The rumors of a new 10.8″ iPad Air with an iPad Pro-like edge-to-edge screen, USB-C and TouchID are really picking up steam now. They have been running hot and cold for several months now, with some reports indicating a release date near WWDC, to others calling for the device to be pushed to spring of next year.
Just in the last couple of days, the rumors have all started running in the same direction, giving me a little more confidence that this new iPad really is just a couple of weeks out.
The latest iPad Air leak is of a product or service manual that has detailed pictures and descriptions of the new device.
The manual was leaked by @duanrui on Twitter, who doesn’t have a long track record, but did have a convincing looking leak of a new braided USC-C to Lightning cable that will supposedly ship with the new iPhone 12 models. The rest of the recent reports out there, especially the EEC filings and the tweet from Jon Prosser yesterday saying that he thinks a new Air is about to drop, lend credibility to this leak.
One notable new detail in this manual is that the TouchID is on the Power Button. There have been rumors that Apple has investigated this before, but nothing ever came of it. Also, one of the prominent early rumors of this iPad Air projected that an underscreen TouchID sensor would be included. That was interesting because, even though other smartphone manufacturers have done this, it would be a first for Apple. However, it was at least somewhat believable at the time because this solution would be a cheaper biometric security solution than Face ID and its True Depth camera array.
However, I have to admit that TouchID included on the frame of the device does make sense and would likely be even easier and less expensive to implement. That’s the name of the game when we’re talking about a mid-tier product like the Air. By all reports, Apple is stepping it up in class in terms of design and some features, but some concessions have to be made to get the price well under the 11″ iPad Pro. This one seems very reasonable.
So, while this manual could be a fake, I’m inclined to think there’s something to this leak. I guess we’ll know when the new iPad Air hits Apple.com, hopefully in a little less than two weeks.
I know that the iPad Air was just re-branded and re-released last year, but it is already badly in need of an update. Let’s be honest. It was not a new device. It was a stripped down version of the previous gen 10.5″ iPad Pro built to fill the middle of the iPad lineup.
The Air held this ground well for several months, but it is far less of a value since the release of the latest iPad. With the iPad getting a screen almost the same size and Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support, the only thing that differentiates the Air now is a better processor and a nicer laminated screen.
While I’m not sure how much Apple will change the device, I do expect them to release a new version that adds enough features to set it apart from the iPad and iPad Mini again. I think the best route would be to add support for the Apple Pencil 2 and the Smart Keyboard Folio. This would give the Air a more attractive feature set with not only a better processor, but also access to the more premium iPad accessories. Another possible enhancement would be shifting this tablet to USB-C like the iPad Pro. However, Apple might prefer to reserve that feature for its Pros alone.
As it stands today, there isn’t much about the Air that will make buyers pay more for it over an iPad. A few improvements and spec additions can change all of that for buyers who need more power than the lower-end iPad provides.