With Apple’s new iPad event officially scheduled for October 16, it’s time to take a final look at all of the leaked and rumored hardware specs and design details. In some ways, Apple’s new iPads will actually be more interesting than the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: While the smartphone market is still growing rapidly and the iPhone continues to be disgustingly popular, iPad sales have started to slow over the last 12 months, meaning Apple might be attempt something a little more daring than just a thinner and lighter version of last year’s model.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the rumored and leaked specs of this year’s new iPads.
iPad Air 2
Last year, Apple redesigned the iPad 4 to have thinner bezels and be significantly lighter, and called it the iPad Air. This year, rather than going thinner or lighter, the rumor mill is leaning towards a larger 12.9-inch iPad Air… and a boring thinner-and-lighter 9.7-inch model as well! If Apple keeps the same 4:3 aspect ratio, a 12.9-inch iPad Air would have 76% more screen area than the current 9.7-inch model.
Along with a larger screen, the 12.9-inch iPad Air would also come with a higher-resolution display — possibly as high as 3840×2160, or whatever resolution Apple deigns to classify as Retina HD. The new iPad Air will also get the A8 SoC which debuted in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. We wouldn’t be surprised if, like the new iPhones, the new iPad sticks at 1GB of RAM. Leaked dummies of the new iPad Air also show redesigned, recessed volume buttons. But otherwise, the new iPad Air looks much like the old one.
There’s relatively little information on whether there will only be one new iPad Air this year, or if the product line will be split like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. I think it’s likely that Apple will release both a 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 and a 12.9-inch iPad Air Plus.
The video below shows a dummy of what purports to be a 9.7-inch iPad Air 2.
In the recent beta build of iOS 8.1, there are references in the source code that indicate the new iPad Air will also get the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and NFC/Apple Pay. Yes, not only will you soon see people taking photos with their 12.9-inch iPad, but they’ll also whip it out when paying for groceries. Fun times.
We have no information about either the rear or front camera for the iPad Air 2, but presumably it’ll be a reasonable upgrade.
On the software front, the larger iPad Air may finally see the introduction of split-screen mode. Early versions of this mode that have been discovered in iOS 8 seem to show functionality that’s very similar to the Windows 8 Metro interface, where you can have two apps side-by-side, and move a divider in the middle to give each app more or less space. This would be a welcome change for the iPad that would increase productivity. If split-screen mode makes it into the new iPad Air, it might get 2GB of RAM instead to help with multitasking.
The new iPad Air will probably offer the same storage options as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Pricing will definitely depend on screen size: If Apple goes ahead with a 12.9-inch iPad Air, rest assured that it will be very expensive.
The new iPad Mini
Last year, the Apple Mini got a Retina-class 2048×1536 display — and that’s about it . This year, there’s surprisingly little info on what Apple plans to do with the third-gen iPad Mini.
The same references in iOS 8.1 indicate that the iPad Mini 3 will have a Touch ID sensor. The chassis will presumably be thinned down slightly and receive the same recessed-button treatment as the larger iPad Air. An upgrade to the A8 SoC seems like a shoo-in, too.
Where do tablets end and phablets begin?
One possibility for the lack of iPad Mini leaks is that there won’t be a new one unveiled on October 16. While all signs point to the iPad Mini being very successful , Apple might be wondering if it’s wise to release a 7.9-inch device so soon after the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Apple might view the iPhone 6 Plus as something of a risky experiment, and thus will wait a little while to see how consumers react.