Will Apple's 5th-generation iPad be a bore or have innovations galore? We'd like to see five rumors come true.
Juts how popular are Apple iPads? Announcing its fiscal 2013 second-quarter results on April 23, Apple said it had sold 19.5 million iPads in Q2, up from 11.8 million in the same quarter a year ago. Apple didn't subdivide its tablet sales, however. So it's unclear if the iPad Mini, which debuted just seven months ago, is proving more popular than the larger, full-size iPad.
"As we noted in December, Apple had planned to sell 40M iPad Minis (7.9") and 60M iPads (9.7") in 2013," wrote analyst David Hsieh on his DisplaySearch blog. "However, the reality seems to be the reverse, as the iPad Mini has been more popular than the iPad."
IDC reached a similar conclusion last month. "One in every two tablets shipped this quarter was below 8 inches in screen size. And in terms of shipments, we expect smaller tablets to continue growing in 2013 and beyond," said IDC tablet analyst Jitesh Ubrani in a statement. "Vendors are moving quickly to compete in this space as consumers realize that these small devices are often more ideal than larger tablets for their daily consumption habits."
Of course, this doesn't mean that full-size tablets are passé. And there's no indication that Apple will focus its efforts on the iPad Mini at the expense of the more mature, 9.7-inch model. The 5th-generation iPad is expected to arrive this fall. Cook, in Tuesday's conference call, said some iPad sales are probably cannibalizing Apple's Mac business. A regular refresh of the full-size iPad makes sense to keep customers from jumping ship to potentially more innovative competitors.
Soon, a more distinct division might develop between large and small tablets. Some hardware upgrades, in fact, already seem questionable on larger slates. NFC for tap-and-pay shopping? The 9.7-inch iPad seems a bit cumbersome for that task. A better rear-facing camera? Again, the tablet's size and weight make the device a clumsy point-and-shoot or video camera, even if Apple shrinks its dimensions a bit.
What new features would you like to see in a full-size iPad? Our slideshow covers the hottest rumors to date. Under-the-hood improvements are always welcome, but Apple engineers must walk the tightrope of boosting processing power and other capabilities while maintaining a battery life of about 10 hours.
Dig into our slideshow and let us know what you want in the iPad 5 by using the comments section.
Image sources: top half, apple.com; bottom half: CiccareseDesign.com via MacRumors.com
The 5th-generation iPad might have a trimmer look. Two weeks ago, French tech site Nowhereelse reported that one of its Chinese contacts had sent it photos of the new iPad's front panel (top photo). The image shows a slimmer slate with a narrower, iPad Mini-style side frame. The result, if the image is legit: A lighter, less bulky device that retains its predecessor's 9.7-inch display.
Earlier reports lend credence to Nowhereelse's furtive pics. In January, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a reliable source of Apple scuttlebutt, said the next-gen iPad would be slimmer than the 4th-gen model and would have a lighter, full-aluminum shell, according to the IB Times. Kuo's supply chain contacts also said the new iPad would be about 15% thinner and 25% lighter than its predecessor.
Each iPad upgrade has gotten a new processor, and the 5th-gen model should get one, too. But which Apple-designed system-on-chip (SoC) can we expect? The 4th-gen iPad has the A6X, a 1.4-GHz, dual-core CPU with a quad-core graphics processing unit (GPU). However, given the bad blood between Apple and Samsung, which manufactures the 32-nanometer (nm) A6X, changes might be in store.
Earlier this month, the Korea Times reported that Apple might ditch Samsung and go with the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) as the builder of its upcoming A7 processors. Taiwanese media have reported similar claims as well.
However, KGI Securities' Kuo says Apple will stay with Samsung for the new A7X, reports MacRumors.
The full-size iPad has had the same starting price of $499 and the same storage of 16 GB since it began shipping in 2010. (The older iPad 2 starts at $399.) Isn't it time for a spec bump? After all, flash memory is a lot cheaper than it was three years ago, and Apple can afford to be bit more generous. A humble suggestion: Keep the price at $499 but include 32 GB of storage. We're not saying this will happen. But it should.
Rumors of Apple using Sharp's innovative IGZO technology for iPad screens predate the 3rd-gen model. IGZO is an acronym for Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide, a transparent compound semiconductor that promises significant power savings when displaying still images, according to Sharp. It also enables screens to have much higher resolutions, and it can show images when the power is turned off.
So is Apple going IGZO? British tech blog Tactus recently predicted the 5th-gen iPad would have an IGZO screen but offered no supporting evidence. At CES 2013, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White called Apple a "prime candidate" to adopt IGZO, according to Apple Insider. Overall, there's not enough evidence at this time to say the next iPad will have an IGZO screen. However, future tablets from Apple, and its competitors, might very well incorporate the technology.
In Apple's earnings chat on April 23, CEO Tim Cook pretty much quashed rumors of the 5th-gen iPad making its debut in the spring or summer. He said Apple was working on "some really great stuff" that would arrive in the fall or some time next year, Reuters reports. Earlier rumblings suggested an April or May launch for the next-gen iPad, predictions that now seem highly unlikely.
Citing Taiwan-based supply chain sources, Digitimes recently reported that volume production of the new full-size iPad will begin in July or August. Yes, that's from Digitimes -- not always the most reliable source of Apple gossip -- but the report does sound credible, particularly in light of Cook's remarks.
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