Concept of the fifth-generation iPad ("iPad 5") sitting next to the first-generation iPad mini. Courtesy / CiccareseDesign.com

Even though the fifth-generation iPad didn’t release at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (as one case maker predicted), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is still expected to launch the iPad 5 within the next few months of 2013. The iPad 5 is believed to feature several cosmetic differences from past generations, plus a general boost to the tablet’s internal specs.

Considering how we expect Apple to release iOS 7 on Sept. 18, followed shortly by the release date of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 on Sept. 20 and Sept. 27, respectively, we believe Apple will introduce the iPad 5 at a separate event in October, just like last year, and push the release date of the iPad 5, as well as the sequel to last year’s iPad Mini, to late October 2013.

The release date math lines up: Though rumors, photos and potential specs of the iPad 5 have been circulating longer than that of the iPhone 5S, Apple probably won’t release the iPad 5 in the middle of summer. Apple prefers to ship out new iOS devices when it releases new iOS software; considering the magnitude of changes in iOS 7, it’s more strategic for Apple to let hype from iOS 7 -- as well as the two new iPhone models, plus the general groundswell of excitement that always precedes the giving season -- to help propel the iPad 5 as soon as its release date arrives. October seems to be a sweet spot for Apple since it’s so close to the holidays, which is traditionally the most popular time to purchase an iPad.

Looking at the various Fridays in October 2013 -- the release date for iPad will always fall on Fridays, even when the unveiling oscillates between Tuesdays and Wednesdays -- Apple could choose to release the iPad 5 on Oct. 4, which would be the two-year anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death. However, if Apple chooses two separate weekends to release its iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 to avoid massive crowds at its retail stores, the company would essentially be rushing the iPad 5 unveiling just so it can release on time. Apple may introduce the iPad 5 at the same Sept. 10 event as the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6, in which case the Oct. 4 release date for iPad 5 would make sense, but it’s possible Apple will wait until later in the month to release the iPad 5 to give more breathing room for Apple to properly market its newest iPhones, but also to market the iPad 5 and the next-gen iPad mini at the same time. Unlike the release pattern of iOS and iPhone, Apple has an unpredictable track record in launching new iPads, but we believe we’ll see Apple release the iPad 5 and iPad Mini 2 at or around the same time.

Apple iPad 5: Enough About The Release Date, What Will It Look Like?

The iPad 5 is said to look almost exactly like the iPad Mini, but retain the same 9.7-inch Retina display as its full-size iPad predecessors. By narrowing the side bezels and tapering the back, which will likely be an anodized aluminum shell (again like iPad Mini), the iPad 5 will release as a smaller, thinner tablet without needing to make sacrifices to the display’s size or quality.

iPad 5 Concept By Federico Ciccarese
From left to right: iPad 4, iPad 5, and iPad Mini. Courtesy / CiccareseDesign.com

About that display: Even though most of the changes in the iPad 5 are reportedly cosmetic, U.K.-based blogger Tactus (among several others) believe the iPad 5 will introduce Sharp's proprietary IGZO technology to house an even denser Retina display in the iPad 5.

"IGZO displays use up to 90 percent less power than previous generation iPad displays, which means a smaller battery that reduces the overall weight and thickness," Tactus said in a blog post. "Everything’s slimming even more with every leak and rumour, I even think with the use of the IGZO display, Apple will be able to use a much slimmer LED backlight. I’m inclined to think the iPad 5 will shape up to be just 7.2mm thick because of the above points!"

If the iPad 5 measures 7.2 mm thick, it will be exactly as thin as the iPad Mini. In December, Apple blog Macotakara said the iPad 5 would be 237.2 mm tall (4mm shorter than the iPad 4), 168.7 mm wide (17 mm were shaved off thanks to those thinner side bezels), and about 7.4 mm deep, which a bit thicker than the iPad Mini. A schematic leaked from French site NowhereElse says the iPad 5 will be slightly longer, wider and thicker than Macotakara’s predicted specs -- pegging the iPad 5 dimensions at 232 mm long, 178.5 mm wide and 7.9 mm thick. However, exact measurements aside, the general form factor of the iPad 5 aligns well across all our previous iPad 5 leaks, which range from external shells to third-party cases and accessories.

Taiwan-based Innolux Corp. (TPE:3481), which is one of Apple’s key component suppliers, has reportedly licensed Sharp's proprietary IGZO display technology, so it's possible Apple may implement IGZO technology into the iPad 5 when it sees its release later this year. A note from Asymco analyst Horace Dediu in December also points to the likelihood that Apple will implement Sharp's ultrathin display technology in its next round of iPhones and iPads, given Apple's $2.3 billion investment in the Japanese display maker late last year.

Besides the external features, we don’t know much about the internal specs of the iPad 5, but we do know all of the new features in iOS 7 will reach the iPad when it's released, and it’s safe to assume the iPad 5 will release with a chip faster than the A6X chip (possibly the same A7 chip in the iPhone 5S) and a more powerful iSight camera on the backside. The iPad 5 may even add a few interesting previously published Apple patents, including a built-in stand and backside controls for a better gaming experience. If Apple creates a functional version of iOS 7 on the Apple TV, the iPad 5 might also serve as a game controller.

What are you hoping to see in the iPad 5? Does the new form factor matter more to you than the presumed boost in specs? Give us your thoughts on the iPad 5 in the comments section below.

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