If Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sticks to an annual product refresh cycle, then we should expect to see the company release a new crop of iPad Pro tablets around June 2018.
Though the device is still a ways out, a few tidbits have leaked out. For example, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks that the 2018 premium iPad lineup will come with organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, displays.
OLED displays should help further boost iPad display image quality (and today's iPads are already top notch in this area), and they should also enable snappier response times and, quite possibly, even higher display refresh rates when the technology.
That may all sound super exciting, but it's not the topic of this column. Here's another big reason that I'm excited for the 2018 iPad Pro.
3D sensing for the win
In this year's iPhone, Apple is expected to do away with Touch ID altogether in favor of a facial recognition technology enabled by new 3D sensing technology. The facial recognition, per Bloomberg, should be both fast and accurate.
"It can scan a user's face and unlock the iPhone within a few hundred milliseconds," Bloomberg reported. "It is designed to work even if the device is laying flat on a table, rather than just close up to the face."
Although, if implemented properly, this technology has the potential to improve the user experience on this year's premium iPhone, I think that it could be even more compelling on a future iPad -- say, next year's premium iPad Pro models.
First, an iPad Pro -- whether you go with the smaller 10.5-inch version or the heftier 12.9-inch model -- is a large device, at least compared to your typical smartphone (or even phablet). There are, of course, advantages to large screens, but Apple (and other tablet makers -- if they're even trying anymore) should work to maximize the screen-to-body ratio of its iPads to improve usability.
Shifting away from Touch ID in favor of a 3D facial recognition scheme should allow Apple to go with a "full-face" screen design on future iPad Pro models as it is rumored to be doing with this year's premium iPhone, helping to deliver an experience to users that's much better (either by adding more screen to the existing physical footprint or by keeping screen sizes the same while dramatically shrinking the physical footprints of the devices).
Additionally, while Touch ID is convenient in a handheld device, it can sometimes be a bit awkward on a large-screen device, especially when somebody is using an iPad in portrait mode and wants to log in to the device.
It's not something that's fundamentally game breaking, but additional conveniences are always good.
With 3D facial recognition technology, a user should, in theory, be able to just pick up their iPad and it'll unlock automatically (since, presumably, the user's face will be in the line of sight of the iPad's 3D sensor).
That sounds much more convenient to me, and -- coupled with a host of other technology advancements -- could help make the case to current iPad users that it's finally time to upgrade to newer models.