What I Want For Christmas: A 16:9 iPad

There really aren’t any signs pointing to the iPad 2 being that much different from the current model. It’s not bigger or smaller (any smaller and it’s a “tweener” and any larger is impractical, according to Jobs), but it’s possible that they could put out something that’s arguably the same size, yet a different shape. I mean, I don’t seriously expect it to happen; it’s much more likely that it’ll just be a bezel shrink with front and rear cameras.

But given Apple’s continuing focus on media and inter-connectivity, and given that media’s increasing focus on the 16:9 aspect ratio, it really isn’t that much of a stretch. At least, it’s not a stretch to hope. Although let’s be honest, take a look at that picture there, it does look pretty strange.

I mean, Apple already went widescreen with the iPhone and iPod touch, and their displays are 16:9 now too (though laptops are still 16:10). Why shouldn’t all their devices be like that?

I’m guessing they’d want to keep it at very nearly the same screen size. So I did my rough calculations based on the idea of a theoretical 9.7″ 16:9 display. It would require a lengthening of the device by a small amount, about 3/4″ of an inch, and making it narrower by somewhat more than an inch. The resulting device would still be largely the same size and weight.

The benefits are easy to see: first, no big black bars when you watch movies and TV shows, both of which are increasingly in 16:9 instead of 4:3, 3:2, 2:1, and the other sundry aspect ratios in the business.

Apple could also increase the resolution to 1280×720. That’s native HD, and a net increase in pixels. Easy to market, easy to differentiate, easy to sell. The existing 16:9 tablets are 1024×600 or even 848×480, and can only ape HD the way the current iPad can. Having a truly HD (though not so-called “true HD,” i.e. 1080p) tablet would be a huge benefit. Add better speakers (as the gap on the back is rumored to be) and you’ve got a device you can easily sell as a media powerhouse, as long as you have the processing chops to do HD playback. And can you say “secondary display”? I knew you could.

The downsides are also obvious: lots of graphics and menus will have to be resized, or would be “letterboxed” in portrait mode. It’s also one more resolution to add to the once tightly-controlled iOS stable.

And at the moment, part of the iPad’s draw is that it isn’t 16:9 like some other tablets. And it’s possible they already rejected this form factor as being too unwieldy at this size. The Galaxy Tab is svelte, but with only a 7″ screen that’s not really an apples-to-apples comparison.

Anyway, this is all just a fantasy. But it’s only a fantasy until it’s a reality!