Apple Readies New 2017 iPad Pro, Low-Cost iPad — But Release Date? – Forbes

12.9-inch iPad Pro with Apple Smart Keyboard. (Credit: Apple)

12.9-inch iPad Pro with Apple Smart Keyboard. (Credit: Apple)

A new iPad Pro is expected to find a happy medium between the standard-sized iPad Pro and the largest model.

10.5 inches will be the new sweet spot: expect to see a new iPad Pro design with a 10.5-inch display, Rhoda Alexander, Director Tablets and PCs, at IHS Markit, told me in a phone interview. Alexander said it should show up in the coming weeks or months (more on timing at bottom).

That display size would fall between the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro and its larger 12.9-inch sibling. The beauty of the new 10.5-inch iPad* will be that the physical size of the device will stay the same as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro because of a smaller bezel, according to Alexander.

“You end up with a unit that’s the same physical size as the 9.7 inch,” Alexander said. That works well for Apple because it means accessories like the Smart Keyboard can be used with 10.5-inch iPad Pro, she explained.

“I think this is a good move because the 9.7 [inch] display is too small and the chassis size on the 12.9 [inch] is too big,” said Raymond Soneira, a display expert and president of DisplayMate Technologies, in an email.

The display resolution will also increase, according to Alexander, to 2,024-by-1,668 from the current 2,048-by-1,536. “That maintains the same PPI,” she said, referring to pixels per inch.

The aspect ratio (the ratio of the width to the height of the screen) will also likely change, according to Soneira.

“If the new iPad shrinks the bezel and keeps the outside dimensions the same, then the display aspect ratio will increase from the current 1.33 to as high as 1.50,” Soneira said. “The screen area would then increase by up to 31 percent. However, with no bezel at all the screen diagonal would then be 11.2 inches for the same outside dimensions as the current iPad 9.7 (with rounded corners),” he said.

New low-cost iPad also due

A new “value” 9.7-inch iPad may go as low as $299, according to Alexander. That would come in under the current iPad Air 2 that starts at $399. Alexander said it was not clear what generation of processors the low-cost model would use.

Pricing on the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro is less clear. The current 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $599. Apple could lower the price of the current model by pushing the 9.7-inch down to $499 and then “sliding” the 10.5-inch iPad into the $599 slot, she said.

The iPad Mini 4 (starting at $399) may not get an update, according to Alexander.

New iPad Pro as a laptop replacement

“I’d say that there is a clear gap in Apple’s portfolio if it wishes to further position the iPad Pro as a notebook replacement,” Tim Coulling, an analyst at market researcher Canalys, told me in an email.

Market growth of tablets overall has slowed, however. Shipments have been declining for nine consecutive quarters and unit shipments  in 2016 were down 15.6% compared to 2015, market researcher IDC said in February.

But it’s important to remember that there’s a “still a huge installed base of iPads out there. A lot of them being older iPads going back as far as the iPad 2. So, we’re talking about people having iPads that are three, four, five years old,” Alexander said, adding that a new screen size would be incentive for many to upgrade.

Alexander believes the new iPad Pro could arrive in the March-April time frame. A report on Thursday from Digitimes, however, claimed that the the 10.5- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros may not come until May or June.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

*Note that reports of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro began way back in the summer of last year when an analyst at KGI Securities, Ming Chi Kuo, mentioned a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro in a research note.

iPad Pro: 9.7- and 12.9-inch models. (Credit: Apple)

iPad Pro: 9.7- and 12.9-inch models. (Credit: Apple)

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