The future of the iPad mini was heavily being questioned before Apple's 2014 iPad keynote in October. Some people believed that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) would discontinue the 7-inch tablet since the larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus already offered a phablet-sized option. However, rumors of the iPad mini's demise turned out not to be true and Apple did launch a third-generation model.
Today, rumors of the imminent end of iPad mini have resurfaced. According to Taiwan’s Economic Daily News (via iDownloadblog) the iPad mini 3 will be the last of Apple's 7-inch tablets. Apple is expected to stop production on the iPad mini to focus on its upcoming rumored 12-inch iPad Pro. This isn't entirely shocking news since Apple paid very little attention to the smaller tablet during its iPad Air 2 event in October. There also seemed to be a lack of interest in the 7-inch iPad leading up to the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 release. The iPad Air 2 was leaked way more than the iPad mini 3, and Apple fans were way more focused on the upcoming iPhone 6 launch and Apple watch than anything else.
Apple will launch its 12-inch iPad Pro sometime in early 2015, according to Macotakara. The larger-sized tablet will be 6.9mm thin and come equipped with stereo speakers. The Japanese blog also claims that the iPad Pro is being modeled after the iPad Air 2 and has provided a rough sketch of the rumored device, which you can see below.
Several reliable outlets, such as Bloomberg, have claimed that Apple is working on a 12.9-inch iPad, but Macotakara says the iPad Pro will only sport a 12.2-inch display. If the rumors are true, it is probably safe to assume that the iPad Pro will feature Touch ID and Apple's A8X chip, like the iPad Air 2. Other iPad Pro specs, besides having a microphone on the top and bottom, are unknown at this time.
Several weeks ago, rumors emerged that a beefed up A8 processor, the A8X, would power the iPad Pro, a 12.9" Retina display tablet expected to debut sometime in early 2015. Now a leaked photo has surfaced of a purported logic board for the next generation iPad Air sporting an A8X, suggesting we may see the new chip sooner than expected.
The photo, which was leaked by Apple.club.tw on Monday, not only shows an A8X processor, but what appears to be a 2GB Elpida RAM module as well. There has been speculation about the RAM upgrade, as there have been rumors that the new tablet will have split-screen multitasking functionality, which would require some extra horsepower. We'll know soon enough, as Apple is expected to unveil the new iPad Air at a media event this Thursday, October 16th.
Lets look at the rumored specs of the next-generation iPad Air now that Apple has officially announced its final keynote for 2014.
The second-generation iPad Air 2 is not expected to get a drastic redesign like the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, but various leaks have shown that it will be slightly thinner (7mm thick) than its predecessor, and that it will feature recessed volume buttons, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor like the iPhone 5s, and redesigned speakers / microphone. The new iPad will also be available in gold for the first time, according to Bloomberg.
Apple is working on two 12.9-inch iPad prototypes, a 2-in-1 device that would run a "Mac OS / iOS-integrated operating system" and its long rumored, basic "iPad Pro" tablet, according to the DigiTimes. Citing "sources in the supply chain," the DigiTimes points to iOS-like features being added to Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite and Apple's recently applied patents to bring a Siri-like voice assistance function to its Mac computers, as evidence that the rumor could be true. However, as 9to5Mac points out, supply chain sources are not known for making the best Apple predictions and that Tim Cook has publicly voiced his displeasure with merging tablet and laptop products.
In a 2012 earnings call Cook explained why Apple would never copy Microsoft and converge an iPad with a laptop.
When asked if Apple was planning to merge its tablet and laptop products, much as Microsoft is proceeding with Windows 8, Cook responded with a quip: “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren't going to be pleasing to the user.”
Cook elaborated that converging the iPad with a laptop would result in tradeoffs, ones Apple isn't willing to make. “We are not going to that party, but others might from a defensive point of view.”
Apple will announce a gold iPad model in October to boost slumping sales of its 9.7-inch tablet, according to Bloomberg. People familiar with Apple's plans told Bloomberg that the next-generation iPad will be available in silver, gray and now gold, just like the iPhone 6 model pictured below. This will be the first time Apple has offered the iPad in anything but silver or gray, since it first introduced new colors with the release of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.
The anonymous source said Apple hopes the new color will regain people's sagging interest in tablets due to availability of larger mobile phones on the market. Bloomberg also cites a note written by RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani, which claims iOS users have been losing interest in the iPad after "shifting to iPhones with larger screens". Daryanani's research corroborates with other rumors that Apple will discontinue the iPad mini due to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus being more phablet-like.
The Commercial Times claims that Apple has begun production on its second-generation iPad Air and that the new tablet will begin to ship by mid-October. The Times' report coincides with an earlier report from AppleInsider that also said Apple plans to launch the iPad Air 2 this fall.
The Times also claims that the third-generation iPad mini will be delayed until early 2015. This is interesting since Apple has always launched its 9.7-inch and 7.9 inch tablets together since the iPad mini was first introduced back in 2012. However, rumors and leaks for the new iPad mini have been basically nonexistent, which could mean Apple has put it on the back burner.
Apple still has a few new products up its sleeve and the company is planning to unveil all of them around mid-to-late October, according to AppleInsider. Citing an inside source that has "shared reliable information on product introduction and timing in the past," AppleInsider claims Apple has set "internal project and marketing deadlines of mid-October," and plans to announce its new products later that month.
While Apple is expected to eventually announce a second-generation iPad Air and new iPad mini, rumors have also suggested that the Cupertino company may be working on a refresh of its Apple TV and MacBook Air lineup.
While the world waits for the iPhone 6 and iWatch to be announced on September 9th, the supply chain is gearing up production for the next-generation iPad Air, according to the DigiTimes. The Taiwanese trade publication said "touch panel makers TPK and GIS are among some of the makers receiving orders from Apple," and that the iPad Air 2 "will remain unchanged in terms of size and resolution," but it will be "thinner". Previous leaks of purported iPad Air parts have also revealed that the new tablet will not feature any cosmetic changes worth getting excited about.
The iPad Air 2 is also expected to ship with the an improved version of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor found on the iPhone 5s. What "improved" means is still unknown at this time, but you can bet Apple will be pushing its Touch ID technology even harder after the alleged iCloud breach.
The French blog NowhereElse.fr has published higher quality images of an alleged iPad Air 2 rear shell. The images reveal the same changes, like a relocated microphone hole, as previous leaks. You can get a closer look at the image here.
It has pretty much been officially confirmed that Apple will announced two larger iPhone 6 models on September 9, but it is unclear when the next-generation iPad lineup will be revealed. Most people believe Apple will announce the iPad Air 2 and third-generation iPad mini sometime in 2014, and a larger 12.9-inch iPad in 2015. Apple is also expected to release its first wearable device dubbed the "iWatch" alongside the iPhone 6 in the fall.