Update: The latest leak shows what could be a case confirming a dual-port, dual-speaker design for the iPad Pro.
With Apple's thinner, lighter iPad Air (and now iPad Air 2) and Retina display-equipped iPad mini 3 out in the open, what's left for Apple to do? Rumour has it that Apple is working on a 12-inch Retina MacBook Air alongside another device, which may turn out to be a supersized version of one of the company's existing products.
That's right: it's believed that the Mac maker is working on an even larger iPad, commonly referred to as the "iPad Pro" - yet more recently we've also seen references to an "iPad Air Plus." We've combed through all of the rumors and scuttlebutt to bring you everything we've heard so far about this alleged iPad Pro.
Apple did something interesting with the launch of its fifth generation iPad (aside from a total hardware revamp): Gave it a new name. The iPad Air alluded to the Cupertino's company adopting the naming convention of its laptop lines, the MacBook Air and Pro series, for its premiere range of tablets.
Logic would dictate, then, that if Apple were to release an even more sizable iPad, it would be with a professional bent and named the iPad Pro. So, we're now looking at 2015 for a newer, bigger iPad entering a product category that has seen little success thus far. Will Apple be the one to legitimize the "professional's tablet?"
At the moment most people are referring to the upcoming iPad as the iPad Pro. However, recent leaks refer to it as the iPad Air Plus. This might be down to an incorrect leak or translation, but it does follow Apple's naming convention with the iPhone 6 Plus.
What is it? A brand new, larger iPad
When will it release? 2015
What will it cost? Likely somewhere between the iPad Air and MacBook Air
iPad Pro release date
Is the iPad Pro already on sale? According to German retailer 24mobile.de, which listed the iPad Pro in an online line-up of upcoming retail devices, it's coming soon. In a screenshot that was captured by French blog Nowhereelse, the iPad Pro is listed alongside the unanounced iPhone 6s and iPhone 6c. BGR, which picked up on the listing, reckons that it was done "either as a publicity stunt or to attract attention".
The iPad Pro isn't on sale right now but will race out of the traps in the second half of the year, if a report by Bloomberg is to be believed. According to sources in the know, the 12.9-inch tablet will enter production in September, which would make a release before the end of 2015 unlikely.
That's in contrast to a report by Japanese news website Macotakara, which reckons Apple is eyeing a 2015 release date for the larger iPad, which it claims will arrive in the form of a 12.2-inch tablet that will come with a detachable keyboard to square up against business-friendly devices like Microsoft's Surface Pro 3.
The website reckons that the device will also feature a set of speakers and microphones on the top and bottom edges, which could function in a similar fashion to how the iPad 2 handles stereo sound. Details are sketchy, but the report also points to the possibility of an iSight camera, Touch ID sensor and Lightning connector.
According to HDblog, cited by IBtimes AU, the iPad Pro will have not one, but four speakers. Going by 3D cut-outs, the outer shell apparently places two speakers at the top of the tablet, while the other two can be found at the tail-end. That report also claims that the iPad Pro will measure 12.9 inches and will feature the microphone on the right-hand side of the device next to the primary camera. Mooted specs include an Apple A8X/A9 CPU backed up by 2GB of RAM.
So why isn't it here already? Another rumour claims the iPhone 6 was to blame for the iPad Pro delay. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple's suppliers struggled to keep up with demand for its latest smartphone, which had a knock-on effect by pushing the iPad Pro back to 2015.
According to supply chain sources who spoke to Digitimes, Apple has a 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the works that will arrive in early 2015. If true, it could be worth the wait, as that report claims that the slate will run a hybrid OS X and iOS-integrated operating system. If that happens, reports from Taiwan that point to the iPad Pro as housing a more powerful version of the A8 chipset found in the iPhone 6 start to make a bit more sense.
One of the most credible updates – reports of a larger iPad release - peg it as right on track for a 2015 release date, Bloomberg reports, citing "people with knowledge of the matter," that an iPad Pro will enter production early next year. (The whole gamut of rumors and reports follow.)
A 2015 release date is further backed up by Korea Times' sources at a "local first-tier display supplier" who say a single version will launch "sometime early next year" with a nearly UHD resolution.
China's United Daily News point to another iPad Pro manufacturing partner: Quanta Computer. DigiTimes's sources (hit-and-miss with rumors) recently backed up this report, claiming that Apple expected the manufacturer to have either a 12.9 or 13.3-inch model ready. Now, the Taiwanese outlet's sources say that Apple is leaning toward the smaller of the two.
As if to mix things up even more, International Business Times reports that Apple is aiming for winter or even a spring 2015 release, according to its Foxconn sources.
According to a report published by KGI Securities, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn't expect that Apple will be ready to launch the pro-grade tablet until 2015.
A recent leak published by Macotakara again hints at a release date at sometime between April and June 2015. This new leak suggests that Apple will also launch an improved iPad mini 4 alongside the iPad Pro.
Apple teams up with IBM
In order to further its lead in the enterprise space through BYOD, Apple partnered up with IBM to create new business-focused apps for iOS. This includes exclusive apps created by Apple and IBM in tandem ranging from data and analytics to device management and security.
While this move is currently just to increase the amount of existing iOS devices in the office, is there a better way to grease the wheels for a pro-centric iOS device? Not without spending a ton more cash, that's for sure.
Apple tries to quash the rumors
On the Macintosh computer's 30th birthday, Apple executives responded to rumors that the company was looking to merge Mac OS X and iOS into a single operating system. The retort? No chance in hell.
"We don't waste time thinking, 'But it should be one [interface].' How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?' What a waste of energy that would be," Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller told Macworld.
Craig Federighi, Apple's SVP of Software Engineering, echoed Schiller's statement with some rather sensible logic. Regardless, neither does this mean that an even larger iPad isn't in the works nor that iOS could become more professional-friendly to support such a device. Basically, if Apple were to release an iPad Pro, it wouldn't pull a Microsoft.
The competition already heats up
Samsung beat Apple to the punch in unveiling its 12.2-inch Galaxy Note Pro and Galaxy Tab Pro tablets during CES 2014. With that, DigiTimes expects Apple "to release its competitor by the end of the third quarter at the earliest."
The question is: would an iPad Pro help fend off the Galaxy Note Pro and other rumoured monster 13-inch tablets? Analyst house KGI reckons the answer is no. As spotted by 9to5Mac, KGI noted that while it's "confident that the expected 12.9-inch iPad model can create an improved user experience," it doesn't expect the device to "contribute meaningfully to shipments momentum anytime soon."
iPad Pro design
It's doubtful that Apple would do much to change the shape of the iPad Pro in its leap to 12.9 inches, the supposed size most rumors point to. The iPad Air's design was applauded by critics (us included), and early sales projections say that consumers are into it. The latest rumour, by French publication Nowhereelse, shows what purports to be an iPad Pro case - and as expected the case shows that it's far bigger than the iPad Air 2.
It's expected that Apple will use oxide TFT displays for its next-generation iPads, which would allow the company to make tablets that draw drastically less power, according to a CultofMac report. CultofMac cites an ETNews report that quotes an unnamed LG Display official, who has apparently gone on record saying that LG has ramped up production of its TFT sheets because Apple will need it for its upcoming iPad device.
Unreleased cases obtained by Sonny DIckson confirm early rumours that the iPad Pro may come with dual speakers and two ports. The images show that the iPad Pro could have a similar design to the iPad Air, positioining stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the tablet in a similar manner to Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note devices.
Coming out of HDBlog.it, another leak shows a device that could be the iPad Pro, depicting what could be either a secondary Lightning port or a USB-C port along the top edge of the device.
Another leak, which comes courtesy of French site NWE via Chinese supplier, shows a case that would appear to hold a 12-inch device. It positions the volume, standby and camera buttons in the same place as the iPad Air 2, meaning the iPad Pro could bear a stronger resemblance to what has gone before, rather than being outed with a radically new design.
However, an Evercore Partners analyst suspects the size to be a smaller 12 inches to align itself closer to the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, AppleInsider reports.
An image supposedly showing an iPad Pro dummy unit has made its way into the wild and it certainly looks closer to 13 inches than 12.
It should go without saying that the iPad Pro will inevitably be heavier than the iPad Air. To even meet the iPad Air's feathery 453.6 g at 12.9 inches would be a miracle of modern engineering. That said, not much should stop Apple from meeting the Air's super svelte profile at 7.5 mm thin.
The concept designers at SET Solution seem to disagree. In the video above, SET Solution dreams of a device with an even narrower bezel with sharper edges, a camera with the dual LED flash found on the iPhone 5s, Touch ID and a textured aluminum backing.
The Macotakara website has published rumours suggesting that the iPad Pro will be as thin as the iPhone 6. If true this would mean the iPad Pro would be between 6.9mm and 7.1mm (the thickness of the iPhone 6 Plus).
A later leak published by the same website appeared to show schematics of the iPad Pro which claimed the dimensions of the tablet will be 305.31mm x 220.8mm x 7mm. The 7mm thickness would indeed make the iPad Pro thinner than the iPhone 6 Plus, though not quite as thin as the iPad Air 2, which is just 6.1mm thick.