KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, whose track record with respect to upcoming Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) product details is generally excellent, was out with a note on Dec. 15 discussing the iDevice maker's next generation iPad -- the iPad Air 3.
According to the analyst, the device will launch in the first half of 2016. However, the real news is that the next generation iPad won't feature the 3D Touch technology the company first debuted in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus that launched in September.
Although one feature alone isn't enough to catalyze a significant upgrade cycle (iPhone 6s/6s Plus sales aren't doing so well, despite a number of compelling new features), I do wonder whether, sans 3D Touch, Apple will bring enough to its next generation iPad Air to drive a meaningful upgrade cycle.
What I'm expecting from the iPad Air 3 at this point
I expect that with the iPad Air 3, Apple will include a number of compelling internal upgrades. A move from the A8X chip to either the A9 found inside of the iPhone 6s/6s Plus or the A9X found inside of the iPad Pro would be most welcome.
Although I don't expect Apple to increase the display resolution of the iPad Air 3 relative to the iPad Air 2, I believe Apple will focus on improving the quality of the iPad Air 3's display.
Indeed, according to display specialist Raymond Soneira with DisplayMate, the iPad Air 2's display is significantly less efficient than the displays found on both the iPad mini 4 as well as the iPad Pro. The Air 2's display is also lacking in terms of color accuracy and brightness compared to these two tablets.
Expect Apple to include a more color accurate, more efficient display with the next generation iPad Air.
Next up, I expect Apple will bump up the amount of memory used in the device from 2 gigabytes inside of the Air 2 to 3 gigabytes in the Air 3.
I don't expect Apple will upgrade either the FaceTime camera or the rear-facing camera to any large extent, mainly due to the fact that the iPad Pro's cameras seem to be essentially the same as the ones found in the iPad Air 2 and it would be odd for the cheaper iPad Air 3 to have a leg up on the iPad Pro there.
From a wireless perspective, I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple carry over the same technology from the iPad Air 2, since those capabilities were good enough for the recently launched iPad Pro.
Finally, I don't expect Apple to change the industrial design much. The device is already incredibly thin at 6.1 millimeters thick and the design itself is already quite pleasing. The focus this round should be on internal enhancements, not on trying to make the thing thinner and/or lighter.
Answering the title question
The iPad Air 3 should represent a solid, incremental improvement over the iPad Air 2. I expect it to be faster and feature a more pleasing display. These improvements should make the iPad Air 3 a compelling option for those who were already looking to upgrade their aging iPads, but I can't imagine that they'll be enough to compel owners of relatively recent iPads (iPad Air, iPad Air 2) to fork over big bucks to upgrade.