Why the iPad 2 Rear Camera is Likely FaceTime Only

Surprisingly I got quite a few emails about my quip I made the other day when linking to some rumors that the iPad 2 will have both front and back cameras:

The Samsung Galaxy Tab has a rear facing camera and I felt like a complete idiot holding that thing up to take a picture. I can’t imagine how stupid iPad users would look taking a “snapshot” with their iPad. Hell, the iPad would look bigger than most dSLRs when you use it to take a picture.

A lot of people emailed in agreeing with me that people would look pretty damned stupid trying to take a picture with their iPads. Just as many people emailed in to tell me that they see a rear camera as essential for FaceTime use. I can concede that point, indeed the rear camera is useful when you are talking on FaceTime — this way you can use the rear camera to show people things other than your face.

I also think that Apple has a good reason to make FaceTime the same experience on the iPad as it is on the iPhone given what Phil Schiller said at the Verizon iPhone launch:

We want the experience to be the same for every iPhone user. So there are no special Verizon Apps preinstalled[…]

Now that is from iPhone to iPhone, but I am beginning to think that Apple wants a consistent experience across all of their platforms. 1

Today though MacStories reports that the rear camera on the iPad will only be 1MP is resolution.

Further they doubt that Apple would put such a low resolution camera in the iPad, as Frederico Viticci for MacStories puts it:

A 1-megapixel camera on the iPad 2 would be significantly lower than the one found on the iPhone 4; we also have some doubts on the actual photo quality that would result from such a camera lens, which will have to display pictures on a 10-inch screen.

Indeed, a still picture camera of just 1MP would suck at taking pictures. I would guess that the only way you get a decent still picture is if you are taking a landscape in the middle of the day. But I just don’t see Apple allowing use of a rear camera for anything other than FaceTime and video. Also remember that 1MP would likely look just fine in FaceTime videos as the iPad screen is 1024×768, which equates to 0.79MP if you translate the resolution. 2

Here’s why I don’t think Apple is concerned about you taking pictures with the rear camera on the iPad:

  • The iPhone is more convenient for snapshots.
  • The iPad is heavy and big — it would be far easier to carry a dSLR than the iPad for pictures.
  • You will look really stupid holding up the iPad to take a picture.
  • The weight and size means that most pictures will have a lot of ‘shake’ in them leading to blurriness.
  • Tapping the screen to focus is not practical on the large screen size the iPad has: most people would not be able to reach every spot on the screen while still holding the iPad with two hands.
  • A low-res camera will keep costs down on the iPad. 3

I may be wrong about whether the iPad will get a rear camera, but I highly doubt I am wrong about any of the above listed reasons why such a rear camera would be of little value outside of FaceTime.

  1. Explains the Mac App Store
  2. The iPhone 4 front facing camera is only 0.3MP for comparison.
  3. Put me in the camp of people that thinks the iPad 2 will have a lower price, perhaps $50-100 cheaper.
Originally posted for members on: January 21, 2011
Follow along on RSS, App.net, or Twitter.
~I would appreciate it if you considered becoming a member.~