where it was made, and even dish selection. And with more than 200 wines in their cellar, a little help is more than welcome!

But Catch isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, to put this technological twist on the age-old drink. In Atlanta, Bone’s has a similar app for its 1,300 plus wines, with extensive details, year, region and price. Here in NYC, South Gate has a similar app for its 600 plus bottle collection; Naples Tomato, in—you guessed it—Naples, FL has one for its 500 plus bottles; and Chicago Cut Steakhouse recently debuted its digital 800 plus bottle list.

Oh, and did I mention? In case you’re wondering just how useful this is, most of the restaurants with digital wine lists have reported a significant increase in profits from wine sales.

Read more at www.travelandleisure.com

 

Want to find out where the ladies are… there’s an app for that

Fellas, if you’re looking for a date this Valentine’s Day and you can’t find them, just point your geolocation app in any direction and you’ll find a women in the closest proximity to where you are.

Wheretheladies.at has taken dating (AKA stalking) to a whole other level. Of course, the app is only available in San Francisco (no comment) but I’m going to need one of these apps in Washington, DC so I can find out where the men are! In a city where women outnumber men 13-1 I need all the help I can get!

Amplify’d from techcrunch.com

Geo-location has come to this: After three weeks in review, Wheretheladies.at, a web app that aggregates Foursquare checkins by the female gender, is now available on the iPhone. The concept OF A BIG COMPASS POINTING YOU IN THE DIRECTION OF LADIES is so unprecedented that Apple actually called co-founder Jeff Hodsdon on his cellphone to ask about the app during the review process.

Co-founded by Path’s Danny Trinh and Hodsdon, Wheretheladies.at the iPhone app ranks nearby locations by the number of females who have checked in (using a dictionary crawl and permutation logic when gender isn’t available) as well as helpfully points you in the direction of the critical mass of ladies in your vicinity.

We previously called this service “evolutionary advantage,” as it is essentially nerds using technology to circumvent Darwinism. The fittest now includes those who have smarts, or at least smartphones.

Hodsdon says that the difference between Wheretheladies.at and apps like Assisted Serendipity is temporal. Wheretheladies.at only counts check-ins within the past 30 minutes to ensure that ladies will be there when you arrive, “When it says 10 ladies are at Elbo Room that means in the last ~30min.  I think that is key.  It’s about where to head to right now.”

Right now the app only works in San Francisco, but the team is working on getting it to other cities. When I asked if they would ever build  Wheretheguys.at, Hodsdon quickly replied, “I’ll start on that now.”

Read more at techcrunch.com

5 Biggest Losers as Smartphone Sales Surpass PCs

According to research firm Gartner, last quarters impressive personal computer sales pale in comparison to an even faster growing Smartphone market. So, again I ask, to Macbook Pro or do I hold out for the iPad 2?

Amplify’d from gigaom.com

More than 93.4 million personal computers shipped around the globe in the final quarter of 2010, with HP leading the pack of vendors and holding 18.8 percent of the market. Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba rounded out the top five, combining for 58.3 percent of the overall PC market last quarter, according to research firm Gartner. Such sales numbers might be cause for celebration except for one problem: Not one of these companies has a significant presence in the even faster growing smartphone market.

Just how big is the market for pocketable computers — a market the computer industry has had a three-decade head start on? I haven’t yet seen fourth quarter smartphone sales estimates, so we can’t make a direct comparison, but Gartner’s third quarter numbers from last year show that 80.5 million smartphones were sold. That’s nearly equal to the 88.3 million computers shipped in the third quarter, just about 10 percent higher than that of smartphones.

Another startling datapoint to illustrate the challenge faced by PC makers: The up-and-coming Taiwanese company, HTC, expects to sell 60 million smartphones in 2011, which alone would rival the entire 62.7 million computers Gartner says HP sold in 2010. And of course, one can point to nearly 40 million iPhones sold by Apple in its 2010 fiscal year, or roughly three times the 13.6 million Mac computers sold during by Apple in the same period, showing that Apple has a clearer understanding that the future is mobile. Apple has devoted much effort towards iOS devices and is even bringing iOS concepts to its upcoming desktop upgrade called OS X Lion.

These sales trends have been in the works for a few years now, so it’s not surprising that smartphones are about to surpass PC sales, if they actually haven’t already. What is surprising however, is that those top five computer manufacturers aren’t even in the conversation when discussing smartphones. Sure, Dell is starting to get in the game with both Android smartphones and tablets, but it’s not a top-tier brand in either yet. Toshiba and Acer have been in and out of the smartphone game in the past, both using Microsoft Windows Mobile at the time, and that hasn’t worked out either. Acer has since tried to use Android, but its name isn’t on the tip of my tongue when talking about hot phones.

That leaves Lenovo and HP, each of which has their own potential plan to remain relevant in a mobile future. Lenovo is leveraging its home base in China, an area ripe for handset growth, even after it sold its smartphone division in 2008 and then paid double to buy it back 18 months later. But the company hasn’t yet pushed its smartphone strategy beyond the borders of China, where it faces competition from a growing number of cheap Android handsets.

Meanwhile, HP purchased Palm in April of last year for $1.2 billion to get a foot in the door for smartphones, tablets and other devices running on the Palm webOS platform. No new webOS products have come from the purchase yet, but next month, HP is holding an event where it’s expected to debut updated mobile gadgets. Even so, the webOS platform is still far behind the bigger players, such as Android and iOS, when it comes to available apps.

Ultimately, all five of these traditional computer makers are big losers when it comes to the smartphone market right now, although some still have slivers of opportunity available. The longer they cling to lower-margin desktops and laptops, however, the more they risk irrelevancy in the future. And if the comparison in device sales numbers don’t wake them up, maybe innovative accessories that turn smartphones into little laptops, such as the Motorola Atrix 4G dock shown above, will sound the warning bells.

Read more at gigaom.com

 

iPad 2 Picture Getting Clearer as Rumors Ramp Up

Here is comes folks… the iPad… only better. That’s the rumor anyway. We’ll have to wait to see if any of these things actually pan out. One thing is for sure, Apple consistently delivers a product that’s much better than the one that preceded it. The other thing I know for sure, I’m very glad I waited for the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5. Yes Apple, you have taught me patience. Strange how that works… I’ve been trying to master patience and delayed gratification all my life. Niow, when are these new versions coming out already?!?! I’ve been waiting long enough. Maybe I have a little more work to do.

Amplify’d from gigaom.com

The iPad 2 is said by some to be arriving as early as February or April (at least in the U.S.), and as is always the case when Apple hardware nears the end of a product cycle, the rumor mill starts working overtime. As consensus grows and independent reports start coming in from multiple sources, we end up with a much better picture of what to expect from Apple’s next iPad.

SD Card Slot

The latest rumor making the rounds is that the iPad will indeed have an SD memory card slot. This isn’t the first time such expansion is a possibility for the iPad 2, but now it’s been reported by a “trusted source” talking to Engadget, and it’s showing up in case designs from multiple manufacturers, as identified separately by AppleInsider and MIC Gadget. Since Apple already offers a way to access SD cards via the iPad Camera Connection Kit, there’s no good reason the company would object to building in the same functionality. In fact, it’s possible the only reason an SD slot wasn’t included the first time around was that it wouldn’t fit in the case.

Mini DisplayPort

The same case designs that back up the SD card slot rumor also indicate that another port will be introduced at the top of the device. The cutout for this alleged port is quite small, leaving few options for what it might be. Mini DisplayPort is a likely candidate, since even though it would eliminate the need for the iPad dock connector-to-VGA adapter, Apple could still sell various Mini DisplayPort converter accessories. A far less likely possibility for the spot is a micro-USB port, but there’s no way Apple would include that and still keep the dock connector.

“Retina” Display

The iPhone 4 introduced the world to the Retina Display, a 960×640 pixel screen with 331 ppi, a pixel density apparently beyond the threshold of human detection that makes for super crisp text and graphics. According to recent rumors stemming from resources found in the latest version of Apple iBooks app (1.2), the iPad will get twice the resolution it currently enjoys, bringing the total from 1024×768 to 2048×1536. As Kevin notes, that only adds up to a pixel density of 265 ppi, which, while not at the same level as the iPhone, is still a massive improvement, and will probably still be granted the “Retina” from Apple’s marketing department. Simply doubling the display resolution makes sense, since it’ll allow existing iPad apps to be compatible with the iPad 2 through zooming, though image quality will be somewhat degraded.

Front and Back Cameras

If there is any “sure thing” for the iPad 2, it’s that it will have two cameras: one in front for FaceTime, and one in the back for… well, actually, on a 9.7-inch tablet, probably mostly for occasional FaceTime use, too. Using it for general photographic and film-making seems incredibly awkward, even if the iPad 2 does sport a lighter, smaller body design.

Lighter, Smaller Body Design

Case designs and an actual iPad 2 mock-up used by a developer at CES earlier this month seem to support the idea that the next iPad will be smaller and slimmer than its predecessor. This is a standard improvement for new iterations of Apple gadgets, and it could help appease customers asking for a 7-inch iPad, something the company seems unwilling to provide. AppleInsider recently reported on an Apple patent that would allow the company to reduce the thickness and power consumption of capacitive touchscreens, which could be partially responsible for a new, smaller physical footprint in iPad 2.

Improved Processing and Graphics Power

The iPad 2 (along with the iPhone 5) is expected to get a new version of Apple’s custom A4 system-on-a-chip. According to a source talking to AppleInsider, the new version will have dual graphics cores to support the new Retina Display, and to allow for 1080p video playback (the current version tops out at 720p). The new graphics cores support OpenCL to share the burden of general purpose computing tasks with the GPU. The new chip will also pair the dual graphics cores with a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 chip for general processing. With a huge crop of potential iPad competitors unveiled at CES, these kinds of performance improvements are almost a necessity, but as is always the case with Apple products, hardware specs take a backseat to actual user experience, so if we see more modest improvements I won’t be surprised.

Read more at gigaom.com