WSJ: Lighter, Thinner iPad 2 (w/Camera) in Production

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is already producing the so-called iPad 2, and that the device will be thinner and lighter, and that it will feature a front-facing camera. Citing unnamed people “familiar with the matter,” the newspaper also said it would be powered by a faster processor, have more memory, and a better graphics processor.

Contradicting earlier reports, however, The Journal specified that the device would feature the same, or a “similar” resolution to the current model, which is 1024 x 768. Taiwan newspaper DigiTimes reported in January that the next iPad version would boast a far higher resolution of 2046 x 1536.

What The Journal did not say is when the device will be announced or shipped. Apple introduced the first iPad in April of 2010, following a late-January introduction, and pundits, analysts, observers, watchers, and armchair quarterbacks have speculated that Apple will rev the device everywhere between as early as last month [Pro Tip: it didn’t happen] all the way up to April.

The latter time frame obviously matches the annual cycle Apple has used for its iPhone line, but there are many mitigating factors. For one thing, Apple has comptetition (of a sort) in the form of Android devices, and Android pressure could well mount with Google nearing the release of Android 3.0, known as Honeycomb, the first version of the OS actually intended for tablets.

Apple could well want to disrupt an Android product cycle by beating its own historical schedule. Then again, Apple could be ramping up production now to make sure it has enough inventory on hand to handle demand on launch, something the company struggled with for months with the first iPad.

In that vein, The Journal confirmed that iPad 2 would be offered by both Verizon and AT&T — both companies currently offer the original iPad — but no other carrier in the U.S. With the added muscle of Verizon’s retail presence at launch for the iPad 2, Apple is likely to need significant quantities of the device to avoid the kind of shortages it struggled with last year.

In the meanwhile, a new iPad in your hand is worth two on a rumor article, even when that article is from The Wall Street Journal.