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Network World - Rumors are still rife before Apple’s announcement tomorrow afternoon where the company is widely expected to reveal two new tablets, successors to the full-sized iPad and the smaller iPad mini.
Looking for blow-by-blow coverage of Apple’s October 22 announcements? Check out “Apple iPad 5, new Macs live blogs: Take your pick”
Here’s a rundown of the rumor consensus, although very, very few details are known for sure. One of the few is that both new tablets will be running the redesigned iOS 7.
Thinner and lighter 9.7-inch iPad
Apple is expected to change the display technology for the big iPad’s high resolution screen, adopting technologies it introduced with iPad mini. Instead of two glass sheets, one sheet will be replaced with a film. The result is a thinner assembly.
There has been speculation for most of 2013, bolstered by photos of purported iPad front and rear housings, that iPad 5 will also be narrower, with the front face adopting proportions that look similar to those of today’s iPad mini.
Both sets of changes could lead to a lighter tablet, reflecting a top priority for Apple in its mobile device design.
The rumors, based on unnamed sources from companies in Apple’s Asian supply chain, were repeated this week in a Wall Street Journal story.
Retina display iPad mini
The same story, and many others over the past 10 months, are the basis for the widely held conviction that Apple will reveal a high-resolution iPad mini.
Yet creating a high-res iPad mini poses a range of technical challenges. “Every device, when it goes Retina for the first time, pays a price in performance,” says iMore’s Rene Ritchie.
How did Apple rivals such as Google and Amazon jump to Retina-class displays on their small tablets? “Again, it's the raw pixel count that matter,” says Ritchie. “1920 x 1080 (2,073,600 pixels) at 7 hours of battery life [for Apple’s rivals] is much easier than 2048 x 1536 (3,145,728) at 10 hours of battery life [for Apple]. It requires more backlight, it requires more GPU, and it requires more power overall.”
The iPad 3, the first iPad with a Retina display, was slightly heavier and thicker than iPad 2 because the Retina display required a new, much larger processor and a larger battery.
How, or whether, Apple will be able to overcome the challenges, and at least maintain current battery life for the iPad mini, remains to be seen.
Modified version of the 64-bit A7 chip
Apple surprised everyone when it introduced for iPhone 5S the first mobile 64-bit processor, the dual-core A7. A 64-bit architecture can address double the memory, a benefit for some demanding applications, but neither Apple nor its rivals are today supporting 4GB of RAM for smartphones and tablets.
But Apple is exploiting both its own processor design expertise and new features introduced in ARM Ltd’s 64-bit instruction set.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, in an investors note picked up by many including MacRumors, says the iPad 5 will have a version of the A7, the “A7X” in keeping with Apple’s naming conventions, while the iPad mini 2 will get the same A7 found in the iPhone 5S.