iPad Air 2 Release Date & Specs: Mass Production Underway For Late-Q3, Early-Q4 Release

News Richard Goodwin 10:47, 19 Aug 2014

Apple will refresh its iPad Air in 2014. Just don't go expecting an iPad Pro anytime soon...

Apple will apparently release an updated iPad Air in 2014. The rebooted version of the 2013’s hugely popular 9.7in slate is tipped to feature the company’s upcoming A8 system on chip and TouchID, amongst other things. The only question now is when we’ll see the next-generation tablet launch, and whether or not it will be joined by a rebooted version of the iPad Mini.

Apple’s iPad business isn’t as healthy as it once was and, despite lucrative deals with IBM, the company’s year-on-year growth in the sector is declining under pressure from cheaper Android slates.

In light of this downturn analysts' reckon Apple might not update its iPad Mini slate in 2014, and instead focus its energies on the iPad Air and 2015’s rumoured iPad Pro. 

"More resources will be allocated to these two products, which will affect the progress of the development of new iPad mini. All told, we think chances of the debut of a new iPad mini in 2014 are slim. In addition, the 12.9” iPad is unlikely to be offered in 2014. For these reasons, we predict the only new iPad product in 2H14 will be the upgraded iPad Air,” wrote KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo in a note to investors.

According to reports from Korea, suppliers are gearing up to begin production of the next-generation iPad Air - dubbed iPad Air 2 - later this month. The iPad Air was a big departure from what came before it, heralding a new design, lighter overall weight and improved internal components. For this reason – and because it’s Apple we’re talking about here – the iPad Air 2 will almost certainly look exactly the same as its predecessor, with the only changes being the introduction of new components: things like TouchID and the A8 processor, for instance. 

IPAD AIR 2 RELEASE DATE 

9to5Mac spotted references to two unknown iPad devices inside iOS 7.1’s code (although, they could just as easily be references to models destined for markets outside the US and UK). Still, the reference is interesting and has lead some to speculate that, contrary to Kuo’s claims, Apple will release both an updated iPad Air and iPad Mini with retina in 2014. 

According to sources speaking to Bloomberg, production of the iPad Air 2 is now underway and Apple is looking to bring the slate to market in late-Q3, early-Q4. “Mass production of a full-sized iPad with a 9.7-inch screen is already under way, with an unveiling projected for the end of this quarter or early next. A new version of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is also entering production and will probably be available by the end of the year.”

IPAD AIR 2 DESIGN

Ready for your first images of the iPad Air 2? A poster on the Ortud forum has shared these images of the dummy unit claiming it’s not a working model but all the dimensions, design, ports and buttons will be in the exact same place. The poster also called the slate the iPad 6 as well suggesting it’s currently undecided what name the tablet will come under. But that’s something to worry about closer the time of the release.

For now we get to have a guided tour around the design which hasn’t changed drastically since the iPad Air from 2013. First things first, check out that home key on the bottom bezel, look familiar? That’s because it looks like Touch ID will be making the jump from the iPhone 5s to the iPad Air 2.

We’ve seen lots of rumours of Touch ID coming to the iPad but it’s looking pretty certain now with that iconic design. All the buttons are in their normal place with the rocker on the side but the lock key on this model is missing. It’s likely that’s just down to the fact it’s only a dummy unit though.

Another big change is a small microphone next to the rear camera. Apart from that it doesn’t seem the design has changed that drastically. And why should it? The iPad Air was by far and away one of the most compelling tablet devices we’ve tested to date. It’s lightweight, thin, and handles beautifully, making it an ideal slate for use around the home or while travelling and/or commuting.

The big changes – and you will notice them – will be on the inside; a new CPU, more RAM and the implementation of TouchID, as well as Apple’s new iOS 8 software will make up the lion’s share of USPs for 2014’s iPad.

Here’s some more leaked shots of the iPad Air 2, courtesy of Japanese website ASCII Plus

IPAD AIR 2 SPECS

Another leak coming from a South Korean news outlet suggests the iPad Air 2 will come with the previously predicted A8 processor and the same 8MP iSight camera. Those very same sources suggesting the display would stay the same as the current iPad Air mode with a 2048 x 1536 resolution.

The news comes from sources picked up by ETNews which also brought some new details to the table in terms of the front camera. There’s currently a 1.2MP snapper on the front of the iPad Air but these new reports suggest it will get an upgrade to 1.5MP on the sequel. It’s not the biggest boost in camera but every little helps.

Like the iPad Air and iPhone 5s’ chipset, it will also use 64-bit architecture. Beyond this how Apple will improve on last year’s silicon is unknown, but power efficiency and thermals are always on the agenda for new-generation chipsets. Below is a detailed breakdown of what we can expect from the A8 later this year via AnandTech’s Anand Lai Shimpi – a man well known in the industry as one of the foremost authorities on all things silicon and mobile. 

“By now we know to expect an "A8" branded Apple SoC in the iPhone 6 and iPad Air successors later this year. There's little benefit in going substantially wider than Cyclone, but there's still a ton of room to improve performance. One obvious example would be through frequency scaling. Cyclone is clocked very conservatively (1.3GHz in the 5s/iPad mini with Retina Display and 1.4GHz in the iPad Air), assuming Apple moves to a 20nm process later this year it should be possible to get some performance by increasing clock speed scaling without a power penalty. I suspect Apple has more tricks up its sleeve than that however. Swift and Cyclone were two tocks in a row by Intel's definition, a third in 3 years would be unusual but not impossible (Intel sort of committed to doing the same with Saltwell/Silvermont/Airmont in 2012 - 2014).”

We’ll be updating this piece from time to time as newer, fresher information becomes available. As it stands it’s looking like the next-gen iPads will feature TouchID and Apple’s upcoming A8 processor, which is set to debut inside the iPhone 6 later this year.

How would you improve the iPad? TouchID, particularly if the service is expanded in iOS 8, is an obvious choice. We’d also like to see Apple include more RAM (both in the iPhone and the iPad) – something that’d no doubt improve performance and put to bed those pesky app-crashes that are now all too common aboard the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.

IPAD AIR 2 DISPLAY

Multiple reports have pointed to Apple adopting IGZO display technology inside its next-gen iPad models. IGZO display panels are said to offer better viewing angles, improved colour reproduction, as well as being more power efficient than existing LCD setups. This is no longer said to be happening, however, and the reason – as always – is production issues.

 

According to Korea’s ETNews, “the reason for this is because Sharp is currently facing low yield issues which will not be dealt with in a timely manner”. For this reason, the report adds, Apple will wait until at least 2015 to debut iPads with IGZO panels, meaning we’re likely to see them implemented inside the iPad Air 3. “In addition,” reports G For Games, “Samsung and LG are also rumoured to plan on investing a lot of resources in the production of IGZO so, next year, yield should not be a concern, assuming that Apple and the aforementioned Korean tech giants will manage to come to an agreement”.

According to Bloomberg, the iPad Air 2 is now in production ahead of a late-Q3, early-Q4 release.

The news site’s sources did not want to be named and did not go into detail, save for the revelation that Apple will introduce a new anti-reflection coating to the iPad Air 2’s 9.7in display. According to the sources, “Mass production of a full-sized iPad with a 9.7-inch screen is already under way, with an unveiling projected for the end of this quarter or early next. A new version of the 7.9-inch iPad mini is also entering production and will probably be available by the end of the year.”

Beyond this the iPad Air 2 will likely look very similar to 2013’s still-excellent iPad Air – just ever so slightly slimmer and lighter. Inside you’ll find Apple’s 64-bit A8 chipset, potentially 2GB of RAM and support for TouchID inside the Home button – 2014, ICYMI, is the year Apple gets serious about mobile payments.

Apple’s Q4 is shaping up to be one of the biggest on record. Ahead of the iPhone 6’s release, Apple’s suppliers in China are gearing up for shipments in excess of +80 million units before the close of the year. Throw in the addition of a new iPad and some clever marketing, and Apple could be looking at one of the BIGGEST quarters in its three-decade long history. 

IPAD AIR 2 TOUCHID

This was always on the cards, even more so since Apple confirmed TouchID would be open to developers inside iOS 8, but this is the first time we’ve seen apparently physical proof of the implementation.

The online transactions market is HUGE. In 2013 it was said to be worth $1.25 trillion, and by 2017 that figure will have increased by an additional $1.1 trillion, according to eMarketer.

Apple has 800 million credit cards on file and is well placed to tap into this potential. In comparison, PayPal – the current Big Dog of the space – has around 148 million. Or, as Motley Fool points out: “Apple doesn't have to be profitable with its payments solution. Much like iTunes music downloads, which are hardly profitable for Apple, these services attract more users to its brand. If Apple breaks even operationally with payments, it could still attract more users to the iPhone and iPad over the competition. That means it can be very price-competitive with PayPal.”

Both new iPad models will run iOS 8 and feature Apple’s brand new A8 chipset. Less is known about the next-generation iPads launch and release dates, although a release during Q4 – in the run up to Christmas – certainly makes a lot of sense.

Click here for a more detailed break down of the iPhone 6, including all the leaked images so far, accounts of its alleged hardware and what to expect in terms of features and connectivity. 

Got suggestions? Stick 'em in the comments below.  

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