7 of 8Image
Networking: Dual-band 5Ghz 802.11ac / Low-power World Band LTE and Bluetooth 4
The iPad Air saw an improvement over the built-in wireless networking capabilities of the New iPad, the iPad 3 and iPad 2 with a dual spatial stream, dual antenna 802.11a/b/g/n transceiver. This effectively doubles the previous generation's wireless networking speeds from 65Mbps up to 150Mbps, provided the Wi-Fi infrastructure and broadband connection supports it.
We expect that Apple will eventually move to Qualcomm's latest WCN3680 Atheros 80211ac-compatible chipset which will allow the iPad and presumably the next version of the iPhone and Apple TV to communicate using anywhere between two and four spatial streams, enabling the device to transmit and receive data up to 300Mbps to 450Mbps, and with longer range and less power consumption than its predecessors.
802.11ac capability would of course require upgrading to an 802.11ac-compatible wireless router as well as updated Airplay-compatible devices in order to fully take advantage of the new chipset, so presumably a new 4th-generation Apple TV and a new version of the Airport Extreme is also in the offing.
The upside of this increased speed will be much smoother playback of 720p and 1080p streamed Airplay content from the device as well as more responsive, higher-fidelity screen mirroring.
An updated Qualcomm Atheros chipset in the iPad Air 2/iPad mini with Retina Display 2 and iPhone 6 would also mean updated, more power-efficient world phone + multicarrier LTE capability as well as an updated, more power-efficient Bluetooth 4.0 implementation as well.
Power: Lightning and Magnetic Induction
With the introduction of the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and iPad mini, Apple moved to the new "Lightning" connector and phased out the old 30-pin dock connector, much to the chagrin of many folks with older-style accessories.
But the new Lightning connector has many advantages, such as the ability to charge at higher than 10 Watts, as well as electronic inversion for goof-free insertion.
Apple introduced a 12-Watt charger with the iPad 4 for faster charging. The iPad Air includes the same charger. It's possible we may see even a higher wattage charger with the iPad Air 2, such as 15 watts, if Apple has made refinements to the technology.
Additionally, it is possible that we may finally see the introduction of Apple's own proprietary magnetic induction charging, incorporated in the form of an updated smart cover accessory, based on recent USPTO patent publication of filings from September 2011, shown in the illustration above.
Operating System: iOS 7.x
It's a given that with any major improvement in the iPad, we're going to see improvement in the base operating system.
Given the most recent highly transformational upgrade to iOS 7, it is likely that iOS 7.x or iOS 8 will have incremental but important changes and tweaks introduced in the next-generation iPad and iPhone.
iOS 7 saw introduction of badly-needed changes to the aging, although still-useful and user-friendly UX paradigm along with an updated, cleaner look and feel that eliminatinated of all vestiges of skeumorphism from the OS, as a side-effect of the exit of former iOS chief Scott Forstall from the company back in October of 2012, who was a major proponent of the skeumorph UX ideology.
However, reaction to the new iOS 7 has been a mixed bag, with veteran users in some cases being totally bewildered by the changes. I don't expect Apple to return to their previous skeumorphic design, but some UX refinements based on the customer feedback we've seen over the last few months are likely ito be implemented in order to make the experience less jarring and confusing.
Ever since the release of iOS 6, Apple's competitors have been releasing new and innovative features in their operating systems, such as the advanced multi-tasking and social feeds in BlackBerry OS 10, as well as numerous incremental UI improvements in Android 4.x, and not to mention quick-glance information telemetry with the "Live Tiles" implemented in Microsoft's Modern UI as part of Windows RT, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.
Will Apple incorporate any of these ideas from their competitors? It's hard to tell. But Steve Jobs was noted for saying "Good artists copy, Great artists steal."