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iPad Pro – everything you need to know

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iPad Pro news
Apple's biggest tablet yet...

Here’s a roundup of everything you need to know about the Apple iPad Pro (or iPad Air Plus) that we’re expecting to launch later this year, instead of the iPad Air 3.

While there still isn't any concrete confirmation to suggest that the iPad Pro is coming, evidence is growing that a monster Apple tablet is on the way.

Since the launch of the very first iPad in 2010, tablets have become a staple of our collective tech arsenals.

Apple capitalised on this success by launching the iPad Mini and iPad Air 2, giving its customers more choice in the tablet department.

But tablet growth has slumped since those early glory days, and now everyone’s wondering what’s next for Apple’s tablet line-up? Enter, the iPad Pro.

The 12.9in iPad Pro has been rumoured since way back in 2013, and could be the perfect refresher for a stagnant market.

Latest iPad Pro news – Force Touch Stylus & USB-C

That’s all we’ve heard in 2015, but iPad Pro leaks have been trickling out for years. Here’s what to expect.

iPad Pro – Rumours In Brief

When is the iPad Pro coming out? Mid-November

What’s new about the iPad Pro? 12.9in screen, Force Touch, iOS 9, Stylus

How much will the iPad Pro cost? Probably between £399-£749/$499-$899

Related: iOS 9: What's new?

iPad Pro Release Date – When is the iPad Pro coming out

Apple’s most recent opportunity to announce a productivity-focused 12.9in iPad Pro was at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in June.

Unfortunately, that event passed without any mention, so we’re now looking towards the next possible release date.

At the moment, we’d say that’s most likely to be this autumn – the company will want to have the iPad Pro on shelves in time for the Christmas shopping splurge.

That theory is lent credence first by the fact that Apple is probably going to launch the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus in September at its usual smartphone shindig. October is the month that Apple has launched its last two iPads, and this is probably when we’ll see the iPad Pro finally unveiled.

iPad Air 2 cases

The iPad Air 2 sequel skipped for an iPad Pro?

A late-autumn release is also supported by a recent report that suggests Apple is eyeing a mid-November launch for the iPad Pro. That’s a bit later than we’ve come to expect and also runs close to Christmas, but it all depends on manufacturing schedules.

We’d say that seems a little late for an Apple unveiling, so the most probable theory is that the company will announce the iPad Pro in October event, with retail set for late October or November.

That same report also suggested that Apple is being careful about the number of iPad Pro units it’s ordering.

Apple is rather cautious about placing related orders [for the iPad Pro] and the initial shipment volume is much lower than most market watchers’ expectations,” explains the article.

It’s worth noting that a different report points to a 2016 launch for the iPad Pro. That’s the same report from May that suggested we’ll see an improved “pressure”-sensitive touch-panel feature – Force Touch, anyone?

Interestingly, a new report suggests Apple is going to skip over the iPad Air 3 in 2015, with the thin-and-light slate pegged for a 2016 release.

Instead, Apple looks set to launch the iPad Mini 4 its 2015 tablet event, however an iPad Pro launch could still be on the table.

Related: iOS 9 vs Android M

In-Depth: iPad Pro Specs & Features Explained

iPad Pro Screen

While iPad Pro specs have varied considerably over a long history of rumours, one has stayed relatively consistent – the mooted 12.9in display.

That’s not surprising; as the iPad Pro name implies, this will be the biggest version of the iPad yet. There’s a reason it’s also been leaked as the iPad Air Plus, folks.

Moving to 12 inches-plus seems a sensible move for Apple, since there’s plenty of money to be made in the productivity/business tablet sector. The unreleased iPad Pro’s main rival, for instance, is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which touts a 12in display.

The push towards business is corroborated by a WSJ report that suggests Apple wants to target enterprise with its tablets to help boost sales.

iPad Pro 9

A Microsoft Surface tablet

However, this also puts it in close competition with the new, stripped-down MacBook.

We should note that there have been a couple of reports suggesting a 13.3in model is in the works. Apple may have upscaled its iPad Pro therefore, or perhaps hopes to launch a second, slightly more powerful model. We can’t say for sure right now.

Resolution

Unlike the screen size rumours, tipsters have been less consistent when it comes to the display resolution that Apple will use on its iPad Pro.

As is true with seemingly all new devices rumoured to launch in 2015, the iPad Pro has been tipped to have a 4K screen.

Well, sort of. A display supplier was reported as saying the iPad Pro will feature an almost-UHD resolution – that’s 3,840 x 2,160 or a little under.

That said, we’ve also heard rumours of 4,096 x 3,072 and 2,560 x 1,440 resolution panels for the iPad Pro. We simply can’t say for sure right now.

For contrast, the iPad Air 2 uses a 1,536 x 2,048 pixel display, which works out to a 264ppi pixel density.

SEE ALSO: Best Tablets 2015

iPad Pro 7

The iPad Air 2

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3, meanwhile, has a 2,160 x 1,440 pixel panel – that’s a 216ppi pixel density.

Then there’s Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S 10.5 with a 2,560 x 1,600 pixel display, equating to an impressive 288ppi pixel density.

With a productivity tablet, the iPad Pro will need to have a reasonably high-resolution panel to compete, particularly if it's aimed at graphic designers. We’d say a conservative expectation is something at least as high as the iPad Air 2’s 1,536 x 2,048 pixel display, but in all likelihood it’ll be a sharper screen.

Force Touch & Stylus

Ever since Apple unveiled Force Touch on the Apple Watch, the rumour mill has been ablaze with suggestions that the company will roll out the technology across its entire product line-up.

Force Touch is the pressure-sensitivity technology that already features in both the Apple Watch and the 12in MacBook (2015)’s trackpad.

iPad Pro 3

Force Touch on the Apple Watch

And as far as candidates go, the iPad Pro looks set to be the perfect device to utilise the technology.

That’s for several reasons, the most convincing of which is that the iPad Pro will be a productivity tablet, and has been rumoured to ship with a stylus.

The iPad Pro’s biggest rival, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, offers the Surface Pen, which has a formidable 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.

What’s interesting is that the iPad Pro could achieve something similar in a very different way. Rather than having the pressure sensitivity on the stylus it could have it via a Force Touch display, or even use a combination of both.

Lending credence to this theory is a leak back in May that suggested Apple had pushed back the release date of the iPad Pro to get improved “pressure”-sensitive displays ready in time.

While it didn’t explicitly cite Force Touch, it does sound incredibly similar to what the display technology already offers.

“It will be first applied on large-screen iPad,” reads the report. While that could reference a new version of the iPad Air, it’s more likely referring to the much-rumoured iPad Pro.

A more recent report on August 20 saw generally reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI Securities, suggest Apple will include a pressure-sensitive stylus enabled with Force Touch technology for the iPad Pro.

Kuo suggested Apple has already selected a supplier for the stylus, and said the peripheral would be necessary for the larger screen in order to ensure accuracy:

"We also believe a Force Touch-enabled stylus will enhance productivity as it would offer more precise operation than using only fingers. Technically, we believe the stylus can be made compatible with iPad models other than the 12.9-inch version, but it depends on the support of software."

SEE ALSO: Best Android Tablets 2015

iPad Pro Camera

While the iPad Pro has been leaked heavily, we’ve heard very little in the way of rumours about the iPad Pro camera.

At a guess, we’d say the tablet is likely to feature both a front-facing FaceTime camera and a rear-facing iSight camera.

There’s also talk of the iPhone 6S being capable of shooting 4K video. With rumours that the iPad Pro will feature a 4K screen, UHD video recording could very well be in store.

iPad Pro Processor and Specs

When it comes to the iPad Pro processor, there are only really three options from which Apple can choose.

The first is the A8X, a 64-bit system-on-a-chip (SoC) built by Apple and manufactured by semiconductor supplier TSMC.

This chip has, thus far, appeared only in the iPad Air 2. That’s because it’s a variant of the iPhone 6’s A8 chip specifically designed for tablets.

The A8X, for contrast, has 40 per cent better processing performance and 2.5 times the graphical performance of its predecessor, the A7 chip.

It’s currently Apple’s most powerful chip on the market, with three cores clocked at 1.5GHz. That makes it a perfect candidate for the iPad Pro.

However, Apple also has an A9 chip lined up for release this year, which is expected to debut on the iPhone 6S in September.

The A9 chip is being built by both Samsung and TSMC, and is currently rumoured to be in volume production.

SEE ALSO: Best iPad Games 2015

iPad Pro

Could it be the A9 chip?

It’s likely that if the A9 chip appears in the iPhone 6S, it would also feature on any tablet that launches alongside it – namely the iPad Pro.

Of course, the third option is that Apple develops a tablet variant of the A9 SoC – dubbed the Apple A9X chip – just like the iPad Air 2’s A8X.

There haven’t been any rumours suggesting this is the case, but it seems unlikely that a powerful productivity-focused iPad Pro would use exactly the same chip as a smartphone.

We’d wager Apple will use a more powerful version of the iPhone 6S chip for its iPad Pro.

Regarding memory, the rumours have generally pointed to 2GB of RAM. That’s in line with the iPad Air 2.

Apple is usually fairly lethargic when it comes to upgrading RAM on mobile devices, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the company stuck with 2GB for now.

That said, there has been a report suggesting that 4GB of RAM will be in store, due to the multi-tasking performance expected from a productivity tablet.

We’d say such a leap is unlikely when you look at Apple’s track record of unhurried RAM upgrades for previous mobile devices.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6S release date

iPad Pro Speakers

Although we haven’t heard much in the way of iPad Pro speaker leaks, there's one report that provides a small clue.

That’s a leak of a purported iPad Pro case, which will feature four cut-outs near the corners of the device.

iPad Pro

Claimed iPad Pro casing

That seems to suggest that the iPad Pro will feature four front-facing speakers, rather than the two on offer on the bottom edge of the iPad Air 2.

With Apple expected to increase the dimensions of its tablets for the iPad Pro, there’s no reason why more speakers couldn’t be crammed into the device’s body.

iPad Pro Software

At WWDC 2015, Apple finally unveiled its iOS 9 mobile operating system, which is set to ship as standard on the next round of Apple devices.

As such, it seems highly probable that the iPad Pro will be launching with iOS 9 front and centre – not the new OS X El Capitan as some think may be possible. That would make it a little too close to a MacBook.

There’s also a big clue from the iOS 9 announcement that suggests an iPad Pro could well be on the way.

That’s the fact that Apple has bundled in a smorgasbord of iPad-only multi-tasking features and productivity tools that make it easier to get stuff done.

That, of course, reeks of Apple preparing for an imminent iPad Pro launch, and could be our biggest sign yet that the 12.9in iPad is nearly here.

SEE ALSO: Apple Music: The Essential Guide

ios9 7

SplitView for the iPad in iOS 9

Improvements include SplitView apps, a new task switcher, a “slide-over”app feature, and picture-in-picture video windows.

But what else is on the way in iOS 9? A revamped Siri, improved search, and a dedicated News app, to name a few. You can read all of the new features in our iOS 9: What’s New? guide right here.

iPad Pro Design

When it comes to screen size, the general consensus is a 12.9in display. But that doesn’t answer the question of how big the iPad Pro will be.

Fortunately, a tip from prolific – and generally trustworthy – rumour-spinner OnLeaks claims the iPad Pro dimensions to be 223 x 306 x 7.2mm

iPad Pro

The OnLeaks dimensions leak

To put that in perspective, that’s thicker and more squat than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 at 247.3 x 117.3 x 6.6mm.

It’s much bigger than the iPad Air 2, but thicker also, with the latter measuring 240 x 169.5 x 6.1mm.

However, it’s thinner and slightly less wide than the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which measures 290 x 201 x 9.1mm.

The 4:3 aspect ratio also looks to be on the cards, meaning current iPad apps should work without black borders or weird stretching.

USB-C

There’s also the point of connectivity – the aforementioned OnLeaks report also pointed to a USB-C port being included.

It’s worth noting that the iPhone 6S, also rumoured for an autumn release, has been tipped to offer USB-C too.

But what is USB-C? It’s a burgeoning connection standard that’s looking to replace a number of ports on your mobile devices, including micro-USB.

It offers advantages over micro-USB in that it can charge devices quicker, can transfer data at a higher bandwidth, and features a reversible tip – just like Apple’s Lightning cables.

It’s already been featured on the new 12in MacBook (2015), so Apple isn’t against using it. In fact, long-time Apple blogger John Gruber has even claimed Apple actually invented USB-C.

If these rumours are true, then we may see Apple finally make the shift to USB-C with its autumn launches, iPad Pro included.

SEE ALSO: USB-C: Everything you need to know

USB C

USB-C port on the new MacBook

iPad Pro Price – How much will the iPad Pro cost?

While there haven’t been any leaks specifically relating to iPad Pro price, we’d say to expect an RRP of at least £399.

That’s because that entry-level iPad Air 2 currently costs £399 – that’s for a 9.7in tablet.

If the iPad Pro is 12.9in as the rumours suggest, we’d expect Apple to tack on a hefty premium.

We also need to take into consideration how much the iPad Pro’s rivals will cost. That means we need to look at productivity tablets.

At the forefront of that sector is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which starts at £639. The top-end model, meanwhile, costs an eye-watering £1,549.

In that price bracket, you’re deep in MacBook territory – the cheapest MacBook Air retails at £749.

macbook air

The MacBook Air, a major rival to the iPad Pro?

We'd say it’s unlikely that Apple will want to peddle the iPad Pro at MacBook prices, despite productivity tablets being competitor devices to notebooks.

That’s why our best guess for the iPad Pro price is anywhere north of £399, but probably less than £749. Anything more specific is impossible to guess at this point.

SEE ALSO: Apple MacBook (2015) vs Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Should I buy the iPad Pro or the iPad Air 2?

This is a tricky one. Since we don’t even know for sure whether the iPad Pro is on the cards, or what exactly it will be if it is, it's difficult to assess its worth.

The best way to answer this question is to decide what you really want from a tablet.

The iPad Air 2 is really positioned as a casual media device, more so than the smaller iPad Mini 3 – that’s not as impressive when it comes to video.

The iPad Pro, meanwhile, looks set to be more productivity-orientated, and will likely gel well with businesses and professionals.

As such, the more substantial spec sheet will likely make it more expensive, which means casual consumers might want to avoid a pricey iPad Pro.

Of course, there are alternatives, so why not take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 or the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, both of which have multi-tasking capabilities.

Check out our video review of the latter below:

Let us know what you’d like to see from the iPad Pro in the comments section.

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