I've a confession to make: I wasn't planning to buy an iPad HD, but my mind has been changed. Speculation about the third-gen Apple tablet has reached fever-pitch, with everything from a Retina Display-style resolution boost to a significant processor jump and better cameras tipped. Despite the improvements, though - and despite how often I'm accused of being an Apple fan-boy in the comments - the upgrade talk had left me cold. So what's swung me to eye my credit card hungrily? The talk of "Feel Screen" style tactile touch.
From the start, an iPad 3 upgrade would've been a bigger step for me: I'm actually still using a first-gen iPad, having never felt the need to switch it for an iPad 2. The introduction of cameras and a faster chipset never really prompted sufficient lust for me to open my wallet, while I actually preferred the bowed-back original model's design to the slimmed-down second model.
Thing is, my actual tablet use is basically internet browsing, and some email when I can stomach extended text-entry on the on-screen keyboard. Oh sure, when we review tablets, we put them through their paces - browsing, multimedia, content creation, gaming, more - but I'm not much of a gamer in my spare time, and I tend to rely on my Kindle for ebook reading.
Faster processors and higher-resolution cameras, then, aren't exactly going to improve my user-experience. Even a Retina Display, while an impressive upgrade, wouldn't necessarily have a significant impact on how I use a tablet.
[aquote]Haptics as we know them have been little more than an annoyance[/aquote]
But virtual touch-feedback, capable of mimicking anything from the edges of keys to textures and more, that has me interested. Haptics as we know them have been little more than an annoyance: vague buzzing when you hit the screen, telling you nothing other than contact has been made. How much better, then, to have a system where virtual keyboards actually felt like real keyboards (or could show braille for blind or partially-sighted users), or apps that could create their own custom layout of buttons and textures. Perfect for a remote control app you could use with the lights down low, for instance.
Since possible Senseg integration first bubbled up, people have been asking what exactly - bar keyboards and game controls - it would be good for. I think that's the wrong way of looking at it; if the App Store has taught us anything, it's that iOS developers will hungrily leap on new hardware and software possibilities and create features we hadn't even envisaged. That may sound like a cop-out, and I guess it is, but true tactile feedback is so very new that it's hard to conceptualize its exact potential.
That potential - beyond the usual upgrade cycle of faster-longer-brighter-lighter - is why I'm all of a sudden excited by the iPad HD. Not just a slimmer tablet, or a speedier one, but something that could legitimately bring new possibilities to the table. Even if there's no Senseg announcement today, I'd not be surprised to see it show up as a future Apple acquisition, for inclusion in a future product. Either way, I'll be glued to the SlashGear liveblog to see if Apple delivers on the rumors, and whether my credit card will stay in my wallet today or get a gadget airing.
You can keep track off all the Apple announcements today at live.slashgear.com - join us from 10AM PST for the iPad details!