It’s been about a year since Apple released its third-generation iPad, which was the company’s first tablet with a built-in Retina display. Apple has released a faster and more powerful full-sized iPad since then – the iPad 4 with Retina display in October – but it’s a new year, which means Apple is expected to release yet another tablet in the coming months.
It’s unlikely Apple will release a fifth-generation iPad (or “iPad 5”) this month, just four months after the iPad 4 debuted – although Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White predicts the contrary – but considering the growing number of reports and rumors about the next-gen slate, it’s likely the release date could arrive sooner rather than later. One manufacturing company named MiniSuit has even been so bold as to create a case for the iPad 5, based on features and specs from what the site claims is a reliable source, and send it to MacRumors for publication.
For months, reports have claimed the iPad 5 will look and feel like the first-generation iPad Mini, with its anodized aluminum enclosure, diamond-cut chamfered edges, altered speaker design, and most notably, its smaller side bezels, which reduce the tablet’s heft while maintaining the same screen size. Furthermore, most reliable sources, including KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, said the iPad 5 would be “significantly lighter and slimmer” than last year’s 9.7-inch Apple tablets. The cases released by MiniSuit this past week reflect all of these features and specs to a T.
The MiniSuit cases showcase a slightly smaller iPad – which makes sense, given the smaller side bezels – as well as a new speaker design and an extra hole on the back for the microphone, which has been relocated from the top of the tablet to the back.
Cases for new smartphones and tablets are typically made months in advance – companies like Apple and Google want their new devices to have plenty of available accessories as soon as they release -- so it’s possible Apple in fact contacted MiniSuit with the iPad 5 specs so the manufacturer could get a jump on it. And with the sheer multitude of alleged changes to the iPad’s form factor and external features, this possibility is more like a probability.
Apple’s iPad 5: What Features Will It Include?
Back in November, China-based DigiTimes reported on Apple’s plans to release its next generation of iOS devices, including a new iPhone and a new iPad, “around the middle of 2013.” While rumors about the iPad Mini 2 are almost solely focused on its potential Retina display, Apple’s next-gen 9.7-inch iPad will also reportedly be centered around a new display.
Even though the in-cell technologies used to create the iPhone 5’s display made the screen thinner, brighter and stronger, Apple is apparently very interested in switching to Sharp’s ultra-thin IGZO technology.
A Jan. 3 report by the China Times said Apple might switch to a "Touch On Display" panel currently in development at one of its suppliers, Taiwan-based Innolux Corp. (TPE:3481), which has reportedly licensed Sharp's proprietary IGZO display technology. Whether or not Apple specifically chooses Innolux to make screens for its next round of iOS devices, however, the company will likely feature IGZO display technology in its next iPad.
In late December, Asymco analyst Horace Dediu and DigiTimes both mentioned Apple’s alleged investment in the ultrathin IGZO displays produced by Sharp, predicting the inclusion of the technology in Apple’s next batch of iOS devices, including iPhones and iPads. Dediu also pointed to Apple’s recent $2.3 billion investment in “product tooling, manufacturing process equipment, and infrastructure,” believing the cash was used to help bail out Sharp, which had been in financial straits last year. Sharp is reportedly going “all in” on IGZO technology, so it’s possible Apple saved Sharp to leverage its investment in the next generation of displays.
As noted by Tom's Hardware, the IGZO display is not only thin and tough, but also can handle even higher screen densities than Apple’s Retina display, which is visually stunning on its own. IGZO displays can reportedly handle display densities north of 330 ppi: In comparison, the new iPad 4 can only achieve 264 ppi.
One of the advantages of IGZO display technology is its lower power consumption. Most Apple products, from the iPhone 5 to the iPad 4, require cartoonishly large batteries to achieve just eight hours of power -- this is because current-gen Retina displays are extremely power-hungry. If Apple wanted its iPad 5 to not only last longer during the day but also to charge faster when plugged in, IGZO seems the way to go.
Besides the display, we don’t know much about the iPad 5, but we have seen a few interesting iPad patents for a built-in stand, and backside controls for gaming. We expect Apple to release the iPad 5 between June and September 2013.
Apple sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads in the company's fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 29.