Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Sounds Like It Could Stretch The Definition Of ‘iPad’

Apple is working on a new, larger iPad as rumored, according to the Wall Street Journal, with suppliers told to gear up for production in the second half of this year. That’s a revised timeline from an earlier plan that targeted the first half of this year, but since the product’s existence hasn’t yet even been acknowledged by Apple, that kind of timetable change isn’t surprising. What is surprising, however, are the potential hardware features that WSJ reports Apple has worked on for the upcoming device, which may or may not make their way to the final design.

Apple is thinking about adopting USB 3.0 for faster transfer speeds between the large iPad and computers, external drives and other accessories, the report claims, and has even mulled adding additional USB I/O ports beyond the single Lightning port found on current model iPhone and iPad devices. It’s also looking at tech that might enable much faster charging time, but all of these potential features are still only being considered for inclusion, and could easily be left out of the eventual shipping product, per the report.

Charging time on the iPad Air currently sits at around four hours from zero to empty using the included charger in the box, and it would make sense that a device with a larger 12.9-inch display would likely also boast a much larger battery, in part because it would have the added surface area required to do so, and in part because a bigger display with similar pixel density would likely require more available power to achieve battery life similar to the existing iPad models. Improving total charge speed would help offset the additional plug-in duration required to fill up a larger powerhouse.

Faster I/O and additional inputs could reflect an iPad with a different purpose – Apple has been said to be gearing this device to enterprise customers and professional users, and providing a means though which to connect gear like mice and keyboards might make a lot of sense if indeed they’re going after that crowd. USB 3.0 is also more valuable on a device like this, vs. on existing iPhone and iPad models, since a tethered connection to a computer is becoming less and less important to most casual mobile device users. For a more business-oriented crowd, or people working with large files (creative pros, for instance) that kind of connection is much more relevant and useful on a daily basis.

Like rumors of a stylus designed for the larger iPad before it, many will dismiss these new proposed features as being completely out of line with existing iPad and iOS device design trends. Apple has almost seemed to abhor external ports, and in fact another rumor, this time about the 12-inch MacBook Air, says it’s limiting I/O to just one port on that device, which would almost seem to be motivated by exactly the opposite kind of approach to industrial design. Despite ample reason to be skeptical about an iPad Pro with an assortment of ports, however, dismissing them outright seems premature, given the company’s recent direction.

For a larger iPad to exist at all is already likely a difficult scenario for most to wrap their head around, given Apple’s current product mix and where a 12.9-inch tablet could fit. And the Apple Watch is another example where not everyone readily saw the value in Apple plan. I’d argue that the Apple of today is harder to pin down in terms of product direction, because while the decision-making is still sound and will, I think, ultimately lead to greater success, the major changes that it has undergone in recent years make it harder to anticipate future moves.

Basically, I’m saying that while a 12.9-inch iPad sprouting ports doesn’t seem like an “Apple move,” it could provide a solid bedrock upon which to renew a push for creative and enterprise adoption, both of which markets seem increasingly to be desirable targets for Cupertino based on things like Apple’s continued highlighting of creative apps for iOS and Mac, and its partnership with IBM.