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Why Apple Inc. May Be Planning a Huge Update With the iPad Air 3

By Ashraf Eassa - Jan 4, 2016 at 12:30PM

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This might be why we didn't see this product updated at its most recent product launch event.

At this year's Apple (AAPL 2.14%) fall product launch event, the company introduced the iPad Pro, a 12.9-inch behemoth intended to help transform iPad into more than just a consumption device. The iPad Pro brought with it a number of substantial technical enhancements across the board compared to the previous iPad flagship, the iPad Air 2.

Interestingly, although Apple chose to quietly update the iPad mini alongside the launch of the iPad Pro, Apple didn't update the iPad Air lineup at the event. The next generation iPad Air, widely referred to as the iPad Air 3, is instead expected to debut at a product launch event in the spring of 2016.

I believe that the launch timing of the next generation iPad Air suggests that it will be a fairly substantial update. Here's why.

A simple chip upgrade would have been, well, simple!
If Apple were planning to do a simple improvement of the iPad Air 3 over the iPad Air 2 by, say, upgrading just the processor and maybe a few other internal components, then I think Apple could have pulled off a launch alongside the iPad mini 4/iPad Pro.

Indeed, with iPad sales growth in dire need of all the help that it can get, it would make sense that if it could, Apple would have rolled out a newer iPad Air as soon as possible.

This, then, seems to suggest that we could see some pretty significant improvements with the next generation iPad Air.

What kinds of improvements could we see?
To get a sense of the scope of the improvements that we could see with the iPad Air 3, it's worthwhile to examine the improvements that Apple brought to the iPad mini 4 to get a sense of where Apple might go with the iPad Air 3.

The iPad mini 4 brought an entirely new (and quite excellent) display, a more capable processor, faster wireless, and a revamped industrial design.

The display on the iPad Air 2 is widely believed to be the same one that's used in the iPad Air, so this is certainly overdue for an update. An upgrade from the A8X to either the A9 or the A9X (probably the A9X, in my view) would be quite nice.

With the iPad mini, Apple stuck with the same industrial design for two product generations in a row, so I'd be surprised to see the company revamp the industrial design with the iPad Air 3. Additionally, the iPad mini lineup had been saddled with quite outdated wireless capabilities for quite some time, while the iPad Air 2 is still quite current on that front, so I'm not convinced we'll see an upgrade there, either.

One area where I would like to see a significant improvement, though, is the camera. There has generally been a significant gap between the quality of the camera subsystem that Apple puts onto its iPads and onto its iPhones (in favor of the latter), and the delta between the iPhone 6s/6s Plus and the iPad Air 2 is no exception.

Although I wouldn't suggest that Apple go all out and put an iPhone-class camera on the next generation iPad Air (this wouldn't make sense for a whole bunch of reasons), I do think that a superior camera on the next generation iPad Air could help to serve as a compelling selling point.

Given that iPad unit shipments have been in free-fall for quite some time, which many attribute to users simply hanging onto their older iPads for longer, any and all selling points would be quite welcome at this point.

Ashraf Eassa has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends 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.

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