It’s the way the technology game goes: no sooner has the latest and greatest gadget appeared on the scene than we’ve started thinking about what comes next.
Trying to predict the plans of the big names in the business has become an artform in itself, and such predictions always attract a huge level of interest from consumers and industry watchers.
With that in mind we’re turning our attention to the iPad Pro – as yet unconfirmed by Apple, but strongly tipped to be on the way in the near future. Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.
What is the iPad Pro?
The iPad Pro, known in some circles as the iPad Plus, is essentially a larger iPad. Most rumours agree on the same 12.9″ screen size (diagonally from corner to corner) which is quite an upgrade on the 9.7″ display currently attached to the iPad Air 2. With both existing iPads now differentiated by their “mini” and “Air” labels, the stage could be set for Apple to add a third string to its iPad bow.
There are reasons why it might happen and reasons why it might not, but these rumours have been running for a long time – as far back as the end of 2013. If Apple does finally unveil a super-sized iPad at some point this year then it’ll have been a long time coming.
For many months it was believed that the tablet would see the light of day atsome point during 2015 – iPads are usually announced around October – but a recent report from Bloomberg suggests production won’t even start until September, which would probably mean a launch at some point during 2016.
What do we think we know about it?
We’re already mentioned the 12.9-inch screen but even this isn’t set in stone: other sources think a 12.2-inch display size is more likely. Most reports agree that the iPad Pro is going to be very, very thin, and come with two additional speakers and one extra microphone for improved audio capabilities – better sounds recordings out in the field, perhaps?
There are some whispers within the industry that Apple wants to set up the iPad Pro as an Apple Pay terminal: not to make payments but to receive them (from the iPhone and the Apple Watch). In fact the whole device seems to be aimed at business users rather than consumers, of which more later.
Industry insiders say the iPad Pro will have the same Force Touch technology built into the Apple Watch (that reacts to the pressure of your presses) and there’s also talk of a Bluetooth stylus being included as well. There have been some rumours that the big tablet will run a hybrid OS X-iOS operating system, but that seems far-fetched.
Why it’s likely to happen
The iPad has been the damp squib in the last few Apple earnings reports: consumers aren’t upgrading their tablets as fast as they’re upgrading their smartphones, and with the iPhone getting bigger, it’s not altogether clear exactly what benefits a tablet can offer any more (if indeed it was ever clear in the first place).
A larger iPad would not only give it some breathing room away from the iPhone but it would also give Apple the opportunity to grow in an as-yet-untapped market: business and enterprise. Last year Apple CEO Tim Cook inked a deal with IBM to improve his company’s chances of getting iPhones and iPads into the workplace.
At WWDC this year we saw Apple showing off some new iOS 9 features unique to the iPad, like the Slide Over option that lets you pull in a separate sidebar app, or the Split View feature where you can run two apps side by side. It’s obvious that Apple is thinking long and hard about how it can make the iPad a compelling device again.
Why it’s not likely to happen
Despite everything we’ve written above, the iPad Pro is by no means guaranteed to show its glass face later this year. Just because Apple is thinking about a product doesn’t mean it’s actually going to launch (see also: the Apple television set) and with two sizes of iPad already on the market the company may not want to rock the boat too much.
The iPad Pro could tempt people who wouldn’t have otherwise bought an iPad, but then again it could take sales away from the iPad mini and the iPad Air. It’s also going to be very expensive – the iPad Air 2 already goes up to £659 for the most expensive model – and unless Apple is certain that it’s going to shift in significant numbers it won’t take the plunge.
Then there’s the new ultra-light and ultra-thin MacBook, which is almost an iPad with a keyboard – except with the added power and flexibility of Mac OS X. Apple may decide to direct its attentions towards this device rather than bringing out a larger iPad that does more or less the same job.