According to analyst Jun Zhang with Rosenblatt Securities, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) plans to launch a new iPad Pro by the end of the second quarter of 2018, which corresponds to a June 2018 debut.
The new device, the analyst claims, will have a narrower bezel around the display and incorporate the company's 3D-sensing camera -- known as the TrueDepth camera -- to enable features like Face ID and Animoji. Apple's iPhone X is currently the only shipping Apple device with a TrueDepth camera.
Let's go over what to expect from this new iPad Pro and what it could mean for Apple's iPad business.
Upgrades all around
The device will, naturally, incorporate a new display, as the form-factor change is likely to be so dramatic that recycling the same panel used in the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is unlikely to be feasible.
The display on the current 10.5-inch iPad Pro is quite good, with a fast refresh rate, excellent color accuracy, and high brightness, so I expect only modest improvements in generation-over-generation display performance (e.g., slightly better color accuracy and a bit higher brightness).
If the device is going to launch in June, then expect it to incorporate an A11X Bionic processor, which is likely to be a beefed-up version of the A11 Bionic inside the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X with more processor cores and much more capable graphics. It is also likely to be manufactured on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's new seven-nanometer chip technology.
Beyond the improved processor, slimmer bezels, and new display, don't be surprised if Apple improves speaker sound quality on the new iPad Pro as well, as sound quality has been an area of focus for the company for several product generations.
Camera upgrades (both front-facing and rear-facing) are likely as well, as Apple typically improves the camera subsystems with each new iPad iteration.
Impact to Apple's iPad business
Ultimately, releasing new and better products can only help Apple's iPad business, and I think that the rumored iPad Pro upgrade could be quite a jump, especially considering the change in aesthetics and the addition of Face ID on top of the standard generational improvements.
That said, investors shouldn't get too excited -- although new products can help spur demand, the overall tablet market is generally pretty weak. A compelling new product can help accelerate demand for a time, but the magnitude of that acceleration is unlikely to be a game changer.
What will be interesting to see, though, is how Apple prices the new iPad Pro models. Will the company aim to deliver substantially more value at the same price points as the current models, or will it raise prices on the new models in the hope that it'll get paid for its innovation and grow its iPad revenue through increased average selling prices?
If Apple does increase prices, I wouldn't expect a dramatic hike (too large a price increase might put a damper on demand), but I'd expect a bump just large enough for Apple to report meaningful iPad revenue growth even if it ships the same number of iPads in the coming product cycle as it did in the last.