Last update: 21/10/2013
With the year drawing to an end, some of you may be falsely mislead into thinking that there's nothing left to look forward to as the holidays approach. This is one of thew few times that you're lucky to be wrong, for if nothing else – we still have the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2 on our radar.
Apple hasn't been doing so well on the rumors front lately, having their iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s leaked in great detail long before the actual unveiling. The same didn't necessarily apply to the new iPads in the beginning – we had a pretty good idea of what the tablets will look like, but much of the rest remained shrouded in mystery. With October 22nd and Apple's event fast approaching, however, things have changed and we now have a bunch of extra information that we didn't just a few short weeks back. Given Apple's adherence to tradition, history says that the release date for the iPad 5 and the iPad mini 2 will take place on the second Friday after their introduction, or November 1st, meaning that in about 10 days, we'll start seeing people lining up at Apple's brick & mortar stores.
Here's what we do know
For starters, we do have a pretty good (and quite extensive) idea of what the 9.7-inch iPad 5 and the 7.9-inch iPad mini 2 tablet will end up looking like, which is, arguably, one of the more important aspects of the entire package.
The iPad 5 is set to come bearing quite a resemblance to the iPad mini as far as design goes. This probably falls into the “well, duh!” category, but we also have a very good reason to believe that the new iPad will be thinner (7.35mm down from the iPad 4's 9.4mm), lighter, with slimmer bezels, and just generally more compact. That's a very welcome change, and we're sure we're talking for most of you – the iPad 4 sure could use some dieting. Since the iPad's more petite sibling has obviously won the design war inside Apple, it goes without saying that the iPad mini 2 will remain virtually unchanged visually.
But the similarities between the design of the iPad 5 and the iPad mini don't end with an almost identical-looking outer shell. Instead, they go deeper – the leaks so far indicate that the new Apple slate will also feature a set of stereo speakers on the bottom, and a slight redesign of the volume keys, which are now separated, in tune with the design of the iPad mini and the (newer) iPhones. Speaking of the new iPhones, we've also had our first indication that a golden iPad 5 may make an appearance, though this one may not necessarily take after the iPhone 5s' champagne looks.
What's even more, in spite of a number of conflicting reports, we've also finally gotten a tad more robust confirmation that Apple's proprietary Touch ID fingerprint sensor will indeed make an appearance with the iPad 5. With a little luck, the images of the iPad mini 2's Touch ID sensor will also pan out, though it has been suggested several times that it may, after all, be left out.
But, wait! There's more: KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (who's fairly good with Apple predictions) also claims that the new iPads will feature an upgraded, 8-megapixel camera with a larger aperture, up from the largely outdated 5-megapixel f/2.4 snapper that's been on iPads big and small since the iPad 3. Whether we're talking the unit on the iPhone 5s, or the one found on the iPhone 5/5c remains to be seen though. While still on the topic of analysts, it's probably also worth mentioning that due to the dimension changes that the iPad 5 will introduce, a new Smart Cover is guaranteed to be in the works, and as much has been hinted by Cantor Fitzgerald's Brian J. White. Analysts do dig Apple big time, meaning that you're not getting off that easily: according to RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani, the iPad mini 2 will outsell the larger iPad 5 by a 2 to 1 margin. Daryanani, however, is concerned about the possibility that Apple may not be able to meet the demand for the compact slate, a topic which we've been hearing a lot about these past few months.
Here's what we don't really know for sure
Not everything is as clear cut as the design of the new iPads, however, meaning that we're on our own with the very best guesttimates we can muster and piece together.
Moving past the new iPad's speculated release date, the next most popular question involves the price of the iPad 5 and iPad mini 2. This seems a tad easier to predict, as Apple has been pretty uniform when it comes to pricing their iPads. If history proves to be a good reference point, then we should expect to see the iPad 5 come with a price tag starting at $499 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi only version, going all the way up to $929 for the 128GB Wi-Fi + LTE model. Similarly, we expect the price of the iPad mini 2 to come in at $329 for the cheapest 16GB, Wi-Fi only version, rising all the way up to $659 for the 64GB LTE version.
Another rumor, courtesy of KGI Securities Ming-Chi Kuo, claims that Apple will be using the same “GF Ditto” technology for the iPad 5, which has helped make the iPad mini 23% thinner than its 9.7-inch sibling in the past.
On the iPad mini 2 front things are similarly obfuscated, since reports have been conflicting each other for several months now. In case you're a little foggy on the specifics, the current 7.9-inch iPad mini has to make do with 1024x768 pixels, or 162 ppi -- a pixel density that has grown kind of obsolete even in the non-premium sector. You probably see where this is going -- this notion has sprung a bunch of rumors that the new iPad mini 2 will debut with a higher resolution (2048x1536) display. Unfortunately, things haven't been clear cut to say the least, as a number of reports have claimed (and continue to) that due to low yields, Apple's supply chain has been unable to produce enough screens that meet both Apple's standard and demand, meaning that the iPad mini 2 may come without a new display after all. The consensus at the office, however, seems to be that a new display is pretty much guaranteed, seeing as even smaller-sized rival slates have pretty much leapfrogged Apple's iPad mini in this particular domain. As a side note, do keep in mind that a new, higher-resolution screen may add extra bulk and weight to the iPad mini 2, much the same way it did with the iPad 3 when it made the transition to a sharper display.
Processor and other features
As far as the processor on the iPad 5 goes, we're obviously expecting Apple to continue the evolution of its in-house designed family of SoCs – the A5X in the iPad 3 and the A6X in the iPad 4. Could we see an A7X in the iPad 5? Certainly sounds plausible, and if that's the case, you can probably rest assured that it will be Apple's South Korean archrival that will be manufacturing it.
As we mentioned in the beginning -- Apple has managed to keep the lid on the new iPads, at least as far as internals go. This is forcing us to to play the guesstimate game when it comes to the iPad mini 2's chispet, too. The 1GHz dual-core Apple A5 chipset that you'll find on the iPad mini, like the display, is similarly overdue for an upgrade. This leads us to believe that Apple may opt to use the A6/A6X SoC that power the iPhone 5/iPad 4 respectively, or even the Apple A7 that has torpedoed the iPhone 5s to the top of the charts. Given Apple's track record, we're leaning towards the former -- Apple loves its margins and these are kept healthy if the tech behemoth can re-purpose hardware that it already has access to.