Apple (AAPL) is famously tight-lipped about anything to do with pending releases, but at the same time, there is a degree of predictability to their product roadmap.
And then there’s that supply chain, prone to leaks despite Apple’s best efforts to contain details. With companies ranging from Foxconn to Samsung (SSNLF) contributing bits to each AAPL device, hints and details invariably emerge as production ramps up.
Based on the predictability of Apple’s release cycle (and the all-important back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons), we can be certain that new iPads will be arriving shortly. Last year it was October 22 when AAPL surprised everyone with the iPad Air and a more expensive, Retina Display iPad Mini.
What will the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini With Retina Display 2 look like? What should you expect from the new iPad specs? Here’s the current best guess at what Apple’s new tablets will bring to a marketplace that’s getting tougher every year.
AAPL iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2: Antireflective Display
One of the most frequent complaints about Apple iPads are their highly reflective displays. This is true of all tablets. For multi-touch functionality, you need a smooth, glassy surface. For example, try swiping an Amazon (AMZN) Kindle display and it feels rough compared to a Kindle Fire.
Eliminating the glare that makes tablets a pain to use outdoors or under bright lights would be a real win. And according to Gigaom’s Kif Leswing, among others, Apple is applying a special anti-reflective coating to the screen of the iPad Air 2.
If Apple can pull off the trick without making the iPad Air 2 display less pleasant to swipe, it will have a definite win.
AAPL iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2: Touch ID Sensor
One of Apple’s more predictable strategies is incorporating successful new technologies and features introduced in one product across other devices. This year, expect to see the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini With Retina Display 2.
Competing tablets are beginning to show up with biometric security systems, and Touch ID has been well received since its introduction with last year’s iPhone 5s.
Touch ID is also likely to play a critical role in any plans Apple might have involving mobile payment; if so, having it in as many devices as possible will help to boost eventual adoption.
AAPL iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2: Thinner
Thinner has been a constant with Apple’s iPad development. Just look at the evolution of the iPhone over time.
With Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S (reviewed here) throwing down the gauntlet by slimming down even more than any of Apple’s tablets, the iPad Air 2 in particular will need to shrink a little to maintain that “Air” crown.
Call this one a point of pride, but being thinnest is also a marketing coup.
AAPL iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2: A8
The number 8 looks to feature prominently in both the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini With Retina Display 2. With last year’s versions powered by the A7 processor, it’s a safe bet that the new iPad specs will feature an A8 CPU this year.
It’s also possible that Apple will upgrade the current 5MP camera in its tablets to the 8MP Sony (SNE) sensor used in the iPhone 5s.
The iPad cameras haven’t had a bump in a while, so this would be a relatively inexpensive way for Apple to try convincing current owners to upgrade — while remaining competitive with Android tablets.
AAPL iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 2: iPad Pro?
Apple stuck with the full-sized iPad format for multiple generations, convinced that its 9.7-inch display was the ideal size. Eventually, the company caved in to the reality that consumers were choosing smaller Android tablets in massive numbers, and it finally released an iPad Mini in 2012.
Big seems to be the new small this year, especially when it comes to chasing enterprise and professional users. Samsung released a 12.2-inch Galaxy NotePRO (reviewed here) this year, and Microsoft’s (MSFT) latest Surface Pro 3 tablet sports a 12.1-inch display.
As pointed out by Tech Radar’s Joe Osborne, speculation that Apple would release a 12.9-inch iPad Pro to take on these larger Android and Windows tablets has been rampant for months.
A larger, higher-resolution display would also be a big help in supporting multi-window capability, a productivity feature offered by the competition that had been rumored to be part of iOS 8.
Despite the predictability of release schedules and propagation of new features like Touch ID, Apple likes its launch events to have some surprises. This fall, the big surprise could literally be a “big” surprise in the form of an iPad Pro.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.