Is This a Peek at Apple’s Next Larger-Screen Device?

Source: NoWhereElse.fr

Source: NoWhereElse.fr

While 2014 will be remembered as the year that Apple increased the screen sizes of its iPhone models, 2015 might be remembered as the year of the oversized iPad. Rumors of a larger-screen iPad that has alternately been referred to as the iPad Pro or the iPad Air Plus have been circulating since at least 2013, when DigiTimes reported that Apple was working on a larger tablet aimed at North America’s education market. While the Taiwan-based DigiTimes has a bit of a mixed track record when it comes to accurate predictions about Apple’s future product plans, the rumors were later bolstered by several other publications last year.

In October 2014, the Wall Street Journal cited its own insider sources that claimed a 12.9-inch iPad would enter production this year after being delayed in 2014 by the overwhelming demand for the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. The following month, sources cited by Japanese tech blog Mac Otakara provided new details about the technical specifications of the device, such as the inclusion of additional speakers and an overall casing thickness between 6.9 and 7.1 millimeters. Mac Otakara’s sources also pegged the screen size at 12.2 inches, rather than 12.9 inches.

Now, a purported image of the long-rumored larger-screen iPad has been obtained by French tech site NoWhereElse.fr. According to NoWhereElse.fr’s Steve Hemmerstoffer, the photo was surreptitiously taken by a “particularly reliable” source at one of Foxconn’s factories. Foxconn is the biggest contract electronics assembler in the world and is known to be one of Apple’s primary suppliers.

According to the Foxconn source via NoWhereElse.fr, the larger-screen iPad was in the EVT (engineering verification testing) phase last summer before being halted for unspecified reasons. However, Apple recently approved the final prototypes made by a subcontractor and full-scale production of the device will soon get underway. The source was also able to confirm that the thickness of the device will be between 6.9 and 7.5 millimeters, similar to the range previously predicted by Mac Otakara.

The Foxconn employee also noted that the device includes “four integrated speakers.” This also appears to align with details seen in purported schematics for the device that were published by Japan’s Mac Fan magazine and highlighted by Mac Otakara last November. According to the schematics, the “iPad Air Plus” will feature a multi-directional speaker system that will enable stereo, or possibly even surround sound.

While the new image appears to bolster some of the previously circulated rumors about this device, it also leaves many other questions still unanswered. According to NoWhereElse.fr, the Foxconn employee was unable to confirm the exact dimensions of the device’s screen that has been rumored to be either 12.2 or 12.9 inches. Not surprising for a person involved only in the production of the device, the source was also unable to provide the name of the larger-screen iPad.

Although it’s unknown how Apple will market the larger-screen iPad, the company’s enterprise mobility partnership with IBM suggests that it might be targeted at business users. Apple may also create a new iteration of iOS that allows split-screen multitasking or other functions that take advantage of the device’s increased screen estate. While the device’s ultimate purpose and name are still unknown, it appears there is an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that a larger-screen iPad will indeed be making its debut this year.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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