Academic Technology in Higher Education

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iPad Camera: where art thou?

New iPad with forward facing camera will be available soon.

I have owned an iPad for over a week and have spent much time familiarizing myself with its many functions.  While my future blogs will focus on how the iPad can be used in higher education, I first want to address one of the main critiques of the iPad: the lack of a forward facing camera.


Speculation on whether the iPad would contain a camera goes back to the early rumors of the product’s existence.  Many believed that for the iPad to be truly revolutionary, it would need video conferencing.  I agreed with this assessment until I actually got an iPad.  Now, I believe the iPad will make a significant impact even without a forward facing camera.  I do not doubt that Apple could sell over a million iPads in April.


But this still begs the question: what the heck was Steve Jobs thinking?  Why no camera in the iPad?  There are two leading theories in the cybersphere: 1) Apple held back to increase profits by forcing people to buy the second generation of the iPad, and 2) the iPad hardware cannot support it.  I think both of these theories, and all others I have read about, are inaccurate.  My own theory on why the iPad has no forward facing camera is that with it, the iPad would have failed.


A forward facing camera is important to the iPad for one reason: video conferencing.  In one week, Apple has sold about half a million iPads without 3G.  With the success of the initial release, I am confident that many more will buy the iPad 3G model.  It is not infeasible to see well over 2 million users by the end of 2010.  That number of people added to the 3G network, using video conferencing, would cause the system to collapse.  I believe there is no forward facing camera on the iPad because the 3G network would not be able to handle to huge amount of bandwidth required for video conferencing.


Since the introduction of the iPhone, AT&T has not been the most stable network.  Adding 1-2 million (or more) iPad 3G users, many placing high bandwidth video calls, would cause the 3G system to collapse and the iPad’s reputation would be forever tarnished.  The iPad was too important to Steve Jobs.  It is more important that the iPad work flawlessly then to have a camera.


Some people may respond that Apple could have included a forward facing camera and simply blocked the camera from having 3G access.  However, it is important to recall that AT&T’s 3G network previously did not allow Skype and other VOIP technologies.  Only to fend off possible investigations by the FTC did AT&T and Apple reverse that policy in mid-2009.  Therefore, blocking certain technologies from the 3G network is not an option.


So, when can we expect to see a camera on the iPad?  Not until there is a reliable nation-wide 4G network… but I do expect to see a forward facing camera on the iPhone before such a network is available because it takes significantly less bandwidth to send video at iPhone resolutions than on the iPad.


by: Adam Scott Wandt

8 Comments

  1. This theory sounds good, but riddle me this: why no cover flow???

  2. I have an original 1st gen Ipod Touch that I use every day and which goes with me everywhere, I would have bought the Ipad except for TWO glaring omissions that annoy me on my Ipod Touch. No USB storage – somewhat mitigated by dropbox and other cloud based storage services abd lack of PRINTING support. I absolutely hate having to go dig up my laptop to print something that I can access, edit and email but CANNOT PRINT so the IPAD is still a non-starter for me unless Google cloud printing hits it big.

  3. Charlyn Hilliman

    April 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Hi Adam, I would expect nothing less from you than being one of the first to pilot the latest Apple technology. I totally agree with your perspective and am eagerly waiting for the 4G network to emerge.

  4. Hi Adam,

    Before reading your post I would have automatically gone with choice #1, but you raise an interesting point about Apple’s tarnished reputation if they were unable to handle the bandwidth. As I commented on Joseph Ugoretz’s blog post, the HP Slate will have the camera and looks like it will be some serious competition for the iPad.

    I’m reminded of the Xbox360/PS3 race to the marketplace. While Xbox 360 pushed hard and came out first, I am currently on my 4th Xbox and still playing on my original PS3. Also, I can play any blueray through my PS3. Maybe there’s something to be said for slow and steady.

  5. Professor,

    It definitely makes sense about the lack of a forward facing camera. I was shocked when they showed off the iPad and it wasn’t there. I still felt there should of been a rear camera (Like some of the new iPods have). But after using AT&T for over a year, I definitely feel that the network has trouble handling the use of iPhones. With the launch of the iPad 3G, I feel we can definitely see a crash of the network in the beginning

  6. Judy-Lynne Peters

    April 11, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Allow me to throw a third theory into the mix: I have to imagine that Apple didn’t envision the iPad–at least in its first iteration–as a dedicated business tool, but rather as an entertainment device. That ties in neatly with your first theory; I’m sure the second-generation iPad will tout many of the bells and whistles business users are clamoring for. But I’m not convinced that the overwhelming majority of iPad users would see the forward facing camera as a necessity. Having used and played with the iPad (thanks for the thrill, Adam!), I think I would use the camera only as a last resort. I suppose my main issue would be how to position it AND use it for more than a few minutes. Can a stand aim at one’s face? The only I’ve seen would aim very nicely at my chest. *ahem*

  7. Yes, I think it is also why you have not seen 3G cards in MacBooks as of yet. 4G will revolutionize telecommunications.

    Who is doing more to build a 4G network: Verizon or Sprint? Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working on a CDMA iPhone for December 2010. Most people believe it will be Verizon. With the work and advertising Sprint has been doing on their 4G network – I am not convinced Verizon is the clear choice people think it is. But… then again, I had Verizon for years and it had amazing service on Long Island and most other places I went. AT&T’s “issues” has made stop using the phone portion of my iPhone – I just can’t deal.

    http://gizmodo.com/5501342/verizons-lte-4g-expansion-plans-one+third-of-americans-covered-this-year

  8. I don’t know of anyone else who has figured out this possible explanation–but it makes sense to me. Quite plausible. Thanks for posting that (and I look forward to your future iPad posts!)

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