Mid-Cycle iPad Revision
So there we have it, we’ve got a date—October 23rd. Invitations with the inevitable subtle clues are yet to grace the inboxes of the select few that will stream into the very same auditorium that Steve Jobs took to the stage exactly 11 years ago on October 23 to announce the iPod and change the direction of Apple forever but what will it be about this time?
All bets are on an iPad mini, a smaller 7.85-inch iPad with a distinctly slimmer shape in every dimension. It’s this newer iPad, whose name nobody knows yet, that may see Apple sew up the tablet market for a long time to come. You can bet those same dollars as you’ve got on the device actually turning up on how Apple will tout the smaller sibling to the positively huge original 9.7-inch iPad. A smaller iPad has different uses: it is lighter, so makes reading easier; it’s not as wide and much thinner so easier to throw into a bag or stick in your inside suit pocket.
However it’s not as small as its nearest competitor the Google Nexus with its lowly 7-inch display. In the same way as Apple has been showing off the benefits of one-handed operation of the iPhone 5 with its perfectly sized 4-inch display Apple will no doubt exclaim that the 40% display advantage that the iPad mini would have over the Nexus 7 makes it a tablet in a category of its own.
Pricing is another sticking point for onlookers expecting the iPad mini (I like this name, can you tell?) or more precisely where will Apple price the newer, smaller iPad? It’s really a subject for another day but just take a look and see where Apple could position the smaller iPad.
Believe it or not the iPad mini is not the main subject of this piece. In fact I wish to resurrect an incorrect theory I alluded to over a year ago in August 2011. To save time trawling through the article which is primarily made up of my theory of Apple’s Mac updates I’ll put the pertinent quotes here.
[In response to year-over-year declining iPod sales Apple will] shift the normal timeline, the iPods will be refreshed but the usually music focused event in September will be an iOS focused event including the official release date of iOS 5 and the iPhone 5, as well as a refreshed iPod touch.
A scenario that played out almost to the word this year. But the point of this is the iPad, so I move onto say:
There is of course an anomaly here: the iPad. By my outlined logic if Apple is releasing a new version of iOS then surely it should have new iPad hardware too?
It is precisely this dilemma that has arrived but this year there’s rumour of a possible change to the timeline, spurred on by a number of catalysts.
The current iPad has been on the market since March and packs the A5X system-on-chip which CPU wise is not a huge improvement over the previous generation iPad with the A5. But to help drive that very high resolution display Apple packed in a GPU capable of driving all those pixels. In a change to previous years Apple has innovated with the iPhone first and just last month included the A6 SoC with the iPhone 5, double the speed of the iPad 3′s A5X in terms of CPU in a considerably smaller package and with significantly less power consumption.
Also included in the iPhone 5 and the latest models of iPod touch and iPod nano is the new Lightning connector, which will no doubt make it to the iPad mini too leaving Apple with an iPad model on the market using the archaic 30-pin Dock connector.
To help solidify my theory The Guardian have heard that the iPad 3 will be revised with LTE that will work in more regions—presumably bringing it in line with iPhone 5 levels of compatibility.
Is a faster and more efficient SoC, a major change to Apple’s universal iOS connector and an expansion of LTE capacity enough for Apple to release a second 9.7-inch iPad model in a single year? I suspect so.
The real question is whether Apple will take this update all the way through until later next year and move away from the March hardware updates and instead coincide iOS updates with new iPad models and new iPhone models? Not only is such a move risky in the fast paced tablet market but how will Apple handle the marketing of a refreshed iPad that looks the same on the surface and has no hardware version number?