New Case Supports Rumors of Imminent 9.7-Inch iPad Pro With Smart Connector

Less than two weeks before Apple’s rumored March 21 media event, where the company is expected to announce a new 9.7-inch iPad, more aftermarket cases for the iPad Air 2 successor have appeared on Chinese commerce website Alibaba.

The case below, like others before it, has openings for a Smart Connector, four speakers, and a LED camera flash, lending credence to rumors claiming the tablet once tentatively referred to as “iPad Air 3” will instead be a miniaturized iPad Pro.

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A dummy insert provides a closer look at how the ports could be aligned on the new iPad, including a power button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and two speakers on the top; Lightning connector and two speakers on the bottom; volume buttons and a microphone on the right side; and a Smart Connector on the left side.

Multiple reports have claimed the new 9.7-inch iPad will have a faster A9X processor, Smart Connector, four speakers, and a LED flash, while a sketchier rumor from DigiTimes said the tablet could have a 4K display and up to 4GB of RAM. The tablet is expected to have both Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support.

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Apple is expected to issue press invites soon for its March 21 event, where a new 4-inch “iPhone SE” and minor Apple Watch updates are also anticipated. There is also a slim possibility that refreshed Macs could be announced at the event, as the time is right for updates, but there have been no rumors confirming that is the case.

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Until apps improve more, maybe Apple doesn’t need a new iPad each year.

Back in October, Apple debuted the iPad Air 2. I’ve been using a loaner model from the company for the past several weeks and I’ll share more on it in a future post.

I can already say, however, that I won’t be upgrading from the iPad Air I bought last year. That’s not because the Air 2 isn’t better; it is. But I think we’re at a point where Apple’s tablet hardware has outpaced the software by more than ever. And I’m not sure Apple needs to keep refreshing the iPad line on a yearly basis for that and a few other reasons.

CUPERTINO, CA - OCTOBER 16:  An attendee inspects new iPad Air 2 during an Apple special event on October 16, 2014 in Cupertino, California.  Apple unveiled the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 tablets and the iMac with 5K retina display.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Yes, everything is a little faster on the new tablet. You’d expect that, of course.

But for the tasks that I do on the iPad, that speed increase is negligible on the new slate. For content consumption, such as watching video, there’s no real difference at all. Games still play more than fast enough. Essentially, I’m not using applications that can or need to take full advantage of the extra horsepower in the iPad Air 2 with the Apple A8x chip and 2 GB of memory. I suspect most others who own last year’s iPad Air fall into the same category; of course there will always be exceptions.

It would be a different story if more complex and powerful tablet apps were the norm here. And I’m sure some apps fitting that category do exist. But out of the millions of iPad apps available today, they would make up a small percentage. The iPad Air 2 seems a bit future-proof, while the Air 2 seems more than good enough (and $100 less expensive) as a result.

Put another way: Is there a “killer app” that really needs the iPad Air 2 hardware to make a huge impact? I can’t think of one.

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi speaks during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference at the Moscone West center on June 2, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Note that I’m not trying to put down app developers here. There are tens of thousands of programmers working hard to make great iOS apps. Some will be happy to see the new Metal graphics tool available in iOS 8 for sure. And I have no doubt that more visually and computationally complex apps will be afforded a better experience on the iPad Air 2. I just haven’t seen a software-based reason to compel many people to upgrade their hardware. It may take a year or more before app capabilities catch up to the hardware in the latest iPad.

Perhaps this is why the iPad mini 3 wasn’t anything more than last year’s iPad mini with the addition of a Touch ID sensor. I’m starting to think that Apple is transitioning from a yearly refresh cycle for its iPad line to perhaps a two-year cycle. Yes, there technically was a new iPad mini model introduced in September — it got all of 30 seconds on stage in a 1.5 hour event — but let’s face it: It’s barely different from the prior year’s model.

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I think next fall we’ll see the same happen but in reverse. The iPad mini will get the larger upgrade while the iPad Air line doesn’t change much. This would essentially put both on a 24 month refresh cycle, with one of the two tablets getting big changes each year. I’d also expect the rumored iPad Pro, a 12.2-inch iPad, to figure in here next year as well. Perhaps that gets a spring launch, but we’ll see.

Hardware advancing faster than the pace of software is only part of my thought process though. We now have nearly four years of iPad sales data to glimpse the customer upgrade cycle. And guess what: People aren’t recycling tablets as fast as they do with phones. The growth rate for tablet sales has slowed, partially for this reason.

iPad sales may have peaked to some degree because for most, they’re accessory devices. Phones are still more of a necessity for people; hence the larger overall market for them.

We’ll have to wait a while to see if my thought process is right, of course. Logically though, unless there is a sudden explosion in iPad apps that simply need the latest and greatest hardware Apple has to offer, there’s less of a reason for consumers to upgrade their iPads each year.

Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard for iPad Air 2.

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Given that software keyboards are still buggy as hell, I’ve really had the chance to put the Logitech Ultrathin to use full time, and the conclusion in my iPad Ultrathin review still holds true for me.

The battery has never died on me, and I only remember having charged it once in the last eight weeks. The rubber feet are still sticking nicely to the bottom of the case, which is a good sign of overall durability. There’s really no downside to using this particular case with my Air 2, even though it’s technically designed for the original iPad Air. Most of all, the keys are still a delight to use. They’re springy, responsive, and very comfortable in continued use.

The only thing I still want changed at this point would be a sort of auto-wake switch in the form of a pressure sensor or a magnet. Credit really goes to Belkin for inclusion of that feature in many of their keyboard cases, and it has me hooked. Undocking the iPad from the keyboard and having Bluetooth automatically disconnect just feels like magic. It’s a great piece of smart design that makes the keyboard work for me, instead of forcing me to conform to the keyboard. If Logitech could add that feature to the next version of the Ultrathin, I think this would be a real 10/10 design.

Logitech Ultrathin Magnetic Clip-On Keyboard for iPad Air 2.

Leaked shell gives us our first good look at the iPad Air 2.

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First debuted in November last year, the iPad Air is coming up on a year old. In Apple terms, that means it’s due for an upgrade, but we still don’t know what the iPad Air 2 will be. Will it be a spec bump, or will it be a redesign?

According to new leaks from China purporting to be the rear shell for the iPad Air 2, the correct answer is: “A little bit of column A, a little but of column B.”

Call it a mini-update, if you will. The new shell seemingly confirms a few things.

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1) The second-gen iPad Air will inherit the Touch ID technology of the iPhone 5s.

2) The back microphone of the iPad Air will no longer be place at the center of the uper shell, but move to a position alongside the photo sensor.

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3) The volume buttons are now recessed.

4) The double row speaker grill of the first-gen iPad Air will be replaced by a single row of speaker perforations.

Otherwise, the iPad Air 2 looks like it will look nearly identicaly to its predecessor, which is not much of a surprise: at a minimum, Apple generally only redesigns the physical look of its devices substantially every two years. The earliest we can expect a radical iPad Air redesign is 2015.

Surprise! This year’s iPads all likely to have Touch ID.

Image courtesy of iFixit.

Image courtesy of iFixit.

When the iPhone 5s was announced as featuring Touch ID, you could have been forgiven for assuming that the iPad Air and iPad mini would naturally follow suit. Like original thinking from Samsung, however, it never quite materialized — and to this date Apple’s flagship iPhone is the only Apple device to incorporate the technology.

That may be set to change with the arrival of the next generation iPad Air and iPad mini, though.

Reports suggest that TSMC (short for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) provided its first batch of fingerprint sensors to Apple in mid-April: and they’re designed for the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. The leak supposedly comes from sources within Sazhou Crystal Semiconductor Technology Co., which is one of the subcontractors involved with some of the “back-end” for the project. Another mentioned by the report is Xintec.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard reports that the next generation iPad models will include Touch ID. Photos which showed up in November showed a (potentially spurious) third-generation iPad mini prototype with Touch ID rattling around Asia. More recently a fragment of code from iOS 7.1 suggested the same thing could be true.

While this will remain speculation until we have something more concrete, it’s still exciting news for anyone thinking of picking up a next-generation iPad when they launch.

Source: Cult of Mac.

Leaked iPad Air 2 Panel Shows Apple Switching To Integrated LCDs.

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iPhone 6 component leaks have begun erupting up like wildfires the past week, setting the web ablaze with promises of a bigger iPhone, but according to some new leaked photos Apple is also tweaking the design of the iPad Air to be thinner than ever.

Pictures of an alleged next-generation iPad Air LCD straight from a source in China were published by One More Thing this morning that indicate Apple will reduce the iPad Air’s thickness by moving to an integrated LCD panel.

Apple currently uses separate LCD and panel parts on the iPad Air and iPad mini but the leaked parts suggest will make the LCD part of the front panel glass.

The current iPad Air’s LCD module measures 1.5mm thick, but by laminating the LCD into the glass – similar to the process used on MacBook Pro displays – Apple could shave a few extra tenths of a millimeter off the iPad Air’s 7.5mm thin frame.

Another possibility is that Apple could just keep the iPad Air at the same thickness and use the extra room vacated by the integrated LCD to pack in a larger battery or new components. We’ll know a little more once some next-gen iPad Air rear shells leak, which at this pace, won’t be long.

MagBak Is The World’s Thinnest Wall Mount For Your iPad.

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MagBak made a name for itself last year as the maker of the world’s thinnest iPad mount. Consisting of a wall holder (called the MagStick) and a strong, yet thin magnetic grip which adheres to the back of the tablet, the project was a huge success on Kickstarter.

Now the team behind MagBak have returned with their latest product iteration: a MagBak designed for the iPad Air and iPad mini. With around three days to go, the Kickstarter campaign has already raised close to twice its $15,000 funding goal.

Why would you want a MagBak? The answer is simple: as versatile as they are, it’s not always possible to display your iPad in a way that lets you get the most out of it. With the MagBak, it’s easy to attach your iPad Air or iPad mini to the kitchen cupboard and immediately begin chopping vegetables, or to affix it to your office wall for easy reference while using your iMac.

The wall-mounting kit is “damage free,” and it’s impressively strong, so that you (hopefully) won’t hear the heartbreaking sound of your iPad falling to its doom because it wasn’t secured properly.

Although different pricing options are available, the Kickstarter campaign “Basic Bundle” will set you back $34 — including the grip and one MagStic

Source: Cult of Mac.