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Apple's New iPads: 7 Predictions

Oct 15, 2013 (07:10 AM EDT)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240162575


Apple's expected Oct. 22 iPad introduction can't come soon enough. These tablets are due for a refresh and iPad enthusiasts have significant changes to look forward to, including improved hardware and interesting new features. The rumor mill has churned out plenty of material to consider, and sorting Apple fact from fiction isn't always easy. But this year, we have a pretty good grip on which new features will make the cut and which won't.

The current full-size iPad has used the same chassis since spring 2012, when the company introduced the iPad 3. Apple replaced the iPad 3 with the iPad 4 in October 2012, carrying over the older iPad's design and chassis with only a few tweaks. The larger iPad was one of the thinnest and lightest available when it first debuted, but it has been surpassed by other tablets in the year since the iPad 4 was introduced. This year, Apple is expected to fully refresh the design and features of its larger tablet.

The iPad Mini was a brand-new tablet when released last year. The smaller tablet has a 7.9-inch screen and is significantly thinner and lighter than the regular iPad. It has been a popular seller the world over, thanks in part to its usability and lower price. Within several months of its release last year, analysts believe sales of the Mini eclipsed those of the full-size tablet. Apple hasn't confirmed that, however. The entry-level iPad Mini starts at $329 and the full-size iPad starts at $499.

The tablets' features might change but their prices likely won't. Apple hasn't altered the pricing scheme used for its iPad since the first-generation tablet was released in 2010. You can expect the Mini to cost $329, $429 and $529 for the 16-GB, 32-GB and 64-GB models, respectively. Adding LTE 4G will cost an extra $130. The full-size iPad will cost $499, $599 and $699 for the respective storage capacities. It is possible that Apple will add a 128-GB model this year.

Some Apple watchers also believe signs now point to an Apple 13-inch iPad-Laptop hybrid in development.

Big questions surround what Apple will do to match the features added to competing tablets over the last year. For example, Samsung's high-end Note 8 and Note 10.1 tablets include IR blasters that can control television sets and other home theater equipment. Is that a feature Apple might add to its tablets?

The full-size iPad has a screen capable of displaying HD content but the Mini does not. Will Apple improve the Mini's screen so it can compete better with tablets such as the Nexus 7?

Then there's the iPhone 5s's Touch ID fingerprint sensor to consider. Might Apple add its new security tool to either iPad? Explore our slideshow to see what we believe are likely and unlikely possibilities for Apple's new tablets.




The full-size iPad will look and feel different from previous generations. The 9.7-inch screen will be the same, but Apple will shrink the case on either side of the screen and reduce the width of the tablet by 1 cm or more. The tablet will also be thinner and lighter, taking its design cues from the iPad Mini. The size and weight reductions are much needed, as the larger tablet requires more effort to hold and use for long periods of time than the Mini. The iPad is long overdue for a refreshed design, and this is the year we'll get it.

(Image Credit: SonnyDickson.com)

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The iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch screen with 1024 by 768 pixels. It is among the lowest-resolution screens for a tablet of its size. Nearly all the iPad Mini's direct competitors have screens that offer 1280-by-800p or 1920-by-1080p HD resolutions. The Mini's screen is perhaps its biggest weakness; it just doesn't cut it. In the last six months we've seen conflicting reports about whether the iPad Mini will have a Retina display. (Retina is the marketing term coined by Apple to describe its pixel-rich screens.) Lately, reports have been leaning in the "will" direction. Let's hope so.

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The cameras of the iPad and iPad Mini are relatively crummy. Both offer 5 megapixels and neither has a flash. Granted, taking pictures with tablets is still somewhat awkward and not something most people are comfortable doing. Even so, having a capable camera on a tablet can be useful from time to time. Rumors have suggested that both iPads will see significant upgrades to the camera. They'll most likely use the same 8-megapixel sensor that is in the iPhone 5c, which has better low-light performance. There's no word if the user-facing cameras will be improved beyond 1.2 megapixels, but it would be nice if they can make the jump from 720p to 1080p video capture.

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The full-size iPad is widely expected to have the same A7 processor found in the iPhone 5s. The newer processor is notable for its 64-bit architecture. Even though the processor is only dual-core and not quad-core, benchmark tests show the iPhone 5s outperforming competing smartphones with more cores under the hood. The full-size iPad currently has Apple's A6X processor, while the iPad Mini has an older Apple A5 dual-core processor. It's doubtful the iPad Mini will also get the A7 chip -- instead, it is likely to be updated to the A6X processor. The bigger question is whether either will also gain the M7 Motion coprocessor that's in the iPhone 5s.

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The defining feature of the iPhone 5s is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The sensor is built into the home button and lets iPhone 5s owners unlock their device and authorize iTunes purchases using their fingerprint. The technology works fairly well and is a cinch to set up. Many believe the larger iPad will gain the same Touch ID sensor, but there's no indication that the iPad Mini will also get the feature. The module itself is estimated to cost Apple only $7, but Apple might want to give the iPad some features that the iPad Mini doesn't have.

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Apple set the smartphone market ablaze with its gold-colored iPhone 5s. Ever since the gold smartphone was announced, there's been speculation that Apple might offer a gold-colored iPad. This is one rumor that can probably be put to rest. Attractive as the gold iPhone might be, there's no evidence to suggest that Apple will add a third color option to its iPad lineup. We can expect to see the same white-and-silver and black-and-gray color combinations from the iPhone 5s. Sorry, no gold.

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Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal suggested that Apple is testing devices with different screens. Apple is looking at bigger screens for not only its iPhones but for its iPad line, too. One of the test panels ordered by Apple measures almost 13 inches. Does this mean we'll soon see an iPad Mega alongside the regular iPad and iPad Mini? Probably not this year. The appeal of a tablet with such a large screen is questionable. The iPad Mini is already cannibalizing sales of the full-size iPad because it is smaller and easier to carry around. An iPad with a 13-inch screen would be unwieldy at best, though it could serve as a better laptop or desktop replacement.

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