The next-generation iPad tablet could be the best business slate Apple has ever released. The so-called iPad Air 2 – a follow-up to the original iPad Air, which launched last fall – is expected to debut sometime in October, about a month after the launch of two new iPhones. If reports are true, the release would be in line with the company's typical release schedule from previous years. Apple hasn't confirmed any details about its forthcoming tablet, but rumors and reports about the device might give us a decent idea of what to expect. Here are five rumored features we expect to see in the second-generation iPad Air.
A new generation of iPads means faster performance. The new iPad Air is expected to feature Apple's new 64-bit A8 processor – the same one that's packed into the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. That means business users can expect extremely speedy performance, even for processor-intensive tasks such as spreadsheet computation. Some reports also indicate that the next iPad might include an additional 1GB of RAM, so users can expect snappy multitasking when juggling multiple apps.
The original iPad Air was 7.5 millimeters thick, and it's still one of the slimmest slates money can buy. Now reports say the next-generation iPad will be even thinner. That's generally a plus for business users, since a lighter, more portable device is easier to carry on a daily commute. Historically, Apple has slimmed down its mobile devices with just about every release; for example, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the slimmest iPhones yet. But there is at least one downside to a producing thinner and thinner tablets: it leaves less room for the battery. And battery life is crucial for business users who depend on their mobile devices to last through the end of the workday and beyond. Fortunately, Apple's A8 processor is rated to be about 50 percent more efficient than last year's A7 chip, so it conserves battery life better than its predecessor. Besides, newer tablets such as the Samsung's Galaxy Tab S have already managed to be thinner than the iPad Air while maintaining good longevity.
Apple's new iPad is sure to run on iOS 8, the latest version of the company's mobile operating system. That will add tons of handy, productivity-boosting features to the device. For starters, iOS 8 adds a new way to quickly act on incoming messages. When a new text message or email arrives, it will appear as a small pop-up at the top of your screen. Just swipe down to reveal the keyboard, type your message and hit send. In other words, there's no need to leave the app you're currently using to respond to incoming messages.
Another useful feature for business users is Handoff, which will let you link your iPad to your iMac of MacBook computer. When you're editing a document or typing out an email on your tablet, you can transition seamlessly to the desktop to keep working, and vice versa. Just tap the Handoff button on the device you're currently using. It works because Apple devices now automatically recognize each other when they're connected to the same network. But only mobile devices running iOS 8, and desktop devices running OS X Yosemite – the new version of Apple's desktop operating system, also due out in October – can use Handoff.
If you use your mobile device for work, security should be a top priority. That's why it's such a big deal that Apple is expected to bring its Touch ID fingerprint scanner to the next iPad. It will reportedly function the same way it does on the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, letting you unlock your device quickly and easily by pressing your finger to the tablet's home button. In other words, it lets you keep your iPad on lockdown, without the need to fuss with cumbersome password screens.
And since the new iPad will run on iOS 8, it will offer some handy new Touch ID tricks. That includes the ability to lock individual apps using the fingerprint scanner. If you use a finance app to track your spending, for example, you can secure that data using Touch ID. That's a big perk for business users who use their iPad for work, but still want to share it with kids, friends or co-workers.
iPad Pro version
Apple recently released a set of smartphones that are bigger than any it has made before. So why not a bigger iPad? The so-called iPad Pro is a long-rumored device that's reported to be a bigger version of the iPad Air 2, with the main distinguishing feature being a huge 12.9-inch display. Apple's hasn't confirmed any information about the existence of such an iPad, however, so take these rumors with a grain of salt. Regardless, a bigger iPad would certainly give business users a boost. The current iPad Air – and other full-size iPad models – offer a 9.7-inch display. They're decent work machines, especially when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard for extended typing sessions, but they don't offer enough screen real estate to be a suitable laptop replacement for most users.
The supersized iPad Pro, meanwhile, would have a screen that's about the same size as the display on the 13-inch MacBook Air, which strikes a great balance between portability and productivity. A 12.9-inch iPad would be big enough for serious productivity tasks, but still small enough to carry on your daily commute.
But Apple fans might have to wait to get their hands on the iPad Pro. Though the second-generation iPad Air is expected to launch before the end of the year, reports indicate that the iPad Pro might not launch until sometime in 2015 – that is, if it materializes at all.