It’s been almost six months since Apple released its iPad 4 with Retina display, but rumors sourced from people close to Apple indicate the company may release its fifth-generation iPad, the so-called “iPad 5,” by the end of this month.
In a Branch chat between several prominent Apple reporters, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer reportedly has a special event planned for April that's said to center completely on iPad.
“I've been hearing rumblings of an April event for sometime now, as I'm sure we all have,” said FOX anchor Clayton Morris. “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 Matthew Panzarino, managing editor for The Next Web.
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“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.”
Many believe 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 dimensions of the iPad 5, according to Japanese Apple blog Macotakara, are said to be 4mm shorter and 17mm narrower than the iPad 4. And at about 2 mm thinner than the fourth-generation iPad, the iPad 5 is said to be about as thin as the first-generation iPad mini, which was released in October.
In late February, accessory manufacturer MiniSuit released photos of cases for the new iPad 5, based on features and specs from what the site claims is a “reliable source.” The cases reveal a slightly smaller iPad -- which makes sense, given the smaller side bezels -- and a new speaker design and an extra microphone hole, which has been relocated from the top of the tablet to the back.
Considering how cases and accessories for new smartphones and tablets are typically made months in advance of a device’s release date, it’s possible that MiniSuit’s cases provide an accurate picture of what the iPad’s form factor and external features will look like.
iPad 5 Release Date Coming: What Features Will Apple 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 9.7-inch iPad will reportedly center around a new display, in addition to the other cosmetic adjustments to its form factor.
Though 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 for its next batch of iOS devices, including the iPad 5.
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. But even if Apple doesn’t tap Innolux to make screens, the company will likely feature IGZO display technology in the iPad 5.
IGZO display technology, as noted by Tom's Hardware, is not only thin and tough, but can also handle even higher screen densities than Apple’s current Retina displays, 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.
In late December, Asymco analyst Horace Dediu and DigiTimes both mentioned Apple’s alleged investment in Sharp’s ultrathin IGZO displays in predicting the features for the next round of iOS devices. Dediu specifically 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 at the time.
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.
Besides the display, 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. 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.