Updated May 22, 2017: Photos of cases, supposedly for the upcoming 10.5-inch and updated 12.9-inch iPads, have appeared online, courtesy of Benjamin Geskin. The cases appear to have cutouts for an adjusted camera-flash setup on the rear of the devices, as well as a new placement for the rear-mounted microphone.
The original iPad was an iPhone gone IMAX and the first successful tablet the world had ever seen. Six years later, the stars of the iPad show are the retina iPad mini, stock iPad, and 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
But where does Apple go from here? What iPad secrets have yet to be unlocked? And most importantly — when are we going to get them? Here's what we know.
May 13, 2017: Financial analyst predicts 10.5-inch iPad could be introduced as soon as WWDC 2017 this June
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, in a research note to clients, claims there's a 70/30 chance Apple will introduce the 10.5-inch iPad Pro at the WWDC 2017 keynote scheduled for June 5.
Here's what Kuo had to say, via Apple Insider:
There is over 70 percent likelihood that the new iPad Pro is unveiled at the WWDC keynote, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. He said an announcement at the June 5 keynote would make sense, because suppliers are gearing up for mass production in early June.
The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is expected to have a form factor similar to the 9.7-inch model, but it will feature a larger display due to narrower bezels. Kuo predicts that the new design will improve the user experience and help Apple gain traction in enterprise markets.
If the 10.5-inch iPad Pro isn't ready for WWDC, then the traditional September event where the original iPad Pro was introduced in 2015, is the next likely window.
What's going on with the iPad Pro and iPad Mini?
Our general hunch on the matter is that Pro is the way of the future, with the stock iPad built for education and low-cost customers.
As for the iPad mini, its days may be numbered: The 7.9-inch tablet's latest release didn't come with a hardware update aside from storage size — it still uses the aging A8 processor. Additionally, it's close in size with both the 5.5-inch iPhone Plus and 9.7-inch iPad Pro lines, and there's been no speculation in the supply chain about smaller iPads with Smart Connectors and Apple Pencil support.
Release date rumors
Update: Though we've seen new low-end iPads, new iPad Pro models could still be on the horizon for later this year.
The iPad's release dates have fluctuated throughout the years — we've seen a year go by between product updates, and we've also had multiple updates in the same year.
- April 2010: Original iPad
- March 2011: iPad 2
- March 2012: iPad 3
- November 2012: iPad 4 + Mini 1
- November 2013: iPad Air + Mini 2
- October 2014: iPad Air 2 + Mini 3
- September 2015: iPad Mini 4
- November 2015: iPad Pro (12.9-inch)
- March 2016: iPad Pro (9.7-inch)
- March 2017: iPad (9.7-inch), 128GB iPad mini 4
In some ways, the iPad release schedule is starting to resemble its Mac counterparts, rather than its iOS origins: Update when there's a good reason to update, rather than a yearly timing cycle. And given the lengthy iPad lifecycle, it makes sense — these aren't devices people are replacing every year.
After the refresh of the new entry-level iPad and higher-capacity iPad mini 4, the iPad Pro is the only remaining tablet in Apple's lineup due for an update: The latest musings from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, as reported by MacRumors, pegs a release sometime in 2017 — perhaps at WWDC or at 2017's iPhone event.
iPad design and colors
According to KGI's Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), Apple is supposedly releasing three new models of iPad this year, with 9.7 and 12.9-inch models and a narrow-bezeled model with a screen size somewhere between 10 and 10.5 inches. This latter model will apparently debut at the high end and have a very narrow bezel.
There's a lot of potential here, to be sure, but also quite a few pitfalls. Apple has only one device in production with the AMOLED screen, the Apple Watch, and it will be a significant challenge to expand the screen size while keeping production costs and physics feasibility in line with the universe.
If we're lucky, we might get a new anodized color — jet black, maybe? — but other than that, expect a very similar offering of colors.
Speculating iPad Specs
When it comes to the iPad's display and internals, there are really only two key points to hit: Display improvements and new processors.
When it comes to display size, here's a fun rumor from Kuo: The 2017 iPads Pro will purportedly come in 12.9-inch, 9.7-inch, and a new 10.5-inch model. He speculates that the middle model might appeal to education and commercial markets, but this may also be Apple's move to unify the iPad sizing lineup to somewhat resemble the MacBook: Three computer-sized options depending on your needs and wants.
According to IHS Markit's Rhoda Alexander (via Forbes and MacRumors), the rumored 10.5-inch iPad Pro will have a screen resolution of 2224x1668, with a pixel density of 264ppi, the same density as the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro.
There's also the question of 3D Touch: It's been a no-go on the iPad previously because of its display size, but it's entirely possible Apple has figured out how to build the feature in the intervening months.
The latter, processors, is a pretty easy target: Apple has been improving on its in-house designed chipset for the last six years, and we're not surprised to see Ming-Chi Kuo predict the adoption of an A10X processor (assuming the A10 drops for the next iPhone).
Beyond size, it seems inevitable that Apple will standardize technology across the iPad product line. Currently the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has both DCI-P3 wide gamut color space and True Tone color matching. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro does not. It's hard to imagine any update that doesn't bring the 12.9-inch iPad in line.
Although some people no doubt wish Apple would go all-in on USB-C for iPad the way they have the new MacBook, there's nothing to suggest that the iPad Pro will swap from its Lightning-based connector for future versions. We are hoping the smaller models at least will support USB 3 fast charging (and maybe even have that super-fast USB-C adapter in the box).
While the iPad retains the iPhone's virtual keyboard that can take any form — the best form — at any given time, Apple also manufactures a hardware keyboard for more dedicated writing time.
Could the company implement a Force Touch haptic digital keyboard that feels like a hardware keyboard? Possibly — but we're skeptical of seeing it anytime soon. (For one thing, the landscape keyboard takes up half of the display on a 9.7-inch iPad Pro.)
Instead, we might see improvements to Apple's cloth-covered Smart Keyboard: More typing angles is the biggest complaint, but more sturdiness when put together is a close second. And for the more feature-demanding in the audience, Apple might even lean toward replicating its rumored MacBook OLED keyboard for the Smart Keyboard option.
Only that we won't know anything for certain until Phil Schiller shows it off on stage!
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