After frequent rumors that Apple would release an iPad Air 3 before the end of the year, the latest murmurings on the subject suggest that the consumer electronics giant has caught us completely off-guard with its next generation tablet. Instead of updating its iPad range, it seems that Apple will instead release a successor to the iPad Pro aka iPad Pro 2.

9.7-Inch iPad Pro 2

Branding surprise

9to5Mac reports that the consumer electronics giant will differentiate the next iPad release from its predecessor by making it part of the iPad Pro range. The Apple-following publication cites sources close to the Apple supply chain which suggest that Apple will utilize the iPad Pro moniker that it first introduced last year. Whether this will have a significant impact on the construction and specifications of the tablet remains to be seen, what is clear is that Apple believes that the iPad Pro branding has had a successful short lifespan thus far.

So it seems that the iPad Pro will retail in 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch variations in the foreseeable future, and that Apple will not release an iPad Air 3 in the immediate future. Whether the corporation could consider updating the iPad range before the end of the year is open to speculation, and it will also be interesting to see how Apple perceives the future of the iPad Air branding. Clearly there is still a place for a mid-range tablet in the marketplace, but Apple could now choose to redefine how it sees the iPad Air’s role in its product range, and it is not inconceivable that it could phase the iPad Air out completely.

This latter possibility must be taken seriously, as this new iPad Pro 2 was developed as a successor to the existing iPad Air. Yet when the new 9.7-inch iPad debuts at the March 15 Apple event, it will be as an iPad Pro 2, not the iPad Air 3 has almost ubiquitously expected and predicted.

9.7-Inch iPad Pro 2 – Specs migrated

Early reports suggest that the smaller iPad Pro 2 will feature nearly identical functions and specs as the larger model in the series, ensuring that the A9X processor and RAM upgrades from the 12.9-inch model remain intact. The display technology involved will also probably support the Apple Pencil that was introduced with the larger iPad Pro last year.

It has also been suggested that the new smaller iPad Pro model will include a Smart Connector, while it is also likely that Apple will prepare a smaller version of the Smart Keyboard cover attachment for the new iPad Pro 2. Reports have suggested that this is indeed being developed internally at the moment, and that it will be available by the time of the March launch.

As Apple continues to place an increasing emphasis on the music-playing capabilities of its device range, it is also expected that the smaller iPad Pro 2 model will include the quad stereo speakers which debuted last year. It is also likely that Apple will retain the same color options from the initial iPad Pro, but pricing is likely to be significantly reduced.

Release date

As Apple looks to move quickly with this new device, it seems increasingly inevitable that it will indeed see the light of day at the upcoming March 15 events. Other Apple products are also expected to be unveiled at this massive consumer electronics event, with the four-inch iPhone 5SE particularly expected. Reports have died down regarding the revelation of the Apple Watch 2 at this event, and it is now believed that the smartwatch could be introduced before the end of the year, possibly alongside the premium iPhone 7.

Size

Aside from the 9.7-inch screen size which has been widely reported in the media, it is also suggested that Apple will imbue the iPad Pro 2 with similar dimensions to the existing iPad Air 2. This will mean that the 6.15mm thick and 169.6mm wide measurements from the iPad Air 2 could be retained, although knowing Apple it wouldn’t be surprising if the consumer electronics giant attempts to slim down the device somewhat.

However, MacRumors believes the iPad Pro 2 could actually be a bit larger; suggesting 0.05mm thicker and 0.1mm wider as possible measurements. It is suggested that this will enable the new tablet to embrace a cutout for a Smart Connector similar to the one already included in the iPad Pro. This device enables the tablet to connect to accessories such as the Smart Keyboard, and it seems certain that the iPad Pro 2 will also adopt this particular feature.

Apple Pencil

Previous reports on the iPad Air 3 were uncertain whether Apple would introduce the Apple Pencil to the range, but the rebranding of this 9.7-inch tablet would suggest that the Apple Pencil will indeed be retained.

LED flash

Another interesting aspect of the iPad Pro 2, which dates back from industry insiders belief that it would be named the iPad Air 3, is the suggestion that the tablet will include a rear-LED flash. This would be an absolute first for the iPad range, but it seems that despite tablets not being the obvious photographic devices, that Apple is intending to increase the camera capabilities of the iPad Pro 2.

Other specs

Rumors have already indicated that the iPad Pro 2 could include a 4K resolution display, bringing the tablet in line with the recent 21.5-inch iMac release. 4GB of RAM has been linked with the device, but it is not certain that the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive technology of the iPhone will be migrated into the iPad Pro 2.

Price

It is early days to predict the price of this unit, but it is largely expected that the iPad Pro 2 could retail at around $600. Apple will probably retain the policy of charging extra money for additional accessories, which means that users will need to shell out more for the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard.

Above all else, the iPad Pro 2 will play a major role in enabling Apple to simplify its iPad lineup. As the corporation continues to slow down the production of the older iPad Mini and iPad Air models, the iPad Pro 2 will play a role in refreshing the hugely successful and iconic iPad range.


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