Rumor has it, Apple is working on two brand new iPads for the fall including a third-generation iPad mini (iPad mini 3) and a brand new version of the iPad Air that is currently dubbed iPad Air 2. While nothing is set in stone, we want to take an early look at the rumors and breakdown how they two iPads, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, might compare to one another.
Last year, Apple made some significant changes to its iPad lineup. In October, the company took the stage and announced two brand new iPad models, the 9.7-inch iPad Air and the iPad mini with Retina Display, the company’s second-generation 7.9-inch tablet. Both iPads went on sale in November and replaced the models from the year before.
When these iPads arrived on shelves at the tail end of last year, they did so with powerful features on board, features that separated them from their predecessors.
In the case of the iPad Air, it was its design. Instead of a bulky aluminum design like the iPad 4, the iPad Air emerged with a sleek, slim and portable design that was, and is, far more compact than previous versions of the 9.7-inch slate.
The iPad mini with Retina utilizes a brand new 7.9-inch Retina Display that trumps the display found on the original version of the iPad mini. This new screen provides higher resolution for activities like gaming. Of course, it also comes with some incremental upgrades as well including an improved A7 64-bit processor with a co-processor for increased performance. iOS 7 was built with a 64-bit chip in mind.
Thanks to these features, iOS 7 and sporadic deals, these iPads remain two of the top options on the market as we push through the halfway mark of 2014. And while they’re still solid options, it looks like Apple is preparing to unleash two brand new models to replace them.
For weeks, we’ve seen a series iPad Air 2 rumors and iPad mini 3 rumors leak to the surface ahead of Apple’s busy fall. Neither device is confirmed though Apple is well known for releasing new models each and every year so there is a very good chance that we could see new iPads arrive this fall alongside the iPhone 6 and iWatch.
Here, we want to breakdown those rumors and take a look at how these two devices compare to one another right now and offer some advice to those that are trying to decide between waiting and buying a new iPad right now.
If you’ve been holding out for a redesign on either the iPad Air or the iPad mini with Retina Display, you’re going to want to temper your expectations going forward. At this point, all indications are that Apple will be keeping last year’s designs on this years iPads with a couple of minor tweaks.
We’ve already seen several alleged iPad Air 2 photos leak including a gallery of iPad Air 2 vs iPad Air photos on ascii.jp. All of these alleged photos showcase a design that is similar to the original iPad Air’s. The iPad Air 2 mock-up in the latest photos was designed by a case maker to test the fit of cases ahead of a release. It is designed based on rumors and leaks, so things could change. However, it does add up with what we’ve seen and heard previously about the iPad Air 2’s design.
There are some slight differences though. The photos show a slight difference in thickness. The description is that the new iPad Air is about a millimeter thinner. A penny is 1.5mm thick, which may help you visualize the difference. Although 1 mm sounds small, on a device that is already 7.5mm thick, that is a big difference.
On the right side of the iPad Air 2 mockup there are volume buttons that are longer, thinner and recessed into the device. There is also no physical switch on the side of the iPad Air 2. The switch on the iPad locks orientation or mutes the iPad and it could be that Apple removes this switch and forces users to rely on Control Center inside iOS.
The mockup also shows what appears to be Touch ID, the fingerprint technology that’s currently tucked away inside the iPhone 5s’ fingerprint sensor. A number of rumors back up TouchID support in the iPad Air 2. With enhanced iOS 8 Touch ID support, including third-party apps, this is a feature we expect to see on all of Apple’s mobile products this year.
Ming-Chi Kuo, the man who accurately predicted many of the iPhone 5s’ features ahead of time, believes the iPad mini 3 will retain the same design as its predecessor.
In late June, we saw an alleged photo of the iPad mini 3 leak out and while its hard to pinpoint details, the frame looks a whole lot like last year’s model and the rumored iPad Air 2 design only smaller. The iPad mini 3, which is not as heavily rumored as the iPad Air 2, is also thought to have Touch ID on board.
Kuo believes that neither device will see substantial changes to the display. He believes that the iPad mini 3 will keep the same 7.9-inch Retina Display as last year’s device and that the iPad Air 2 will keep a similar 9.7-inch display. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that the Retina Display is still on par with the best displays on the market.
While things could certainly change between now and the fall, it’s looking like those hoping for some significant changes to the iPad’s screen resolution will need to wait another year at least as Apple works to source parts and keep costs down. Large high-resolution displays are not easy to come by and they are extremely expensive.
Camera & Processor
Both of these devices are said to be getting upgrades to the camera and to the processor. Rumors suggest that the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2 will come with a revamped A8 processor with an M8 co-processor. The processor is said to be incrementally changed from the A7 and focus on battery life and enhanced performance over last year’s chip.
Processing power is key for devices like the iPad which are used for gaming, watching content and multitasking. Split-screen multitasking is said to be coming to the iPad with iOS 8. If Apple does release the feature as expected, it’s almost certainly going to be coming to the company’s new iPads. New iOS devices always run the full version of new iOS software.
Well respected KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and ETNews report that the iPad Air 2 specs will feature an 8MP camera. The specifics of the camera are unknown but it would be surprising if the sensor was on par with the iPhone 6’s camera. Instead, we would expect it to be on par with the 8MP sensor found inside the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5.
Kuo also thinks that the iPad mini 3 camera will be 8MP though his report comes without any specifics leaving the camera’s features up in the air for the time being.
Without a doubt, these two iPads will come with iOS 8, the new software Apple plans to release this fall. iOS 8 is currently in Apple’s beta program though it will be coming to all iOS 7 powered devices excluding the iPhone 4. Yes, even the iPad 2 will be getting iOS 8.
It’s not clear which features will be going where, updates for older devices tend to be a little watered down, but again, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 will almost certainly get the entire iOS 8 feature set including split-screen multitasking.
Kuo believes that Apple will drop the price of the current iPad mini with Retina Display when the new iPad mini 3 arrives. It could be that last year’s model slots in at Apple’s $299 price point to take on Google’s armada of Android tablets while the iPad mini 3 starts at the current $399 starting price point. It’s not clear right now.
The iPad Air 2’s price has not shown up in rumors just yet though given that Apple has stuck with its $499 price point for years, it’s likely that we’ll see the iPad Air 2 arrive for the same price that we’ve seen again, again and again.
At the moment, all signs point to release dates this fall alongside a number of new products. The timing makes sense given that iOS 8 won’t be out until sometime this fall, possibly in September alongside a 4.7-inch iPhone 6.
Apple’s rumored to have launch events in September and October with October rumored to be its iWatch launch event. So it’s possible that we could see the both devices replace the current models in the same October to November window.
Kuo thinks that the iPad Air 2 could be out earlier than last year’s model though it’s not clear what that means in terms of timing. Apple typically uses November to release its new iPads but we could perhaps see a shift to September or October, at least for the iPad Air.
Here are the key details that you can take from this comparison:
- Both are likely to have similar designs.
- Touch ID is all but confirmed.
- Screen sizes and resolution appear to be similar to last year’s iPad Air and iPad mini.
- Look for upgraded cameras and processors.
- Release dates appear set for the fall.
So, here’s the rub. If you don’t need a power processor, Touch ID, or a powerful camera on the iPad, you’re probably alright buying the current iPad Air and iPad mini models.
However, because we’re likely only weeks away from launch, be sure to snag an iPad at a discounted price. Paying full price right now, just weeks ahead of the fall, would not be a wise decision.