Apple iPad 5 Rumors: Photos Reveal New Exterior Features As Release Date Nears

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Apple may release its fifth-generation iPad, the so-called “iPad 5,” just six months after it released its iPad 4 with Retina display, and French site Nowhereelse claims to have the first look at the upcoming tablet's new front-face design. The photos are embedded below.

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Lining up with previous rumors and reportedly leaked cases for the iPad 5, the new photos showcase a design similar to the company’s iPad mini, with its notably smaller side bezels that reduce the tablet’s overall mass while maintaining the same 9.7-inch screen size.

Mimicking other iPad mini features, the iPad 5 is said to be built in an anodized aluminum enclosure with diamond-cut chamfered edges and an altered speaker design. According to Japanese Apple blog Macotakara, the dimensions of the iPad 5 are said to be 4 mm shorter and 17 mm narrower than the iPad 4. And at about 2 mm thinner than the fourth-generation iPad, the iPad 5 is said to rival the thinness of the smaller iPad mini.

Giving more credence to reports about the iPad 5’s exterior features, accessory manufacturer MiniSuit released photos of alleged iPad 5 cases in late February, which were based on features and specs from what the site claimed to be a “reliable source.” The cases revealed a slightly smaller iPad -- which made sense, given the smaller side bezels -- a new speaker design and an extra microphone hole, which was relocated from the top of the tablet to the back. The vast number of reports all saying the same thing about the iPad 5 means this iPad mini-like design is most likely what Apple plans to release in this year’s full-size iPad.

Most of the differences between the iPad 4 and iPad 5 are said to be superficial; in addition to the new form factor, the iPad 5 will reportedly have a new display, possibly using Sharp’s ultra-thin IGZO technology.

On Jan. 3, a report by the China Times said Apple might switch to "Touch On Display" panels for its next generation of iOS devices, with the technology currently in development at Taiwan-based Innolux Corp. (TPE:3481), which is one of Apple’s component suppliers. Innolux has reportedly licensed Sharp's proprietary IGZO display technology, but even if Apple doesn’t tap Innolux specifically, the company will likely feature IGZO display technology in the iPad 5.

Besides the external features, however, we don’t know much about the specs and software features in the iPad 5, but we have seen a few interesting iPad patents, including a built-in stand and backside controls for gaming.

As far as the release date for the iPad 5, some sources like Digitimes believe Apple will introduce the fifth-generation iPad between July and August, while many more reliable Apple sources say the iPad 5 release date will arrive much sooner than that, as early as this month.

“I've been hearing rumblings of an April event for sometime now, as I'm sure we all have,” FOX anchor Clayton Morris said in a Branch chat with several other prominent Apple reporters. “But so many factors could be in play. The Spring has traditionally been iPad season and we're hearing about cutbacks in larger iPad supply.”

“I've heard from several sources that there was/is an event planned for April, new 9.7 inch iPad if it's ready,” said iMore editor-in-chief Rene Ritchie.

“I've also heard April, but never in conjunction with iPhone, only iPad,” said TNW managing editor Matthew Panzarino.

“I've heard nothing, but I'd think Apple would like to introduce the new Mini-style full-size iPad in April,” said Daring Fireball’s John Gruber. “If we don't see it in April, I'd guess that it's late. And if it's late, I think they'd do a standalone event in May rather than hold it until WWDC in (I presume) June.”

We expect Apple to release the iPad 5 between April and May, so the company can release its new laptops in June and its new iPhone in August or September. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted a similar timeline, and DigiTimes in November said Apple would release its next generation of iOS devices, including a new iPhone and a new iPad, “around the middle of 2013.” 

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