Courtesy of Apple.club.tw, a picture the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad Air 2 logic board -- which houses crucial components of the iPad such as its processor and memory -- is now publicly available for all to see. This gives us some insight into some of the key technical specifications of Apple's next generation iPad, which actually matters a lot more than one might initially think.
Unlike most of its competitors, Apple doesn't play the "spec game" just for fun; adding more expensive hardware hurts Apple's gross profit margins. So, if a next-generation iPad uses more components or more expensive components than its predecessor, then Apple likely has a really good user-experience focused justification for doing so.
While the logic board leak doesn't tell us everything that we want to know, it does give us a couple of crucial bits of information.
More RAM, finally
The first upgrade, according to Apple.club.tw, is that the iPad Air 2 will feature 2 gigabytes of RAM. This represents a doubling of the memory over the prior generation iPad Air, and the most RAM that has ever been included in an iOS device.
Apple has been criticized for putting "only" 1 gigabyte of memory on its devices, particularly as Android devices routinely ship with 2 gigabytes or more.
However, if Apple is going ahead and including more memory (which bumps up its cost structure on the device by at least $8.30, per the Mobile DRAM contract price numbers reported by TrendForce ), then Apple likely sees a user-experience related reason to include more memory. Perhaps that rumor about the next iPad including split-screen multitasking (courtesy of 9to5Mac ), which could dramatically increase memory requirements, is true?
Apple A8X chip
It had been previously rumored that Apple would equip its next iPads with an A8X chip. Traditionally speaking, the "X" variants of Apple's processors would include significantly more graphics horsepower, and in order to service that extra horsepower, more memory bandwidth. The "X" chips have also tended to include slightly faster CPUs.
Thanks to MacRumors forum member primordian , it is now clear that the logic board shown includes an A8X processor rather than a straight up A8 chip.
Earlier this month, I speculated that for such an A8X chip, Apple would likely include an Imagination (NASDAQOTH:IGNMF) PowerVR GX6650 GPU, which would represent a pretty significant step up from the graphics processor found inside of the A8 (the GX6450). I also expect that Apple will boost the CPU clock speed modestly, in-line with historical trends.
It will be very interesting to see what other improvements that Apple ultimately made in the A8X over the A8.
iPad margins will probably go down
The good news is that the new iPads will probably offer a pretty compelling user experience improvement over the prior generation models. The bad news, though, is that they'll be a bit more expensive to make than their predecessor.
In particular the A8X chip is likely to be more expensive to make than the A7 found in the current iPad Air. Adding an additional gigabyte of memory won't be cheap, either. The Apple.club.tw leaks also suggest that the new iPad will include Touch ID.
I expect gross margins for the iPad Air to go down, particularly as I doubt Apple will be able to command higher prices for the new Air over the prior one. However, if this model can rejuvenate iPad sales and drive meaningful, and more sustained, year-over-year growth across the year, then the higher cost structure is likely to be more than offset by higher unit volumes.
While the spotlight seems to be on Apple's new-and-improved iPhones, there's a good chance that if Apple can deliver a differentiated and more feature-rich experience with its next generation iPads, Apple can limit the widely expected cannibalization that large screen iPhones would have on iPads.
The improved spec won't be enough to drive increased sales, but if Apple can use that extra hardware to deliver meaningfully new user experiences, it may yet convince customers that now is the time to buy a new iPad.
Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.