While it may not attract as much attention as the iPhone, the iPad is still a very important part of Apple's gadget line-up - don't forget, this was the first device to convince significant numbers of people that they actually did want a tablet in their lives.
Sales have plateaued in recent years, however, as tablets aren't as essential or upgraded as often as smartphones are. In order to try and kickstart another iPad boom, Apple is said to be weighing up some interesting innovations for its next batch of tablets.
What are the new iPads?
Apple's iconic tablet computer doesn't really need any introduction. First appearing in 2010, since 2012 Apple has launched new iPads around the end of October or the start of November, settling into the same yearly cycle as it has with the iPhones. With that in mind, we'd expect the company to do the same again this autumn - just in time for the usual Christmas sales rush.
Also rumoured to be on the cards is an iPad Pro - a revamped, larger tablet aimed at business users and a 12.9-inch screen size. That's yet to be confirmed and in this article we'll focus on the two standard iPad sizes.The iPad Air 2 has a display that measures 9.7 inches from corner to corner, while the iPad mini 3 comes in at 7.9 inches. Even with the arrival of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus in September last year, it looks like that Apple will stick with the same sizes this time around.
What do we think we know about it?
With several months still go to to the launch of the next generation of devices, we haven't heard much in the way of rumour and speculation about what's around the corner. What we have seen is a preview of iOS 9, which brings with it a bunch of new and exciting features - including a split view mode for the larger iPad.
Improvements to the keyboard should make it easier than ever before to use an Apple tablet as a computer replacement. We can expect some performance and power upgrades too, particularly on the iPad mini line, which didn't get much of a bump last time around. With the rumoured iPad Pro more of a business device, the iPad Air will remain the top-end iPad as far as consumers are concerned, though it remains to be seen whether Apple can actually shave any more millimetres off the size and thickness.
One area we might see an upgrade is in the display resolution, currently standing at 1536 x 2048 pixels for both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 - if Apple leaves that alone for another year, it runs the risk of the tablets getting left behind by the competition. There would be an impact on battery life, but efficiency savings in iOS 9 might be able to compensate for it.
Why it's likely to happen?
It would be a major surprise if Apple didn't unveil some new iPads later this year, but some of the upgrades are more likely than others. It makes sense that Apple would introduce a new A9 (and A9X) processor for this year's iPhones and iPads - Samsung is the company reportedly making the chipsets - to give them the usual speed boost. RAM got bumped to 2GB with the iPad Air 2 so will probably stay the same this year; the iPad mini 3 still uses 1GB so an upgrade may be on the cards.
We'll have a better idea of what's in store from the new iPads when Apple shows off the new iPhones in September - the processor and RAM upgrades given to Apple's smartphone should point to the upgrades in store for the company's tablets too.A couple of months ago Apple CEO Tim Cook admitted that the iPhone 6 Plus is taking away sales from the iPad, but also said he expects iPad sales to grow in the future.
With that in mind it's more likely that Apple is going to go all in with this year's iPads and make them as powerful as they possibly can - more features means more reasons for consumers to upgrade or buy their first tablet.
Why it's not likely to happen
At this stage Apple isn't going to pull the plug on the iPad, even if the larger iPhone is encroaching on its territory. The company has promised it will continue to invest in the iPad as a device, so you can bank on new slates appearing in the autumn, even if they don't necessarily differ a lot from the 2014 editions. Of the iPads on sale, the iPad mini looks the most vulnerable - its 7.9-inch screen isn't that much bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus' 5.5-inch display, and the rumours of an iPad Pro would suggest that Apple wants to go bigger rather than smaller.
The most compact iPad didn't get much of a specs bump last time around either - has Apple fallen out of love with the mini? That said, we're expecting two or three new iPads this time around, but just how much attention Apple gives them - and how much extra processing power it manages to pack in - will be a good indication of the company's long-term plans for the iconic tablet.
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