Up until recently it wasn't even clear if Apple would refresh its 9.7-inch iPad lineup, but numerous leaks, analysts predictions and a recent report by 9to5Mac all seem to indicate that the iPhone-maker will announce an iPad Air 3 in March. According to Mark Gurman, Apple is set to announce two new devices plus new Apple Watch bands during a keynote tentatively scheduled for March 15.
A leaked image of a case posted to Macotakara shows that the rumored iPad Air 3 will resemble its larger counterpart the iPad Pro. The image of the case seems to reveal a port for a Smart Connector and four speaker cutouts. The Smart Connector was introduced with the iPad Pro so it could easily connect and share data with Apple's Smart Keyboard. The iPad Pro was also Apple's first tablet to feature four speakers for improved audio.
iPad Air 3 rumors are being leaked almost daily now that we're getting closer to the alleged March release date of Apple's next-generation tablet. On Thursday, the DigiTimes reported that production of the 9-inch tablet will begin in the second quarter of 2016. The Taiwanese trade publication also noted that the iPad Air 3 will feature a new 4K resolution display, giving it four times more pixels than its predecessor.
An unconfirmed sketch of the rumored iPad Air 3 was posted by the French blog NowhereElse.fr on Monday. The leaked image reveals that the next-generation tablet may include four speakers, instead of two, like the iPad Pro. NowhereElse could not however confirm with 100% certainty that the design drawing is legit, but it is easy to believe that Apple would incorporate the same speaker design as the iPad Pro after all the positive reviews the 12-inch tablet has received for its audio. NowhereElse also noted the addition of LED flash on the new iPad.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a new report (via 9to5Mac) today claiming that Apple will refresh its iPad Air lineup in the 1st half of 2016. Kuo also noted that Apple's new 9-inch iPad will not include 3D Touch due to "production issues."
Recent rumors have suggested that Apple also plans to launch a 4-inch iPhone 6c and second-generation Apple Watch next year.
The iPad Pro and fourth-generation Apple TV will go on sale online at apple.com the last week of October before landing in Apple retail loactions in early November, according to 9to5Mac. Citing "reliable sources" Mark Gurman reports that pre-orders will open for the 12.9-inch Apple tablet in the last week of October. The iPad Pro will then begin shipping the first week of November alongside the revamped Apple TV.
The iPad Pro will begin shipping in the first week of November, according to MacOtakara. Citing "reliable Chinese sources," the Japanese blog claims Apple's 12.9-inch tablet will launch around the same time as Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 tablet. Microsoft is expected to announce the Surface Pro 4 today at its New York City press event.
Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac has been slinging out the Apple rumors at a rapid pace on Wednesday. "Trusted sources" told Gurman that the rumored 12.9-inch iPad Pro and iPad mini 4 will both make their official debuts at Apple's scheduled September 9th media event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, CA.
Parts for Apple's rumored 12.9-inch iPad Pro will begin shipping in September, according to a J.P. Morgan investor memo obtained by Apple Insider. The shipments will result in "production of about 1 million units per month this year," and will include a "glass-film-film" (GFF) touch panel structure instead of the glass-film (GF) panels found on the iPad Air and mini. Sharp and GIS will be handling the bulk of iPad Pro display orders from Apple.
Based on various reports, and a lack of leaks, it does not look promising that Apple will release a third-generation iPad Air this year. It may be hard to believe that the company will forego its flagship 9-inch iPad in favor of a larger 12-inch model, but that's where all signs are pointing. The rumor mill and some analysts believe that Apple will only release a revamped iPad mini 4 and 12-inch iPad Pro in 2015 due to slumping tablet sales.
It is no secret that worldwide tablet sales are on a slide and that the iPad is not immune. Apple recently announced a 17.9% year-over-year decline in iPad sales and CEO Tim Cook has had to defend the tablet twice after seperate earning calls. This doesn't mean the iPad is selling poorly, Apple still sold 10.9 million units in Q2 of 2015, but it does show that interest in tablets overall has slown down.