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What Apple's iPad 5 Needs To Remain The Best Selling 9.7-Inch Tablet

We’re just a week away from when Apple is likely to hold their annual iPad event. At that time, we’ll most likely see a completely redesigned iPad 5, and an iPad mini 2 with some necessary improvements. This week, we’re offering our thoughts on what both of these devices should include. On Monday, we offered our take on the iPad mini. Today, our focus shifts to the fifth-generation iPad.

Where things stand

Apple launched the fourth iPad in October 2012. This model arrived just seven months after the iPad 3, and had the same design Apple first unveiled with the iPad 2. The iPad 5 is being described as a larger iPad mini, since its design is expected to be similar to Apple’s smaller tablet. This means thinner side bezels and less weight, when compared to the previous model. Beyond the design change, we hope to see some additional changes to the popular 9.7-inch tablet:

More RAM, faster processor

The current iPad uses 1GB of onboard RAM. We expect this number to jump to at least 2GB on the iPad 5. Interestingly enough, Apple never announces the amount of RAM that are in iOS devices. It takes a teardown to confirm this information. The next iPad will almost certainly ship with a variant of Apple’s new 64-bit A7 processor and M7 coprocessor, which are available on the iPhone 5s. This combination should improve battery life on the tablet, and make it much quicker.

Storage bump, price drop

Apple initially released the iPad 4 in three variations: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. Months later, it released one with 128GB. The price manufacturers pay for storage continues to fall. Unfortunately, Apple has never passed along these savings to consumers, and we don't expect them to this time around either. In other words, each bump in storage will still cost $100. The next best thing would be to shift the storage available. In 2013, we’d love to see Apple eliminate the 16GB model. In our thinking, the base models for the iPad 5 would be as follows: 32GB ($499), 64GB, ($599), and 128GB, ($699). In our example, the 32GB iPad 5 model would be available for $499, compared to the $599 Apple charges for the 32GB iPad 4. Whether this happens remains to be seen. We were expecting a similar jump with the iPhone 5s, which never occurred.

Another camera improvement

The cameras on the iPad continue to improve with each update, a trend that should continue this year. The iPad 4 has a 1.2MP FaceTime HD camera, and a 5MP iSight camera. We believe the front-facing camera on the iPad 5 will remain the same, while the rear camera will see a bump in terms of specifications. Earlier this month, one analyst said to expect the rear camera to sport an 8 megapixel sensor. This is an opinion that we share.

Touch ID and new colors

The iPad 5 will almost certainly receive Apple’s new fingerprint scanner, Touch ID. We also expect the tablet to arrive in new colors. Those colors should take their cue from the iPhone 5s, which is available in space gray, silver, and gold. 

Three new iPads?

Finally, it's time to talk about the iPad 2. Apple is almost certainly going to retire the longest selling iPad later this month. When they do, what will replace it? Cupertino could make a 16GB iPad 4 model available for $399, thereby filling the void left by the iPad 2. Or they could use the iPhone 5c as inspiration and release a brand new “iPad 5c” that has internals found on the fourth-generation model. We’d be surprised to see Apple announce an iPad 5c. Of course, stranger things have happened.

Summary

The iPad 5 will get a design change this year. Beyond that, we see the new model receiving some new upgrades, including a better processor, camera, and RAM. As usual, we'll keep you updated. To see our iPad mini 2 report, click here. Photos: iPad 5, Sonny Dickson
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