With the new iPhone 5s and 5c handsets out, pundit attention has turned to another of Apple's flagship products, the iPad. Rumor has it that Apple will be unveiling the new iPad at an event on October 22, but as yet even this detail is unconfirmed.
However, assuming that Apple CEO Tim Cook has a new iPad up his sleeve, what might that new tablet bring to the existing iPad line up?
The date: The October 22 unveiling date was first reported by AllThingsD, with a secondary single word confirmation by Jim Dalrymple of The Loop. Both sources have a good track record when it comes to being able pick out when Apple will unveil new stuff, so I'm also marking this date in my calendar.
The name: The new iPad? iPad 5? iPad 5x? iPad 5s? Your guess is as good as mine, but what's more important to me than the name is the variants that will be offered.
The variants: With the new iPhone Apple reshuffled the variants on offer. Before, Apple would introduce a new iPhone and then make the older version cheaper, thus making iPhones available at a multi-tier pricing structure. But this time around it changed this and released two iPhones – a flagship iPhone 5s and cheaper, colorful iPhone 5c that was based on the iPhone 5.
Could Apple do a similar thing with the iPad? I think it could. Here's how I see things breaking down (I've used the same names as Apple uses for the new iPhone lineup for simplicity):
- iPad 5s: This would be Apple's flagship tablet, and be the one based on the new tech. I'd expect this to make use of the new A7 64-bit processor (perhaps a modified version, which will more than likely be called the A7x), be kitted out with a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the improved iSight camera. I expect battery life to remain at the 10-hour mark. I'm also going to go out on a limb and suggest that it will be offered in the same finishes as the iPhone 5s, which is silver, space grey, and gold.
- iPad 5c: This will be Apple's budget iPad, taking the place of the existing iPad 2. This will most likely be based on the existing iPad 4, and possibly be revamped to feature the brightly colored polycarbonate shells that the iPhone 5c are offered in. I expect battery life to continue to be in the 10-hour range.
- iPad mini: Rumor has it that the iPad mini's screen will be bumped up to a retina display, but this could put quite a pressure on the device's battery. I've also heard rumors that the iPad mini would be offered in a range of colors too.
Thinner iPad: Perhaps, but not by much. The switch to the GF2 touchscreens used on the iPad mini might shave a fraction off the thickness of the iPad, but I'm not expecting anything drastic. Keeping the thickness the same, as Apple did with the iPhone 5s, would help maintain backward compatibility with accessories.
Pricing: I expect pricing to stay the same, so given the structure above, starting prices would be as follows.
- iPad 5s starting at $499
- iPad 5c starting at $399
- iPad mini starting at $329
Storage capacity: Apple currently offers the iPad 4 and the iPad mini in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB variants, with a high-capacity 128GB version of the iPad 4 also available. The bumps in storage from 16GB to 32GB and 32GB to 64GB costs Apple around $10, yet the company charges consumers $100 for the extra storage. This is a lucrative business model that squeezes more cash out of people who make the most use from their iPhones and iPads.
Will Apple give users a break and lift the base model from 16GB to 32GB? Given that it didn't do this with the iPhone, I doubt that we'll see it done for the iPad. It's just too lucrative for Apple to keep things the way they are.
One more thing: Am I expecting Apple to pull some last-minute surprise with the iPad? Not really. Both the iPhone and the iPad are at the state where improvements are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Even the inclusion of a 64-bit processor in the iPhone 5s has more to do with planning for the future than it does in the here and now.
Don't expect any big surprises.