New images that purport to show a prototype rear casing for Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) rumored large-format iPad have surfaced on Weibo, China’s popular microblogging website and a perennial source of Apple supply chain leaks. As noted by Steve Hemmerstoffer from the French tech website Nowhereelse.fr, the casing seen in the image above appears to be an industrial prototype that is only intended to serve as a reference for molding shells and other cases, rather than a finished product. Although it is impossible to determine exact measurements for the casing depicted in the image, it appears to be close to the 12.9-inch tablet size that Apple has previously been rumored to be developing.
Rumors of a so-called “iPad Pro” began circulating last year when Korea’s ETNews reported that Apple was planning on diversifying its iPad product line with a large-screen tablet geared toward the education market. Several months later, The Wall Street Journal cited its own supply chain sources that reported that Apple was testing “screen designs for a new tablet measuring slightly less than 13 inches.” NPD DisplaySearch analyst David Hsieh even predicted that the 12.9-inch iPad would feature a high-resolution display of 2732 by 2048 pixels.
Apple’s rumored plans for a large-screen iPad were supposedly being made in order to stay ahead of Samsung (SSNLF.PK), a competitor that has a tendency to offer its mobile products in as many different sizes as possible. Indeed, Samsung introduced its own oversized tablet with the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 in January, and the device became publicly available in February.