At its Tuesday media event (Update: live stream options here), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will finally introduce and release two new iPad models, including the second-generation iPad mini and the fifth-generation full-size iPad, or "iPad 5."
The design of the 9.7-inch iPad has remained static since the March 2011 release of the iPad 2, but two and a half years and two iPad models later, Apple is expected to revamp the iPad 5 with a completely new design that better resembles its "mini" counterpart. But what can users specifically expect from the iPad 5? We've been closely following the rumors for months, and we believe we have an accurate picture of what Apple plans to reveal and release later this month. Here are five specs and features we're betting on seeing at Tuesday’s Apple event, before the presumptive release date for the iPad 5 on Friday, Nov. 1.
1. Thinner, Lighter Form Factor: Apple wants to make the full-size iPad look and feel more like the iPad mini, which is why Apple has reportedly chosen to release the iPad 5 with the same thickness, thin side bezels and symmetrical speaker grilles as the iPad mini, as well as a similar aluminum unibody and less-tapered back for an easier grip. With this new form factor, we're also expecting Apple to release the iPad 5 as a significantly lighter tablet than its predecessors: The iPad 4 weighs 1.46 pounds and the iPad mini weighs 0.69 pounds, so we're expecting Apple to release the iPad 5 somewhere between those two measurements, possibly at 1.08 pounds, or 490 grams.
2. Enhanced Specs, Including Touch ID: The iPad 4 was powered by a dual-core A6X chip with quad-core graphics, but for the release of the iPad 5, we believe Apple will implement at least an A7 chip, the same processor that powered the iPhone 5s; however, it’s likely Apple will release the iPad 5 with an A7X chip, which would be similar to the A7 chip but optimized for iPad. Assuming the A7X chip is anything at all like the A7 chip, Apple may release the iPad 5 with the same M7 co-processor found in the iPhone 5s (which isn't really essential, but it would be a test-run before the chip's mass implementation in the iWatch), but more importantly, the presence of an A7 chip would mean Apple could include its new Touch ID technology in the iPad 5. the A7 chip is that it's specifically designed for Touch ID: Apple designed the A7 so fingerprint information can be stored safely and securely within a cordoned-off region of the chip, which communicates only with other parts of the same chip with simple "yes" or "no" responses to make sure fingerprint information can never be reached and therefore compromised. So, if the iPad 5 runs on any variant of the A7 chip, consumers might expect to see a small metallic ring around the tablet's home button when the iPad 5 is released later this year.
3. Improved Cameras: Most people don't use their iPad as their main camera, but it's about time the iPad got an upgrade in the camera department. The iPad 4 featured a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera with 720p HD video and a 5-megapixel rear-side camera with 1080p HD video, and we expect to give tweaks to both cameras. Corroborating the rumors, we believe Apple will release the iPad 5 with an 8-megapixel camera for the first time, and we also believe Apple will release the iPad 5 with a slightly improved FaceTime HD camera, likely a 2-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video.
4. New Colors: Apple currently sells its iPad 4 and iPad mini in two colors: black and white. For the iPad 5, we believe Apple will introduce at least one new color option, since we've already seen the "space grey" and "typical silver" iPad 5 leaked by Sonny Dickson. But what about gold? The color proved extremely successful for the iPhone 5s, so it's possible Apple may release the iPad 5 with a similar gold option, although we've also heard Apple may reserve that color for the new iPad mini.
5. A Redesigned Smart Cover: Considering the iPad 5 will reportedly release with a new form factor, Apple needed to redesign the iPad's Smart Cover anyway, but Apple’s event invitations, which say, "We still have a lot to cover," may be hinting at more than just a simple makeover to the iPad Smart Cover. To make the iPad 5 an even more effective work tool, Apple may not add any more buttons or functions on the tablet itself, but it’s likely Apple will release the iPad 5 with a new Smart Cover to allow for more viewing angles, and this time around, the covers may feature an integrated keyboard.
A new iPad Smart Cover with an embedded keyboard would look like Apple stealing from Microsoft and its Surface tablet’s Touch and Type Covers. But the iPad has sorely missed having its own connected keyboard to complete the iPad ecosystem; in the past, Apple has relied on companies like Logitech to create iPad-friendly keyboards (the Ultrathin Keyboard for iPad is still the very best iPad keyboard on the market, and I highly recommend it).
An improved Smart Cover may not seem like a big deal for the iPad initially, but if Apple can successfully create an iPad cover that's protective and useful for typing, Apple will have effectively made its iPad into an extremely cheap laptop starting at just $499. If the accessory is anything like Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad, it could act as both a kickstand and a keyboard, which would make it a highly flexible and creative solution for the iPad's longstanding problem with typing. And if Apple can make the new “Smarter” Cover can transform the iPad into a full, ideal computing solution for all things work- and fun-related, the iPad 5 with Smart Cover combination, with the right marketing, could end the PC as we know it, once and for all. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens on Oct. 22.
Apple iPad 5 Release Coming: Other Announcements We’re Expecting
Besides the iPad 5, Apple will reportedly announce a slew of other devices and services on Oct. 22, including a new iPad mini, new Mac computers, and the new operating system for Macs, OS X Mavericks.
Regarding the iPad mini 2, rumors and allegedly leaked photos suggest the second-generation iPad mini will release with the identical form factor of its predecessor, which means one of two things: The iPad mini 2 could release with slightly upgraded specs and a Retina display, or the iPad mini 2 could feature greatly upgraded specs, and possibly even a gold color option, which would sweeten the deal for consumers hoping for an iPad mini with Retina display. An iPad mini without a Retina display may even feature Touch ID, but that's unlikely since the required A7 chip would be a major jump in processors generation-to-generation -- the first iPad mini featured the A5 chip made back in 2011. If Apple chooses to release a non-Retina iPad mini this month, expect the iPad mini with Retina display to release early next year.
The MacBook Pro with Retina display was unveiled at WWDC 2012, and this year, Apple is expected to release an update to its high-end laptop line with new Retina MacBook Pros powered by the latest chips from Intel, codenamed "Haswell," as well as Intel's new "Iris" integrated graphics processors for enhanced performance. The 2013 Retina MacBook Pro is also expected to release with Apple's recently-debuted PCI-e based flash storage, which will help power the new Mac Pro, as well as 802.11ac "gigabit" Wi-Fi, which was featured in the 2013 MacBook Air and the company's latest AirPort and Time Capsule base stations. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also believes Apple will release the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a stronger 2-megapixel FaceTime camera that can shoot 1080p HD, which would be a significant improvement over the computer's current 720p cameras.
Apple also plans to formally release the 2013 Mac Pro, which is something of a Death Star: The 2013 Mac Pro is a dense black cylinder designed around a thermal core and brimming with advanced technology. The new Mac Pro is twice as powerful as the previous Mac Pro, which was still the fastest and most expandable Macintosh Apple sold despite its three years on the market, but the 2013 Mac Pro is also one-eighth the size of its predecessor, which was all accomplished thanks to a very innovative design built around balancing power and efficiency.
The next-generation Mac Pro will release with USB 3, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4 ports, and most importantly, six ports for Thunderbolt 2, Apple's newest connectivity technology that delivers up to 20Gbps of bandwidth to each external device. But since each Thunderbolt 2 port supports up to six daisy-chained devices, the 2013 Mac Pro is an ideal computer for transferring data between a computer and up to 36 high-performance peripherals, such as external storage devices, PCI expansion chassis, A/V breakout boxes and even the next-generation 4K desktop displays.
The 2013 Mac Pro also features next-generation PCI Express flash storage, which is up to 2.5 times faster than the fastest SATA-based SSDs and up to 10 times faster than a 7200-rpm SATA hard drive and ideal for launching massive files or applications such as Photoshop or Final Cut. But quick connectivity and boot-up times mean nothing unless the actual tasks perform equally fast: The 2013 Mac Pro is no slouch in the computing department, with configurations up to 12 Xeon processing cores from Intel, dual workstation GPUs with simultaneous support for up to three high-resolution 4K desktop displays, and a four-channel DDR3 memory controller delivering up to 60GB/s of memory bandwidth, which is perfect for video exporting or simulations.
The new Macs unveiled on Tuesday will ship with a new operating system, which will be an over-the-air update for current Mac OS X users of 10.8 Mountain Lion. Introduced at WWDC 2013 in June, OS X Mavericks introduces plenty of new features to the Mac experience, including the new Tabbed Finder and Tags system for keeping files orderly, and the ability to run full-screen apps on multiple displays.
Mac OS X users are used to looking at their files in separate windows, but Apple has merged these windows into orderly tabs in the release of OS X Mavericks, with each tab fitted with its own custom view setting. With Tags in OS X Mavericks, users can save their documents with as many tags as they want, either previously listed or created on the fly, which makes it exceedingly easy to search through one’s files later. And with full-screen apps optimized for multiple displays in OS X Mavericks, users can utilize Spaces to swipe back and forth between various applications, and even drag assets across the apps. Apple TV owners can also use that display as yet another screen to do work.
In its OS X Mavericks release, Apple also makes Safari a much faster and more effective browser for Mac users. Browsing through bookmarks, favorite sites and even links shared by others via social networks is extremely easy, and it’s all organized directly on the home page. And, of course, OS X Mavericks will release with iCloud Keychain so you’ll never have to blame your faulty memory for having the same password for every site, or never being able to remember your various passwords.
Mac OS X Mavericks also introduces much-improved battery life for OS X power users, thanks to features like Compressed Memory, which rapidly compresses inactive memory used by the computer to give free space to any application in use; Timer Coalescing, which reduces the level of CPU interruptions and transitions by up to 72 percent from OS X Mountain Lion; and App Nap, which puts unused apps to “sleep” automatically. Apple also brought over more iOS features to the Mac in OS X Mavericks, including the new Maps and iBooks applications finally optimized for the Mac; the refurbished Notifications Center that makes it much easier to reply directly to emails, texts and FaceTime requests; and the new iCloud keychain, which is always encrypted and memorizes all of your passwords, including credit card information.
And finally, we haven't heard much at all about Apple's most affordable and compact Mac desktop, but it's a new year and that almost always means a new Mac Mini. Similar to the new MacBook Pros, we believe Apple will release its 2013 Mac Mini with OS X Mavericks built-in, as well as the latest Haswell chips and Iris graphics processors from Intel. Apple may even increase the minimum hard drive to 1 TB of storage, which will likely be offered in the traditional hard drive and Fusion Drive options, and configure the 2013 Mac Mini with the faster PCI-e flash. We also believe Apple will update the current Thunderbolt port from the current Mac Mini to a new Thunderbolt 2 port, and possibly rid of the FireWire port altogether.
What do you think about Apple’s Oct. 22 event? Are you looking forward to seeing new iPads, new Macs, or one of the company’s other announcements? Would you rather buy an iPad 5 or an iPad mini 2 when both tablets’ release dates arrive on Nov. 1?
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