There’s no reason to wait until this fall to start thinking about Apple’s sixth full-size tablet — some of the details have already come to light.
An Update Not a Redesign
The device is generally referred to as the iPad Air 2 because it’s expected to be an improved version of the current model, not a significant redesign. This is in keeping with Apple‘s general practice, in which design changes come in every-other model. The iPad 4 has the same formfactor as the iPad 3, then the iPad Air was a redesign, which means the iPad Air 2 will likely not have a different casing size, screen size, or a change in resolution.
This is good news for those who want to be able to use cases and other accessories created for the iPad Air with Apple’s next model, but not for those hoping for some radical changes, like a larger, pressure-sensitive display.
Faster Apple A8 Processor
A highlight of the first-generation iPad Air is its 64-bit processor, which gives the device the power to run desktop-level software. Apple frequently updates the chips it uses in tablets and phones, and the company is widely expected to continue this practice with the follow-up model.
Analysts with JP Morgan have predicted that this upcoming processor will be at least as powerful as the ones used in some of Apple’s notebooks. The analysts said, “In 2014, we believe that the next A-series chip (probably named the A8) is likely to surpass the computing power of current [Intel] i5 based MacBook Airs. In prior generations Apple had been generally reducing die size when moving to the next smaller process node. This would have made sense from a battery life and device size point of view but had the effect of limiting the size of processing capability increase. With the A7 this trend changed as Apple not only slightly increased die size but also moved from the 32nm node down to the 28nm node.”
Reports coming out of Asia indicate that the upcoming A8 might be made with a 20nm process. TSMC, one of the companies supposedly manufacturing Apple’s next chip, says that its 20nm process technology can offer 30% higher speed, 1.9 times the density, or 25% less power than its 28nm technology.
There has been no word so far on the amount of RAM to be in this device, but many would welcome an increase to 2GB, up from the current 1GB.
Images supposedly of a pre-production screen for Apple’s next full-size tablet show its glass covering chemically bonded to the LCD display. This change would allow the screen to be marginally thinner than the one in the iPad Air, while also offering slightly wider viewing angles. Apple has been using this same technique on its phones for years.
This could bring about a slight decrease in the thickness of the iPad Air 2, but another option is for Apple to increase the size of the battery without affecting the overall size of the device. Apple may judge the latter a better option than a formfactor change that would be be barely noticeable to users, as an increase in the size of the battery could bring about an overall improvement to performance. The current A7 processor could run at a higher clock speed than it does now, but Apple downclocks it to improve the battery life. The larger the battery in the iPad Air 2, the faster its processor can run while keeping the same battery life.
Touch ID Fingerprint Scanner
After Apple added a fingerprint scanner to the iPhone 5s last year, many were surprised that the iPad Air didn’t get the same biometric security system. Since then, analysts and rumormongers alike united to predict that this will change with Apple’s next full-size tablet.
Touch ID allows users to swipe their fingertip over the Home button in place of a passcode to unlock their device or authorize purchases. The idea is to encourage more users to lock their phone or tablet, as many find it burdensome to enter a passcode every time they want use their device.
Apple gave a preview of the next version of its mobile operating system in June. Highlights of iOS 8 are going to include iCloud Drive, which will gave users easy access to all the files stored on the iPad, as well as Continuity, which will enable iPads and iPhones to work much more closely together.
The iPad Air 2 will undoubtedly debut running iOS 8.
Coming This Fall
While the device isn’t right around the corner, it’s probably not too far away. Apple, of course, has said nothing about when the successor to its flagship model will be on the market, but at least one industry analyst has pegged the release for September. That said, the product might debut up to two months after that.
This electronics giant has managed to hold the price of its full-size tablets the same since 2010, and so far there has been nothing to indicate that this is going to change. This would mean that a WiFi-only Apple iPad Air 2 with 16GB of internal capacity could cost $500.
Whenever the release comes, the iPad Air 2 has the potential to offer better performance than its predecessor, while holding onto the current model’s stellar battery life. It could also be more secure.