With its 2018 iPhone and iPad Pro lineup, Apple has gone all-in on Face ID, eliminating the traditional home button across all of its devices. Despite this, however, the new authentication technology and the larger bezel-free screens that come with it may not be entirely in the past.
New code discovered in the first iOS 12.2 beta by developer Steve Troughton-Smith suggests that Apple has an upcoming series of iPad models in the works that will likely still feature the more traditional iPad designs that we’ve all come to know.
Troughton-Smith identified references to four new iPads, in both Wi-Fi and cellular versions, none of which included the necessary code components for working with Face ID. He speculates that these likely represent a new iPad mini and full-size 9.7-inch standard iPad, which would be in line with recent rumours that Apple is working on new models of both devices for a launch sometime this year.
As advanced as Apple’s iPad Pro is, it comes with a price tag to match, and Apple’s resurrection of the entry-level 9.7-inch iPad two years ago demonstrated that there is still a strong market for a more basic iPad model, particularly for educational applications. While some rumours have suggested the “full-size” iPad model might see a screen increase to 10 inches, the code found in iOS 12.2 suggests that Apple will likely retain the same basic form factor as last year’s sixth-generation iPad, which added Apple Pencil support, but otherwise gained only iterative improvements over the prior model.
Further, if recent rumours are to be believed, Apple has come to a similar conclusion for its seven-inch iPad model, the iPad mini. Several analysts have been predicting since last fall that the smaller iPad, which saw its last update in 2015, will also be making a comeback in a fifth-generation model.
A big part of Apple’s strategy for releasing the first iPad mini six years ago was to compete with the then-growing market of Android-based tablets in that form factor; Apple as much as said so during the product’s initial launch, directly comparing the iPad mini to the competing Android tablets — something that the company very rarely does during their keynotes, and never quite so pointedly.
However, the iPad mini debuted alongside the iPhone 5, in an era when large-screened smartphones were still in their infancy. In the intervening years since, many have understandably questioned where there’s still room for a 7-inch tablet as Apple has continued releasing larger-screened iPhones, and Android tablets have all but died off completely. The release of a fifth-generation iPad mini, however, would seem to suggest that Apple still thinks so.
While the news about the new iPad models may dash a few hopes, they’re not particularly surprising considering that both devices are expected to be entry-level models. On the other hand, the news on the iPod touch is a more interesting, as rumours only began to surface more recently that Apple was working on a refresh to the almost four-year-old device, spurring hope that perhaps Apple would bring it up closer to the technology of more recent iPhones. However, if the code found by Troughton-Smith is accurate, it looks like Apple won’t even be including a Touch ID sensors on the new iPod touch, much less adding in Face ID or any kind of advanced screen technology.
Of course, the iPod touch has been receiving fewer updates as the years have gone by, and like the iPad mini, many have assumed that 2015 was the end of the line. Further, even in its prime, Apple always treated the iPod touch as a second-class citizen to its iPhone lineup. Essentially the iPod touch remains a device to get people into the iOS ecosystem who can’t otherwise own an iPhone, either due to price or other restrictions, and the low price at which Apple sells the iPod touch generally precludes the company from investing in advanced features. It’s still very unclear what features a seventh-generation iPod touch will gain; there’s certainly still hope for a larger screen, if not a more advanced one, and it’s very likely that the iPod touch will get a more current CPU and support for new features like ARKit, especially with Apple’s desire to position it as not only a media player, bu also a handheld gaming device.