As 2013 draws to a close, it's time for Macworld to make its predictions for Apple's new product releases in 2014. This year Apple released the iPad Air and the Retina iPad Mini. Will 2014 bring the iPad Pro, the iPad 5, or something completely new?
With the release of the iPad Air and Mini retina, Apple has made significant upgrades to its tablet lineup. Switching the larger iPad to an Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) display technology has resulted in a far more energy efficient unit, allowing Apple to reduce the battery size and lower the overall weight by over twenty five percent. The upgrades to the Mini are of course mainly the Retina screen that it so badly needed, but internally it now features the 64-bit A7 chip and M7 coprocessor, bringing it up to an equivalent spec as its bigger brother and the iPhone 5s.
As the dust has barely settled on the new releases it’s still a little early for any solid leads on what’s next for the iPad line, but a few obvious things present themselves. The one glaring omission from the new models is TouchID. Apple’s new fingerprint sensor was the main addition to the iPhone 5S and could prove to be a game-changer in regards to security and ease of usability going forward. Why the technology didn’t appear, at least on the larger iPad, is a matter of much conjecture.
The most likely reason is simply a lack of available parts. The iPhone 5S was seen to be in short supply on its release, as opposed to the iPhone 5c, which appeared to be plentiful, and many put this down to the fingerprint sensor. Holding off for a year will allow Apple to build up supply stock and also test the technology on a global scale before implementing it on a wider range of products.
Industry analyst Mich-Chi Kuo has recently stated that Apple will release a full size iPad with 30-40% higher pixel density in 2014. We’re not entirely sure what the advantage would be with this, as the Retina name is meant to signify the highest resolution difference that a human eye can discern. Kuo has a good track record with Apple products, though, so it should certainly be taken seriously.
New iPad in 2014: Camera
We’re not exactly fans of people taking photographs with their iPads, especially at concerts - just stop it! There is definitely a large group of users though who love this feature. It’s curious then that Apple continues to let the devices lag behind in this area. While even the iPhone 4s has an 8-megapixel camera, the iPads are fitted with a 5-megapixel alternative. They also lose out on one of the coolest features on the iPhone 5s, slow-motion video. With the Mini now being widely adopted as the iPad of choice thanks to its easy portability, we think Apple may finally bring the camera up to spec in the next iteration.
Adding the retina screen to the Mini also brought with it a small increase in the weight and thickness of the chassis. As Apple are somewhat obsessed with these details we have no doubt that the 2014 Mini will be trimmed down to at least the size of the first model.
New iPad in 2014: A larger iPad
Whereas the Mini might be the best selling iPad, rumours have persisted that Apple will take the tablet range in an entirely different direction with the introduction of a much larger device. Korea’s ETNews has reported recently that Apple are testing a 12.9in iPad that it plans to release early in 2014, and the Wall Street Journal has also written about the potential larger tablet.
The reasons why Apple would release this kind of device are still unclear. Some rumours have said that it’s set to take on ultrabooks and small notebooks, but this makes very little sense. The MacBook Air was pretty much responsible for the invention of the Ultrabook category, and it remains not only the gold standard, but actually one of the best priced models available.
Education and business markets are the more likely targets to utilise a larger display, with the extra screen size allowing multiple users to view designs, spreadsheets, or lessons at the same time. Perhaps the most exciting rumour is that this new tablet would become the iPad Pro. This would be more of a productivity device that harnesses the simplicity of the traditional iPad, but opens up new possibilities due to a more capacious display.
If Apple allowed an increased amount of control via a bluetooth keyboard - such as switching between apps - then it could be a potential laptop replacement for those who find the normal iPad just too limiting when it comes to real work.
Of course, price would be a key factor, but if Apple was to mark the proposed device at around £799 for a 64GB model then we think they could cause a lot of trouble for PC manufacturers. Since the release of Windows 8 there has been a succession of tablet/laptop hybrids, none of which have been particularly remarkable. Even Microsoft itself has struggled to make an impact with its Surface line of productivity tablets. How ironic would it be if Apple was the company to finally merge touch-based devices and the workplace?
Of course the iPad Pro could be just another of the many different form factors Apple designs and tests before deciding not to go into full production. The larger touchscreen might not even be an iPad at all, but instead related to a new Macbook design. It must be said, though, that if Apple could somehow manage to blend parts of the increasingly simplified UI of OSX with the touch centric world of iOS, then the iPad Pro could legitimately become a new class of device to lead us into the post-PC era for real.