'Tis the season for rumors about Apple's next iPad, and it's only going to get worse as the expected release date draws closer.
The latest report from DigiTimes says Apple will launch the iPad 2 -- or whatever it's finally called -- in April, with mass production and shipping from factories in China to begin in February. Component makers reportedly expect Apple to sell up to 15 million next-generation iPads in 2011.
If you're thinking of getting an iPad or a tablet in general, now you've got to ask the obvious question: Is the iPad 2 worth waiting for? To answer that question, here's a bunch of other questions you should ask yourself first:
Do you care about video chat?
Rumors of a front-facing camera for the next iPad were flying around pretty much immediately after Apple announced the first iPad. Apple will, in all likelihood, bring Facetime to its tablet, but you may not need it so badly despite what Apple's marketing suggests. Think of it this way: If your laptop has a webcam, how often do you use the video chat on it now?
Are you interested in tablets from other companies?
With the exception of Samsung's Galaxy Tab, the tablet market was all about Apple this year. Next year's going to be different. Android tablets are coming from Motorola, Acer, LG and countless others. Research in Motion will launch the BlackBerry PlayBook. Tablets are going to get pretty interesting in 2011, and you may want to wait to weigh all of your options.
Do you plan to travel a lot in the next few months?
Once you've used an iPad on an airplane, there's no going back to a laptop. It's the ultimate time-waster, especially if you're willing to pony up for in-flight Wi-Fi. And unlike a laptop, with a tablet you won't have to worry about the person in front of you leaning back too far and cramping your screen. Bottom line: If you get good use out of an iPad over the next four months, it's a worthwhile purchase.
How much you care about nonfunctioning features?
Some rumors suggest that the iPad 2's features will include screen resolution on par with the iPhone 4 and a gyroscope for better motion-sensing. Chances are the hardware will also be lighter and thinner. All these things would make for a superior product, but they don't bring any new functionality to the device. Still, if you crave the latest and greatest tech, getting an iPad now is going to make you bitter.
How comfortable are you with eBay?
Apple products tend to do nicely on eBay. As I write, there's a 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad on auction that's going to sell for almost full retail value, even though you can walk into an Apple Store and get a brand new iPad right now. Of course, the value of first-generation iPads will fall when next year's model arrives, but if you're comfortable selling items on eBay, you'll probably be able to trade up without spending much extra.