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. […]

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.