When is the new iPad 6 coming out, and what do we know about its name (iPad Air 2? iPad Pro? iPad 5? iPad 6?), design, features, size and specifications? Welcome to our iPad Air 2 release date, rumours and leaked images article. Here, we present everything we know about the next iPad Air, including speculation about the iPad Air 2 (or iPad 6) release date, rumours about what new features the iPad Air 2 might have, and iPad Air 2 leaked images - as soon as they surface. Updated 3 April 2014 to add clues in iOS 7.1 hardware support and Ming-Chi Kuo's predictions.
When will the new iPad Air 2 or iPad 6 come out?
The Apple rumour mill never stops spinning, and we're already hearing whispers about what's next for Apple's iPad Air. It's all speculation at this point, as Apple remains as secretive as ever - though not as successfully as it used to.
(If you're more interested in concrete facts, you might prefer our iPad Air review, or our complete guide to buying the iPad. But if you enjoy a good gossip and are intrigued about what's next for Apple's full-sized tablet line, then sit back and relax, because we've got the iPad Air 2 covered.)
iPad Air 2/iPad 6 release date rumours
Apple historically updates each of its product lines once a year, and with the iPad Air (and Retina iPad mini) so recently launched, the iPad Air 2 is most likely a fair way off. Based on Apple's iPad launch history, it seems most plausible that the company will wait until October 2014 to launch the next iPad Air. The first iPad Air was unveiled on 22 October 2013.
However, it's not unknown for Apple to bring launches forward under exceptional circumstances: the launch of the iPad 4 just seven months after the iPad 3 shows that it's possible we'll see a new iPad Air sooner, perhaps in June of next year at Apple's annual WWDC event. The iPad 4 added only minor adjustments to the iPad 3 which had launched so recently, and so an early-launch iPad Air 2 might be essentially the same as the iPad Air with the addition of, say, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. (We discuss the possibility of a fingerprint sensor in more detail below.)
Theory 1: Late 2014
A research note by the respected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who work for KGI Securities, has predicted that the next edition of the iPad Air will appear later this year - and that this will push back the release of the rumoured bigger-screen iPad Pro until 2015. And we won't see a new iPad mini this year, he reckons.
"Compared with [the] lower-margin iPad mini with Retina display, [for] which shipments have been tepid, [the] higher-margin iPad Air was a hot selling item in 4Q13, which will slow Apple in developing new iPad mini models," Ming-Chi Kuo argued. "We believe Apple plans to launch [an] upgraded iPad Air early this year, and will accelerate development of [a] 12.9 inches iPad."
"As such, more resources will be allocated to these two products, which will affect the progress of the development of new iPad mini. All told, we think chances of the debut of a new iPad mini in 2H14 [the second half of 2014] are slim. In addition, the 12.9 inches iPad is unlikely to be offered in 2014. For these reasons, we predict the only new iPad product in 2H14 will be the upgraded iPad Air."
In a later note Kuo suggested that the second iPad Air might launch earlier than October, however.
Theory 2: April 2014
A less cautious rumour doing the rounds recently suggested that Apple has already come up with prototypes of its next iPads and could launch them as soon as April 2014. (This rumour claims that the next iPads will have larger - 12.9in - screens than the iPad Air. We deal with these theories in our bigger iPad Pro rumour article.) As we update this article, it's now early April, and there have been no hardware leaks or announcements, so this rumour is already looking unlikely.
An analyst, Rhoda Alexander at IHS, has claimed that a number of display manufacturers are experimenting with new screen sizes, and that these samples may be intended for the next generation of larger iPads.
"Some manufacturers over the last six months have received sample quantities of a larger panel," she said. "They're playing around with a product that could possibly be an iPad-related product. Various sizes are being reported, with 12.85 inches being one of the sizes."
However, Alexander does not believe that the quantity of displays involved are sufficient to suggest that a launch is imminent.
"We have not seen volume shipments yet of any panels," she explained. "We have to get a lot further down the line in terms of seeing really strong indicators from Apple that such a product exists, and we're just not at that point."
Indeed, Alexander raised doubts about whether a larger-screen iPad will appear at all.
"When this product was first discussed, it was said that there were requests from the education market, which I think shows a lack of understanding about how that market works. Those products have to qualify over years. Most of the education market is still using the iPad 2," she said.
We think the next iPad - whether it features a larger screen or not - is more likely to appear towards the end of 2014, but we'll update this article as soon as we receive more information about the iPad 6/iPad Air 2 release date.
See also: iPad buying guide 2014
Clues to new iPads in iOS 7.1
One possible clue to the existence - and possibly imminent appearance? - of new iPad models can be found in the list of hardware supported by iOS 7.1.
9to5mac found references to support for 'iPad 4,3' and 'iPad 4,6', and notes that these do not correspond to known labels for any current or previous iPads: iPad 4,1 and 4,2 refer to available iPad Air models and iPad 4,4 and 4,5 are editions of the iPad mini with Retina display.
So a couple of new iPad hardware releases are likely in the near future. The iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3? Probably not. More likely these will be merely revised models with tweaked or slightly enhanced features. One of 9to5mac's readers suggests that 'iPad 4,3' would logically refer to an iPad Air with CDMA functionality added; it's also possible that it would be a new release designed for users within an overseas territory that wouldn't affect the UK market at all.
Still - an interesting titbit nonetheless.
What will the next iPad be called: iPad 5, iPad 6, iPad Pro or iPad Air 2?
What will the next iPad be called? Technically it'll be the sixth-generation full-size iPad (to watch the evolution of Apple's five iPads so far, watch our comparison video) but based on the progression in Apple's iPhones (iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s) iPad 5 could be a more likely name. Alternatively Apple could follow the branding of the most recent iPad, the iPad Air, and call its next tablet model the iPad Air 2. Finally, a leftfield option would be the iPad Pro - following the pattern of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
(It's also possible that Apple will launch an iPad Air 2 and an iPad Pro.)
iPad 6/iPad Air 2 features wish list
Most of the big tech rumour sites have been posting features wish lists for the iPad 6 - the updates, tweaks and completely new features (some obvious, some implausible and some inspired) that they would like to see in the next iPad. We thought we'd go through the most popular requests and discuss how likely they are to appear, together with a few wishes of our own.
iPad 6 feature wish list: Touch ID (requested by: everybody)
Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor that iPhone 5s owners can use to unlock their devices, was expected to appear in the latest generation of iPads but didn't - which makes it an obvious candidate for inclusion in the iPad 6. Chances of appearing: high
iPad 6 feature wish list: Larger screen (requested by: everybody)
You can never be too rich, or too thin, or have too much screen space. In fact, there would be plenty of negatives attached to increasing the iPad Air's screen size from its current 9.7in diagonal: mainly increasing the bulk of the device (and having to incorporate a bigger and heavier battery to power the screen for as long), thereby reducing its fantastic portability. But a bigger screen would make the iPad Air more adaptable as a work device, and more immersive for entertainment, so who cares about practicalities?
As everyone points out, Apple said it wouldn't make a smaller-screen iPad, then it made the iPad mini - so anything is possible. In fact, we think this could happen, but in a separate product: possibly an iPad Pro. We think the main iPad will continue to be based around a 9.7in screen. Chances of appearing: low (but it could appear in the iPad Pro)
iPad 6 feature wish list: Faster processor (requested by: pretty much everybody)
This too is an obvious one, and something that has happened in essentially every iOS device update: a new, faster processor chip. But is it actually something to be wishing for?
The iPad Air is fast enough to run every current app with ease, and on most apps you won't notice any different in performance between it and the iPad 4; even the iPad 3 is just as fast at many tasks. The iPad Air is effectively faster than it needs to be, and apps are trying their best to catch up. The iPad Air 2 or iPad 6 doesn't need to be any faster. It'll probably get a new chip, and there's a good chance it'll be a bit faster, but maybe Apple will go for greater power-efficiency instead? Chances of appearing: moderate
iPad 6 feature wish list: Improved camera, and the True Tone LED flash from the iPhone 5s (requested by: ZDNet)
The last of our recurring requests that crop up every time. Of course an improved camera would be nice, but we wouldn't cite it as an essential, since the iPad is used less for its camera than Apple's smartphones, and it's got pretty good anyway. As ZDNet points out, a flash - such as the True Tone LED model in the iPhone 5s - wouldn't hurt, but only if it doesn't affect the price tag or portability too much. A smartphone needs a great camera; a tablet doesn't. Chances of appearing: mid to low
iPad 6 feature wish list: Face recognition (requested by: TechRadar)
Ah, something more interesting! TechRadar want the iPad 6 to use facial recognition to unlock the device. As the site points out, face-recognition is already available in the Camera app, but that's facial recognition only in the sense of recognising that something is a face, rather than recognising which one it is - which makes this one a long shot. It does also seem a bit unnecessary, given that Apple has the Touch ID technology. If it wants to do convenient, biometric authentication it can use that. Chances of appearing: low
iPad 6 feature wish list: Better Wi-Fi (requested by: MacObserver)
MacObserver argues that Apple should equip its next iPad with the new 802.11ac wireless standard, which would enable faster internet access (assuming other elements of your network were compatible). Not a bad idea, this one, although (as the site points out) the designers will be weighing up the conflicting priuorities of internet speed and battery life, which will be affected by the use of 802.11ac. Chances of appearing: moderate
iPad 6 feature wish list: 'Live multitasking' (requested by: Product Reviews)
"The fact that you cannot use multiple applications at the same time is a little annoying," says Product Reviews, "and it would definitely be a great feature if Apple could add it in. For example you could update your Twitter feed in a sidebar whilst watching a video or check your emails whilst reading an article."
This is more of an iOS 8 request, although you'd probably need a bigger screen to be able to use this practically. And even as a software update it seems very radical indeed for something that (I think) is a niche requirement. How many people check their emails while continuing to read an article or watch a video? Chances of appearing: low
iPad 6 feature wish list: Improved stylus support (requested by: MacObserver)
"I'd like to see more attention paid to the display sensor technology that allows for the next generation of fine tip electronic styluses to be used more effectively and accurately," writes MacObserver.
Like most of the suggestions here, this sounds like a nice option, so it's most likely a question of priorities and compromises. And aside from Apple's consistent commitment to touch input in iOS, doesn't this sound like something Samsung would champion? Chances of appearing: low
iPad 6 feature wish list: Subwoofer (requested by: ZDNet) and other audio/speaker improvements
The iPad's audio output could be improved; this is certainly true. But there are limits on the richness of the audio a slim and portable unit can produce; I suspect that the average iPad owner would rather buy a separate wireless speaker than add any noticeable weight to the iPad Air's chassis.
A touch more bass output would substantially improve the iPad as a games unit, mind you, and it would be great for films. Chances of appearing: mid to low
iPad 6 feature wish list: Increase the storage baseline (requested by: MacObserver)
"iPads tend to accumulate a lot of stuff," points out MacObserver. "Apps, movies and music that make a 16GB iPad an anachronism. Here's hoping..."
Will Apple phase out the 16GB iPad? It's going to happen - remember the 8GB iPad? - but maybe not quite yet. Plenty of users store work documents and photos in the cloud, rarely game and use a small number of lightweight apps. Chances of appearing: low (for now)
iPad 6 feature wish list: Memory card slot (requested by: Product Reviews)
Even Product Reviews admits this one is highly unlikely. Apple's philosophy embraces the closed box: the complete product experience bought ready-to-use and held apart from user tinkering and upgrades. Without mentioning that this would encourage buyers to go for the lower-capacity iPads and fill the shortfall with removable memory. And it would ruin the iPad's clean lines. Chances of appearing: no way
iPad 6 feature wish list: Bluetooth mouse support (requested by: TechRadar)
Tech Radar argues that touch is less accurate than mouse (or similar) input, and wonders if Apple's more work-oriented users would enjoy being able to use wireless mice with their iPad 6. If we were talking about the Mac OS X-running iPad Pro that some have discussed, this would be a no-brainer, but this would call for a major rethink of how iOS works, and we don't think that's likely. Chances of appearing: low
iPad 6 feature wish list: Wireless charging (requested by: Product Reviews)
At the moment wireless charging is big let-down, offering only minor convenience rather than the quantum leap it appears to promise. The Air Voltage Qi Chargers are an example of a (relatively) recent take on the concept: you buy a case for your device, and a separate charging mat. Simply laying the cased iPhone on the mat starts up the charging process - but it has to touch the mat, and the mat itself has to be plugged in.
If you could increase the range of the charge transmission so that, for example, you just need to be sitting with a couple of feet of the charger for the device in your pocket to start charging - then we'd be talking. Still, if Apple incorporated the technology in the chassis of the iPad so that you don't have to bother with a particular case then it would a bit more appealing. Chances of appearing: low
iPad 6/iPad Air 2 rumours: Patent clues
We've recently put together a guide to Apple's recent patent activity and the clues this offers about forthcoming versions of its flagship hardware, including the next version of the iPad.
In the dedicated iPad 6 section, we discuss:
- Advanced Sensor UI
- Haptic feedback
- A pressure sensitive display
- and various aspects of iOS 8
Read the article for detailed analysis of the various patents, but bear in mind that patent activity does not always lead to actual product launches - in fact more often that not it's purely speculative or experimental.
iPad 6/iPad Air 2 rumours: New screen technology
ZDNet discusses the possibility that the iPad Air 2 may have a display manufactured using a new process called Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide - or ‘IGZO’.
The idea is that IGZO technology will enable the screen in the iPad Air 2 to offer higher ‘reaction speed’ - in other words, motion (and particularly games) will be rendered more effectively than on current technology. This is down to greater electron mobility - the zinc which replaces the silicon in current displays is 40 times as quick in this respect.
Further advantages include a thinner and lighter display, and improved power efficiency.
All of which is appealing, although price will be a consideration, as ever, and some might question whether any iPad user seriously complains about the quality of the iPad Air’s display.
Will the iPad Air 2/iPad 6 be thinner and lighter than the iPad Air?
For all its super-fast processor and updated wireless tech, the iPad Air's big selling point was its slender, ultralight chassis. Most of the talk concerns a larger-screen iPad Pro concept appearing next year, but is it possible that Apple will continue to cut down the iPad Air, and aim for an even lighter unit?
Practicalities will dictate what Apple can achieve in this regard, since the company won't compromise on screen quality or battery life - the two areas where sacrifices would make it simple to reduce the iPad's bulk. But the continual improvements in component miniaturisation and the steady reduction in prices is sure to allow for thinner devices as time passes.
We imagine, however, that Apple will be more likely to maintain a similar form factor for several devices in a row - as it did with the iPad 2, 3 and 4 - and then make a dramatically thinner unit, focusing in between on enhancing other areas of the device. Not least because the iPad Air is about as light a tablet as anyone could hope for. Surely no one has picked up an iPad Air and thought "It's nice, but if only it was a bit lighter?"
iPad 6 launch: Will Apple split the full-size iPad line into an iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro?
Stay with us on this. If the rumours mentioned above - suggesting that Apple is working on a bigger, 12.9in iPad - are true, will Apple continue to produce iPads at the 9.7in spec? In other words, will we be seeing Apple split its iPad line-up into three: iPad mini, iPad Air and iPad Pro?
Since Steve Jobs left Apple, the company has made subtle moves away from his famous obsession with pruning the product matrix, with both iPad and iPhone lines splitting into two distinct categories (on top of further spec options). This doesn't seem to be hurting the bottom line, either.
We'd probably rate this as a plausible long shot - perhaps a more likely option would be for the 'iPad Air' as it remains known to be available in multiple screen-size options, just as the MacBook Air is.
More likely still, mind you, is Apple sticking with its two screen sizes - 7.9in and 9.7in - and leaving the 'iPad Maxi' as a future concept. We're not convinced that the iPad needs a larger screen. Viewing a movie on the iPad Air's 9.7in screen is a satisfactorily immersive experience, and those who want something more cinematic would logically go for a laptop or TV.
Will the iPad Air 2/iPad 6 have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor?
We were pretty certain that the iPad Air would have a fingerprint sensor built into the Home button like the iPhone 5s. However, the iPad Air has no such feature. Initially, we thought that the Touch ID omission could be down to cost, but teardowns suggest that the iPad Air is actually cheaper for Apple to manufacture than previous generations. It could also be a question of bulk, with the fingerprint sensor adding to the mass of componentry more than Sir Jony liked.
It's possible that the iPad Air 2 will have Touch ID, especially following the positive reaction to this feature in the iPhone 5s. It would provide an additional layer of security, and would also make it easier to unlock the device.
Really, the argument for Touch ID on iPad is virtually identical to the argument for Touch ID on iPhone: security, convenience, fun. It makes complete sense to us, and would fit in with Apple's security strategy, and help to future-proof its whole iOS lineup. The only reason we could see Apple not include Touch ID on the iPad 5 is if it runs into legal problems over the retention of personal data. Which isn't happening right now.
Will the iPad Air 2/iPad 6 be available in gold and other new colour options?
Apple's iPad Air comes in two colours: Space Grey and Silver. Those two colours match closely with the iPhone 5s. However, there's a third iPhone 5s available – Gold – and it's proving rather popular (so popular, indeed, that many Apple fans have struggled to get hold of a gold iPhone 5s). This leads us to believe that Apple could at least consider making a gold iPad Air.
And what about the colour options that the iPhone 5c offers? Bright yellow, blue, green and red? Probably not.
iPad Air 2 with Smart Cover Keyboard
When Apple sent out its invites to the iPad Air event with the tagline "We've still got a lot to cover" we thought that Apple might be hinting at a Smart Cover Keyboard.
It's something that's been discussed for a while, especially following the launch of Microsoft's Surface, which comes with a keyboard cover.
Apple has filed patents for such accessory in the past, so there's no doubt it's entered the company's mind. Perhaps we'll see a Smart Cover Keyboard in 2014.
Will the iPad Air 2/iPad 6 have a better camera?
One of the complaints about the otherwise well-received iPad Air is the camera, which was barely upgraded from the camera on the iPad 4. It's 5-megapixels, and there's no Slo-Mo mode available.
It seems likely that Apple will want to improve the iPad Air's camera with the next generation as (bafflingly enough) we're seeing more and more people using their iPad as a camera while out and about.
Will the iPad Air 2/iPad 6 have 802.11ac WiFi?
We thought that Apple might upgrade the iPad's wireless to the fast new 802.11ac standard, but the iPad Air didn't get that treatment. Instead, wireless was upgraded to MIMO 802.11n dual-band.
The Mac updates that Apple has released this year have included 802.11ac WiFi support, so we expect it'll want to roll this out across all of its products with wireless capabilities next year.
Will the next-generation iPad have a bigger display?
This is something we've been hearing about for a while now. Back in July, The Wall Street Journal claimed that Apple was testing larger screens destined for a bigger iPad.
Then, in October, Barclays Capital analyst Ben A. Reitzes said that Apple's move to a 64-bit architecture with the iPhone 5s, iPad mini and iPad Air could hint that Apple is working to develop iOS for a bigger, more powerful iPad.
Most recently, in early November, Chinese site PadNews claimed that Apple manufacturer Foxconn is working with Apple to test production of a bigger iPad with an 11.4in or 12.9in display.
We're still not convinced that a bigger iPad is on its way, at least not one that replaces the 10in iPad. However, Apple seems to be interested in expanding its iPad and iPhone line-up, what with the release of the iPad mini and the iPhone 5c over the past two years, so it's possible that Apple will launch a third iPad model, which is being dubbed iPad Pro.
iPad Air 2/iPad 6 leaked images
So far, we haven't seen any leaked images of the iPad Air 2, but we'll be putting them here as soon as we come across them.
See also:The Complete Guide to the iPhone 5s & 5c is on-sale now. Click here for buying information.