Apple’s larger-screened iPad, coming in late 2015
What We Expect
Apple is planning to expand its iPad lineup with a larger tablet, which the media has taken to referring to as the “iPad Pro.” Expected to measure in at 12.9 inches, the iPad Pro will be Apple’s largest tablet, dwarfing both the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 and the 7.9-inch iPad mini 3. At 12.9 inches, the iPad Pro would be closest in size to the 13-inch MacBook Air.
It is unclear what moniker Apple plans to bestow on its larger-screened iPad, but the media has taken to calling it the “iPad Pro. A recent report from Mac Fan suggests it might be called the “iPad Air Plus,” after the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPad Air.
While rumors on the larger iPad are somewhat scarce, it’s believed the tablet will closely resemble the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3, offering a thin chassis and slim bezels. The iPad Pro may measure in at 7mm, and it will likely include several iPad Air 2 features like 2GB of RAM, Touch ID, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
It may also ship with an “ultra” high-resolution display and speakers and microphones at both the top and bottom edges of the device, creating an improved stereo audio experience. It could also feature an optional stylus accessory, and perhaps even USB 3.0 ports.
It is not clear when the iPad Pro might launch, but several rumors have suggested Apple is targeting a fall release date for the tablet. The iPad Pro is rumored to be entering production in September or October, which means it will likely launch late October or November, perhaps alongside iOS 9.1.
Apple plans to hold an iPhone-centric event during the week of September 7, perhaps on September 9. Rumors have suggested the next-generation iPads may also make an appearance at this event, but the iPad Pro is reportedly a “wildcard,” meaning it is unclear if Apple will introduce it at the iPhone event or wait until a later date.
In More Detail
Rumors of a larger iPad first surfaced in mid-2013, suggesting Apple was working to expand its iPad lineup with a bigger offering aimed primarily at its enterprise customers.
In August, news of the iPad Pro surfaced again, with Bloomberg indicating that Apple would launch the larger-screened device in early 2015 in an effort to “shake up the iPad line” and boost declining sales, but an October report from The Wall Street Journal suggested Apple was delaying mass production of the tablet to produce more iPhone 6 Plus devices.
In November, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested that improving component yields for iPad Pro’s high-resolution oxide LCD panel would take some time, pushing mass production back until the second quarter of 2015 and thereby delaying the tablet’s launch until later in 2015. Continued display challenges have reportedly forced Apple to push back its internal timeline, with the company now asking its manufacturing partners to begin mass production in September or October 2015, in preparation for a late 2015 launch.
Early rumors pointed towards a 12.9-inch display with a resolution of 2732 x 2048 and 265 pixels-per-inch (ppi), although some rumors have suggested the iPad Pro might be 12.2 inches rather than 12.9 inches. The most recent report from The Wall Street Journal maintains the device will have a 12.9-inch display, as does a leaked industrial rendering and code within iOS 9.
A device with a resolution of 2,732 x 2,048 has shown up in analytics logs from mobile analytics firmAppSee, seemingly confirming the iPad Pro will indeed have a 2,732 x 2.048 resolution at 264 PPI.
Apple has been introducing Force Touch capabilities in many of its products in recent months, leading to rumors that the iPad Pro will also include Force Touch. Available in the Apple Watch, Retina MacBook, and 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, Force Touch is able to distinguish between soft and hard presses on the screen, introducing pressure sensitivity into Apple’s devices.
Recent rumors have suggested the iPad Pro may gain an improved touch panel that uses silver nano wire (AgNW) material instead of an ITO-based clear film. The new material would result in a flexible touch panel with greater accuracy and sensitivity that could recognize multiple pressure levels, potentially allowing for Force Touch capabilities.
The iPad Pro will likely adopt many of the design elements found in the current iPad, including an ultra thin chassis and narrow side bezels. Apple has been hard at work slimming down its products, and the iPad Pro may measure in at 7 mm, which is slightly thicker than the 6.1 mm iPad Air 2 and the 6.9 mm iPhone 6, but slightly thinner than the 7.1 mm iPhone 6 Plus.
The video below explores what the iPad Pro might look like compared to Apple’s other iPads. The video uses prospective dimensions of 305.31mm x 220.8mm x 7mm, or 12 inches x 8.7 inches x 0.28 inches, published by Mac Fan.
According to several rumors, the iPad Pro will include microphones and speakers on both the top and bottom of the device for an improved stereo audio experience.
PROCESSOR AND RAM
Early rumors suggested the iPad Pro would ship with the triple-core A8X processor that was introduced with the iPad Air 2, but those rumors were predicated on an early 2015 release date. The most recent information suggests the iPad Pro will ship with a faster, more efficient next-generation A9 processor manufactured using a 14 to 16-nanometer process.
Given that the iPad Pro is unlikely to see a release until late in 2015, it will most likely include Apple’s latest chip technology — the A9. The A9 processor is also expected to be used in the next-generation iPhones and iPads.
The current iPad Air 2 uses a triple-core A8X processor that introduced significant performance improvements over the A8 chip used in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and it’s likely an A9 processor will bring even greater performance improvements. The A8X in the iPad Air 2 is up to 55 percent faster than the A8, to give an idea of some of the technology improvements that come with chip upgrades.
The iPad Air 2 was the first of Apple’s mobile devices to ship with 2GB of RAM, and it is likely that the iPad Pro will also include 2GB of RAM.
The iPad Pro is may adopt many features found in the iPad Air 2, including 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is twice as fast as 802.11n Wi-Fi, and LTE Advanced in Cellular + Wi-Fi models, taking advantage of carrier aggregation to offer LTE connection speeds of up to 120 Mbps. It may also include NFC, allowing it to work in some capacity with Apple Pay, perhaps as a payment terminal for small businesses.
Like the iPad Air 2, the iPad Pro will probably offer a motion coprocessor with several sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, GPS, barometer, and compass functionality, and while it’s likely to gain a front-facing FaceTime HD camera, a rear camera is somewhat more questionable as such a large device would not be particularly portable.
Touch ID, which Apple has been building into all of its mobile devices since the iPhone 5s, will almost certainly be included with the iPad Pro both to enable Apple Pay in apps and to add the convenience of unlocking the device with a fingerprint.
According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPad Pro could ship with an optional stylus accessorygiven Apple’s desire to target the tablet towards the enterprise market. It’s not clear what such a stylus would be used for beyond simple note taking and sketching, but Kuo predicts that it would charge via a Lightning connector. Other rumors have indicated the stylus may connect over Bluetooth to enable pressure sensitive input.
A later rumor from Kuo confirms Force Touch for the iPad Pro and points towards a Force Touch-enabled stylus that will enhance productivity by offering better precision than finger input. According to Kuo, Force Touch on the iPad Pro may only work properly with the stylus due to the size of the screen.
Apple is said to still be refining its plans for the iPad Pro, with The Wall Street Journal claiming the company is considering including USB 3.0 ports on the device, a move that could make it more appealing to the enterprise market Apple is said to be trying to target. Recent images of an iPad Pro dummy used for making accessories showed an unspecified port on the left side of the device, which could be a USB-C port or an additional Lightning port.
The iPad Pro will undoubtedly ship with a version of iOS 9, Apple’s newest mobile operating system that was unveiled at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Among other features, iOS 9 brings split-screen multitasking to the iPad, a function that would be especially useful on a larger tablet like the iPad Pro.
With split-screen multitasking, it’s possible to use two different iOS apps on the same screen, so you can read a website while on a FaceTime call, or watch a video while composing a message in Mail. There are three types of multitasking in iOS 9: Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture, all detailed in the video below.
A 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” was found in analytics logs running iOS 9.1, so it’s likely the iPad Pro will actually ship with iOS 9.1 installed on it. A major operating system update could be required for the iPad Pro’s launch due to the rumored addition of Force Touch and other features like a USB-C port that could support peripheral devices.
Work on iOS 9.1 is already underway, commencing before iOS 9 was even released to the public.
An image said to depict an iPad Pro dummy used for creating cases and other accessories surfaced in May, and while the legitimacy of the model can’t be confirmed, it does give a look at how a larger 12.9-inch tablet might look in-hand.
iPad Pro leaks began picking up in January of 2015, with an internal sketch said to be sourced from Foxconn surfacing on January 4 and an image of what could be a mold for the rear shell of the tabletsurfacing on January 8.
It is not clear whether the mold is designed for an actual iPad Pro shell or if it is used to create dummy units such as the one that showed up in a photo last May.
While it’s not exactly a part leak, a case said to be for the iPad Pro surfaced in January. It’s the appropriate size for a 12.2 to 12.9-inch tablet and has four speaker cutouts to accommodate the device’s rumored stereo speakers. There are also cutouts for a headphone jack at the top left of the case, volume buttons at the right, a camera cutout at the back, a Lightning port cutout at the bottom, and a power button cutout on the top right, all of which is in line with previous iPad Air and iPad mini designs.
There is an unknown cutout on the left side of the case, but that may be for a SIM tray as the design drawings this case was likely based on did not show any type of port in that area. Cases designed for unannounced devices are not always entirely accurate, but tend to get general design elements and measurements correct.
A second image of a case said to be for the iPad Pro surfaced in February, showing many of the same design elements. One notable difference, however, is the lack of a cutout on the left side, suggesting that the presence of the cutout on the first case above is indeed for a SIM card and not some other type of port.
The second purported iPad Pro case was photographed next to an iPad Air case, giving us a good idea of how large the iPad Pro might be compared to the existing 9.7-inch iPad Air 2. As of April, cases began improving in quality, and we saw the first tri-fold iPad Pro case.
Images of an iPad Pro dummy began making the rounds in late February, showing potential design characteristics like a USB-C port (or an extra Lightning port) and a set of speakers near the headphone jack. Rumors have suggested the iPad Pro could include a USB 3.0 port.
3D modeler and designer Martin Hajek created concept renderings imagining what the iPad Pro might look like upon release based on rumors that have circulated about the device as well as some possible design drawings originally leaked in November.
The renderings depict the tablet itself and a stylus that has been rumored to be included with it.
An August report from Bloomberg suggested Apple planned to release the iPad Pro in early 2015, but an October report from The Wall Street Journal indicated that Apple delayed its planned December 2014 mass production of the larger tablet in order to focus its attention on producing more iPhone 6 Plus units to meet demand.
Several rumors have pointed towards a late fall launch for the iPad Pro, perhaps in late October or November. Apple is rumored to be starting mass production on the iPad Pro in September or October, a timeline that would lead to an October or November launch date.
There’s a possibility the iPad Pro could be introduced at the upcoming September iPhone event. Rumors have suggested the next-generation iPads will be included in the event, but it is not clear if that includes the larger-screened iPad Pro.
iPad Pro Timeline