Apple’s iPad became thinner and more powerful than ever last year with the iPad Air. This year, the iconic tablet is expected to go Pro. The purported iPad Pro is the next evolution of Apple’s long-running slate, one that could serve as a laptop replacement with a larger screen, beefier processor and attachable keyboard. From dual operating systems to an iPhone 5s-style Touch ID button, here are some of the more noteworthy rumors surrounding the iPad Pro.
Massive 12.9-inch UHD Display: If the iPad is going to replace your MacBook, it needs to get bigger. That’s exactly what might happen this year, as several rumors are pointing to a 12.9-inch display, which would be even larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro’s 12.2-inch screen.
This bigger screen could be Apple’s sharpest ever for a tablet, as a report from TechRadar suggests that Apple is prepping both 2K and 4K displays for the Pro. The Air already packs a 2048 x 1536 display, but TechRadar is expecting something closer to 2560 x 1600, with a rumored 4K model that could pack close to 4096 x 3072 pixels.
Smart Cover with Keyboard and Stylus: Apple’s Smart Cover could be getting a lot smarter. According to a recent patent filing, Apple could eventually release a Smart Cover with a full keyboard, much like the Type Cover on Microsoft’s Surface. Apple’s patent suggests a keyboard that could operate independently from the cover, allowing you to attach the keyboard to your iPad in a variety of configurations or use the accessory wirelessly. This keyboard may also support gesture controls on a small panel, which would eliminate the need for a traditional touchpad.
Apple could also bundle the Pro with a proprietary stylus, if it wants to keep up with competitors like the Note Pro. One USPTO filing reported by Patently Apple points to a patent related to stylus orientation detection, which would allow a touchscreen to react differently based on various types of stylus strokes.
Touch ID Home Button and Eye Tracking: The iPhone’s Touch ID allows users to unlock their device and authorize purchases with a tap of their finger, though we’d like to see Apple add the ability to replace website passwords with a touch. In addition to supporting your fingerprints, the iPad Pro could utilize your eyeballs. The tablet will tout eye-tracking technology according to International Business Times, though there aren’t any specifics on how the function could work.
Powered by A8 Processor: An iPad Pro with a 4K display would require more processing power than ever, which leads many to believe Apple is crafting a follow-up to its 64-bit A7 processor for its next tablet. A report from Apple Insider suggests that Apple is ready to enter the manufacturing phase for the A8 chip, which could ship this fall in time for the iPad Pro’s rumored release window.
iOS 8, OS X or Both? With iOS 8 expected to launch this fall, it’s safe to assume that the iPad Pro will run the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS. This would allow iPad Pro users to access purported iOS 8 features like Healthbook and the mobile version of Text Edit, the latter of which would lend itself well to a productivity-minded tablet.
However, Apple could go even further towards making the iPad Pro a laptop replacement by infusing the tablet with OS X, which runs on all of the company’s desktops and laptops. A concept video from Set Solution demonstrates how OS X could work on an iPad, and there have even been rumblings that OS X and iOS could eventually become a single operating system.
Release Date: The iPad Air hit shelves in November 2013, so it’s possible the iPad Pro could arrive at a similar time frame this year. China’s Pad News suggests that the tablet could see an October 2014 release date, though International Business Times points out that Apple may wait for a winter 2014 or even spring 2015 launch date.