Apple’s iPad Plans: Larger Screens, Touch ID, and More

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Although it has scarcely been a month since Apple unveiled its latest iPhone models, aficionados of iOS-based technology already have another date to look forward to after the company recently sent out invitations for a media event to be held on October 16. As usual, Apple’s invitation was short on details and only offered a tagline that said, “It’s been way too long.”

However, most industry watchers believe that this month’s event will be focused on Apple’s line of iPads, like the October media events in previous years. This belief was affirmed by Re/code’s sources, the same sources that correctly predicted Apple’s next event would be held on October 16. Besides new iPad models, Re/code’s sources also predicted that new iMac models with high-resolution Retina displays would be unveiled alongside the public release of the new OS X Yosemite.

Although most industry watchers are confident that Apple will be unveiling new iPad models on October 16, no one knows for sure what aspects of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display will be upgraded. There is also speculation that a new larger-screen iPad model may make an appearance at the event. Of course, when it comes to Apple’s media events, there is never a shortage of rumors and speculation about what the company may have up its sleeve. Here are some of the biggest rumors about Apple’s iPad plans that are currently making the rounds.

Touch ID

Apple first introduced its Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S last year. Besides providing users with a quick and easy method to secure their iPhones, the Touch ID technology also gave iPhone owners another way to confirm purchases in the iTunes store. With the upcoming launch of Apple Pay — a mobile payments system that uses Touch ID to authorize a transaction — Apple’s fingerprint scanning technology will soon become an even more important aspect of the company’s overall ecosystem. Not surprisingly, many industry watchers believe that the company’s next-generation iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display will include this increasingly important piece of Apple mobile tech.

Source: Apple

Rumors about the implementation of the Touch ID in the iPad Air 2 were bolstered earlier this week after leaked images of a dummy unit were posted by Vietnamese blog Tinhte.vn, as reported by 9to5Mac. The purported images of a non-working iPad Air 2 model show a Touch ID button instead of the classic home button seen on last year’s model. The inclusion of Touch ID in the next-generation iPad Air raises the possibility that it may also include the Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that enables Apple Pay.

On the other hand, there is less certainty about the implementation of Touch ID in Apple’s smaller 7.9-inch iPad model. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a reputation as an accurate predictor of Apple’s product plans, said the next-generation iPad mini with Retina display “may” be updated with Touch ID this year, according to a research note seen by Apple Insider.

Gold color option

Besides possibly getting new technology like the Touch ID fingerprint sensors, the new iPad models may also be getting a new color option. Sources cited by Bloomberg predicted that the iPad Air 2 would be offered in a gold color option, along with the silver and space gray colors already available for the current model. Bloomberg’s report aligned with earlier claims made by Kuo, who also seemed confident about the debut of a gold iPad Air 2. On the other hand, neither Bloomberg’s sources nor Kuo mentioned the 7.9-inch iPad model being offered in a gold color.

Source: Apple

Retina HD displays

While the next-generation iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display models are expected to maintain the current models’ screen sizes, both devices may be outfitted with higher-resolution displays. Apple researcher Hamza Sood recently uncovered frameworks in the iOS 8.1 beta that suggested the new iPad models may feature the so-called “Retina HD” displays that Apple introduced with the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, reports Apple Insider.  The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus display has 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution for 401 pixels per inch (ppi), a pixel density that is considerably higher than the 2048-by-1536 resolution at 264 ppi and the 2048-by-1536 resolution at 326 ppi currently found on the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, respectively.

While the hidden graphical assets uncovered by Sood appear to be the only evidence for Retina HD displays in the new iPad models, it should be noted that an upgrade in the iPads’ screen resolution would make sense, since Apple’s devices already lag the display resolutions found on similarly sized competitors’ tablets. For example, Samsung’s 10.5-inch Galaxy Tab S features a 2560-by-1600 display at 288 ppi.

Larger iPad model

Apple has long been rumored to be working on a new 12.9-inch iPad model, and some observers believe that the California-based company may finally unveil the device on October 16, including Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. However, even if Apple announces the large-screen iPad, it is likely that the device won’t be available until sometime next year. According to insider sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, Apple had to delay its original plan to begin manufacturing the larger iPad in December, which means that the 12.9-inch iPad wouldn’t hit store shelves until 2015.

The sources blamed the large iPad production delay on the “overwhelming demand” for the new iPhone models. “The output of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus remains unsatisfactory,” reports The Wall Street Journal. “It would be challenging for display makers to split resources and spend a few months to ramp up production for a new larger screen iPad now.”

Other sources have suggested that the 12.9-inch iPad would include a faster processor to go along with its larger screen size. According to Taiwan’s TechNews, via GforGames, the 12.9-inch iPad will come equipped with a “beefed-up” version of the A8 processor called the A8X that will be manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Other expected iPad upgrades

Besides the possibility of a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, a gold color casing option, and a higher-resolution display, the next-generation iPad models are also expected to feature more typical upgrades. Both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini with Retina display 2 models are expected to come equipped with the latest A8 processor.

Like the new iPhone models, the new iPad models will likely feature an even thinner design. According to the Vietnamese blogger at Tinhte.vn, the iPad Air 2 model will only be 7 millimeters thick, making it half a millimeter thinner than last year’s model.  Finally, the new iPad models may also feature a new anti-reflection coating that will make the devices easier to read, according to sources cited by Bloomberg.

While the new iPad models will headline the event, Apple is also expected to publicly launch the new OS X Yosemite desktop operating system and unveil new iMac models with Retina display screens. In addition, Munster believes there is a “long shot” chance that Apple will announce an updated Apple TV box. Apple watchers will find out which rumors are true and which rumors are merely wishful thinking when the company kicks off its media event at the Town Hall Auditorium on the company’s campus in Cupertino on October 16 at 10 a.m. Pacific.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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